5S is a workplace management system which is based upon five translated Japanese words: seiri (sort), seiton (set in order), seiso (shine/sweep), seiketsu (standardize), and shitsuke (sustain). Its main purpose is to organize a workplace so that it can become a more efficient and productive environment. It is also a mindset that, once enacted, can change the culture of a company for the better. It is a plan, with goals and steps, that provides a blueprint for waste reduction, increased efficiency, and improved product quality and employee satisfaction.
Developed in Japan as an aid to “Just in Time” (JIT) manufacturing (developed by the Toyota Production System), 5S was specifically coined, developed, and promoted by Hiroyuki Hirano. Although many of these techniques are considered “common sense” and had been innovated previously, it was Hirano who created a unified structure - identified and organized into the 5 distinct and individual steps that build upon the previous ones as support.
In order to implement a full 5S program into your facility, it is good to thoroughly understand that each successive step in the process CANNOT be achieved without the ones that preceded it. You cannot fully shine something that hasn't been sorted and set in order to begin with, nor can you standardize chaos.
Below is a more in-depth explanation of each of the 5 phases:
- Phase 1 - 整理 Seiri (Sort)
This is a process to get rid of any unnecessary tools and equipment items from the workplace area. Everything else is red-tagged and either discarded or stored. This step is crucial to achieving greater efficiency through workplace design.
- Phase 2 - 整頓 Seiton (Set in Order)
This process focuses on organizing work areas for maximum efficiency by organizing tools & equipment to promote optimum workflows through minimizing movement. For instance, all tools & equipment should be located as close as possible to where they'll be needed, and processes should be designed to maximize efficiency. For example, if a tool is only to be used at the end of a machine, that's where it should be located. Creating organization tool pegboards or organizing toolbox drawers with custom foam outlines makes it easy to know where tools should be stored and where to find them.
- Phase 3 - 清掃 Seisō (Shine)
This method relates to maintaining a disciplined, systematic approach to ensure a clean & tidy workplace and maintained machines. When every shift ends, work areas are tidied, and tools and equipment are returned to their designated locations. This should be carried out every day, rather than become an ad-hoc activity that is introduced when things become disorganized. This principle also suggests that, by regularly cleaning machinery and keeping it close to its original condition, its efficiency and quality will not be greatly affected. Machinery that is maintained and in good condition experiences less downtime and will produce quality levels which are very close to new machinery.
- Phase 4 - 清潔 Seiketsu (Standardize)
This requires that work practices are followed in a uniform and consistent manner. Many companies have followed the first three ‘S’s many times, only to see conditions slowly deteriorate. The “Standardize” part of 5S addresses this issue. It's better described as the “what, when, whom, where” of 5S. For instance, when a specific machine needs to be maintained, there should be a system (typically checklists and documented instructions) that details what needs to be done, when it must be done, by whom and where.
- Phase 5 - 躾 Shitsuke (Sustain)
The process of sustaining the system is considered to be the most difficult ‘S’ to accomplish. Years of experience showed that maintaining the other 4 ‘S’s did not always happen. Maintaining a strong focus on this innovative method of working is essential to prevent slipping back into old habits and poor productivity. One method of sustaining the system is to carry out regular audits, although care must be taken to avoid a system that isn't punitive. The 5S system relies on staff involvement and commitment at every level, and an audit that punishes people will potentially destroy the good that should arise from the audit.
5S is a very goal-driven process. One of the goals is to reduce waste, making it a key component of modern lean manufacturing techniques. Another goal is to increase efficiency of movement and worker organization, another is an offshoot of that organization—an improvement in safety and health.
With things where they need to be, and extraneous items out of the way, workers expend less energy looking for tools, waiting on broken machinery, and less obstacles and less fatigue. All of this improved working environment, in addition to a revitalized management and worker culture, helps to increase employee morale, and higher quality products with less waste. Without the clear-cut steps leading to the clear-cut goals outlined of a company’s 5S plan, production cannot be as efficient and morale cannot be as enriching as it could be.
- 6S – The 6th ‘S’ stands for “Safety”
In lean manufacturing, and 5S especially, the idea of continuous improvement, or kaizen, is a buzzword, and even the concepts and processes that drive progress can evolve. As people utilized the wisdom of 5S, they determined that, as in so many manufacturing systems, the idea of “Safety” was inducted as one more step or pillar in the 5S methodology.