Today, I would like to touch on the subject of the 5S in the Japanese
For those of you who don`t know what I am talking about, the 5s stand
1. 整理 Seiri: Straighten up – decide what you need.
2. 整頓 Seiton: Store – everything in its place.
3. 清掃 Seiso: Shine – clean it up.
4. 清潔 Seiketsu: Sanitize – make it safe.
5. しつけ 躾 Shitsuke: Strive – to complete these every day.
The 5S are a simple tool for organizing the office/workplace in a clean,
efficient and safe manner. The Japanese believe this enhances
productivity, visual management and ensures a standardized working
system. These standardized operational practices ensure that the work
done will be efficient, repeatable and safe.
Having standardized working principles and procedures gives a stable
foundation from which an employee can build other improvements.
Because it provides a highly visual workplace, with everything in it`s
place, any problems become immediately obvious.
5S is a system developed in Japan and attributed to Toyota, with their
Just-In-Time (JIT) production method, also known as TPS (Toyota
Production System). There are others who say this system was developed
by Japanese shipyards trying to revitalize Japan after the war.
Seiri or Sort is the first step in 5S. It refers to the sorting of the
clutter from the other items within the work area that are actually
needed i.e. keeping what is needed and doing away with what is
Seiton or Storing/Straighten is the process of taking what is left after
the removal of unnecessary items and organizing and storing them in an
efficient manner. This will ensure that everything has a place and
everything that is required is in it`s proper place.
Seiso or Sweep/Shine means the work environment is kept thoroughly clean.
The saying `Cleanliness is next to Godliness` rings true here. Not only
does this create a more pleasant, hygienic work environment, it allows
problems to be spotted e.g. excessive moisture, oil leaks etc.
Seiketsu or Standardize ensures that everything done within Seiri,
Seiton and Seiso becomes standardized. This allows best practices in the
work area to flourish, high standards can be maintained at all times,
everything can be found in it`s place and nothing is wasted or lost.
The last part of 5S is Shitsuke or Sustain, ensuring that the company
can continue to improve continuously, using all the previous stages of
the 5S system. This is done by conducting audits, maintaining
housekeeping, training and discipline so that everything becomes a part
of the daily routine. With everything in order and best practice routine
established, there will be less stress, work made easier, a reduction in
waste and higher morale amongst employees.
Many people, especially from Western countries, feel that the Japanese
are too bothered about such things. They feel that it can stifle
creativity. Americans, in particular, think `a messy desk is a sign of a
creative mind`, while others like to use the phrase by Nietzsche `Out of
chaos comes order`. The Japanese, on the other hand, feel it is
difficult to work productively in a messy space.
This may be a cultural attribute. Japanese, while at school, have to
clean their own classrooms. And you will often see neighbors cleaning
up the surrounding areas around their homes. Also, space is at a premium
in Japan, so it is a priority to have everything stored away in it`s
place neatly and orderly. There is no room for unnecessary clutter.
For those who think this is all over the top, just remember that
research has shown that the average American spends between 15 to 55
minutes every day looking for things they have misplaced or can`t locate.
All this lost time really adds up, and to the Japanese, represent huge
loss of productivity.