When was 5S introduced?

5S is a very popular workplace organization methodology that was first developed in Japan. The true origin of 5S is a little bit confusing. It was first officially introduced in the 1970’s in the Toyota motor company. Many people make the argument, however, that the concepts behind 5S began as far back as the 16th century. Venice shipbuilders worked to streamline the assembly process. Using a methodology quite similar to 5S, they managed to build ships in just hours rather than days or weeks.

For modern implementation, however, 5S really got started when representatives from Toyota analyzed the Ford Motor Company assembly line as well as the inventory process used at Piggly Wiggly, a popular supermarket chain.

Going Lean with 5S

From this analysis, the concepts behind the 5S methodology were developed. This process also led them to come up with and implement the Just-in-Time, or JIT, process. This has also helped in the development of things like lean manufacturing, and visual workplace strategies.

The 5S’s in this methodology are simple to get a basic understanding of, and when implemented properly, can have very positive results. The 5S’s are as follows:

  • Sort
  • Straighten
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

Over time, the 5S methodology has grown in popularity and is now used in companies around the world. In many places, the 5S standards have actually grown to add a sixth S, which is safety. The 6S standards stress the importance of safety since all safety issues will cause significant waste and other problems within a facility. The more that can be done to improve safety, the less waste a facility will experience.

Today 5S is often looked at as a ‘housekeeping’ methodology in facilities because it is so important. When 5S is implemented properly, it will benefit virtually all other workplace organization and improvement strategies around today. It is easily adaptable, and once successfully added to the culture of a facility, it will have long term benefits.


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