Five S or 5S refers to a deceptively simple methodology used to create and maintain organized, neat, safe, and efficient workplace. The term 5S comes from five Japanese words beginning with the letter “S” – Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke which can be loosely interpreted as:
- Sort – Remove all items that are not needed in the work area
- Set in Order – Neatly arrange items for ease of use
- Shine – Keep the work areas clean and safe
- Standardize – Establish rules to keep the workplace organized
- Sustain – Develop a system to maintain strong commitment to 5S
5S is often a starting point in Lean transformation because it lays the groundwork for cultural change, involves staff in quality improvement efforts, enables application of visual management methods, and develops the organizational discipline required for effective implementation of other Lean tools and techniques. Maintaining a clean, orderly and clutter-free work environment is considered a prerequisite for increasing productivity, enhancing safety and reducing waste. 5S makes it possible for all people involved to easily and quickly tell the difference between normal and abnormal conditions in their work area. When implemented properly, 5S will also result in improved employee morale, lower operating costs, better equipment utilization, reduced space that is required for existing operations, lower defect rates, and enhanced organizational image.
5S is easy to understand but difficult to implement consistently across organizational boundaries. Visual process controls, radar charts, standard operating procedures, checklists, photographs, error proofing techniques, staff training, internal audits, inspections, red tagging, interdepartmental tours, ongoing communication, and many other tools and techniques are used to focus, standardize and sustain 5S activities. A formal reward and recognition program that is directly linked to the desired behaviours and performance can help create a positive work environment, establish high-performance standards and inspire people to excel. It is important to recognize that 5S is an integral part of the system for continuous improvement, not a housekeeping program or simple annual cleaning exercise.