5S comes from 5 Japanese words (in parentheses) that have been translated into English. While the actual English translation may vary depending on who you are talking to, the meanings remain the same. Together these terms define a process to organize the workplace starting with clearing it of any items not necessary to preform the task at hand and ending by ensuring that 5S becomes a part of the culture. The S’s in between provide a methodology and system that makes it easy to create and maintain an efficient and clean work area.
5S is often the first step an organization takes when starting a lean six sigma or other continuous improvement process. A work area that is disorganized and cluttered makes it difficult to work efficiently. Significant benefits can be realized from a clean and organized work area.
Here is each Japanese 5S term and it’s English equivalent along with a brief definition.
Sort (Seiri) | Clearing the work area
- Any work area should only have the items needed to perform the work in the area. All other items should be cleared (sorted out) from the work area.
Set in Order (Seiso) | Designating locations
- Everything in the work area should have a place and everything should be in its place.
Shine (Seiso) | Cleanliness & workplace appearance
- Not only should the work area be clear, it should also be clean.
- Cleanliness involves housekeeping efforts, improving the appearance of the work area, and even more importantly, preventive housekeeping – keeping the work area from getting dirty, rather than just cleaning it up after it becomes dirty.
Standardize (Seiketsu) | Everyone doing things the same way
- Everyone in the work area and in the organization must be involved in the 5S effort, creating best practices and then getting everyone to “copy” those best practices the same way, everywhere, and every time. Work area layouts and storage techniques should be standardized wherever possible.
Sustain (Shitsuke) | Ingraining 5S into the culture
- It’s tough to keep a 5S effort, or any improvement effort for that matter, going. 5S involves a culture change. And to achieve a culture change, it has to be ingrained into the organization – by everyone at all levels in the organization