Introduction To The 5s Process As Part Of Lean Management Efforts

The process of five “S” or simply ‘5s’ is a program which has been systematically designed to achieve total organization cleanliness and standardization.  The program engages people through the standards and discipline. An organized workplace results into a safer, efficient and productive operation.

5s does not just concentrate in housekeeping, but also in the maintenance of standards and discipline in managing an organization. These are effectively achieved through upholding and showing respect to the work place on a daily basis. The program was invented in Japan and stands for five Japanese words which start with “S”. These words are seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitshuke.

To preserve the 5s acronym, many have adopted an equivalent set of five English words which are sort, set, shine, standardize and sustain. However, some purists argue that by so doing the original five Japanese words have lost their essence.

The Definitions Of 5s

“Seiri”, which means tidiness requires the throwing away of all unwanted materials in the workplace. All materials need to be sorted out to separate what is needed from what is not needed.

“Seiton” means orderliness and requires the placement of all materials in the right place to enhance the ease of retrieval and storage. Items need to be placed in such away that they are ready and easy to use. Each item ought to have a place where they can be found and stored.

“Seiso” means cleanliness requires every employee to be a janitor and clean the workplace. To maintain standards and identify defects, all equipment should be cleaned regularly.

“Seiketsu” means standardization and requires the visiting of the first three of the 5s to confirm the condition of the workplace on a regular basis. Basically, the way of maintaining cleanliness should be standardized. “Seiketsu” defines the standards by which employees must measure and maintain cleanliness.

Employees must practice seiketsu by first starting with themselves, their personal hygiene. Visual management is very critical in this step and color-coding together with standardized coloration of the environment is used.

“Shitshuke” means discipline and requires employees to make the Five S a way of life. It also means a commitment to maintain standards and make continual improvements.  It emphasizes on the maintenance of bad habits and picking up of good ones. Once achieved, the management does not need to remind any employee of the need to observe cleanliness and orderliness.

The program boosts the morale of employees promoting a sense of pride in their duties and ownership of their responsibilities.

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