What is the Definition of 6S?

In the realm of Lean Manufacturing, the concept of 6S stands as a beacon of organizational efficiency, process optimization, and workplace excellence. However, what precisely does 6S entail, and when should you attempt to implement it in your organization? In this comprehensive exploration, we peel back the layers of this methodology, uncovering its fundamental definition and delving into its intrinsic connection to Lean principles. By grasping the essence of 6S, organizations can embark on a journey toward elevated efficiency and a culture of continuous improvement.

Defining 6S: A Systematic Approach to Excellence

At its core, 6S is a systematic approach to creating an organized, efficient, and safe workplace. The name "6S" derives from six Japanese words, each representing a crucial step in the process. These steps are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain, and Safety. Together, they form a cohesive framework that guides organizations toward optimal operations.

  1. Sort: The first step, "Sort," involves separating necessary items from unnecessary ones. It's a process of decluttering and ensuring that only essential tools, materials, and equipment remain in the workspace. By eliminating excess, organizations reduce waste and pave the way for streamlined processes.
  2. Set in Order: "Set in Order" focuses on arranging the remaining items in an orderly and accessible manner. Tools, materials, and equipment are placed strategically to minimize wasted time and movement. This step enhances efficiency by ensuring that everything has a designated place, reducing the need for unnecessary searching or rearranging.
  3. Shine: The "Shine" step emphasizes the significance of cleanliness and maintenance. Workspaces are thoroughly cleaned, creating a visually appealing environment that fosters productivity and well-being. Regular maintenance prevents equipment breakdowns and ensures that everything operates smoothly.
  4. Standardize: "Standardize" introduces protocols and guidelines that uphold the gains achieved in the previous steps. Consistency becomes the cornerstone, as processes are standardized to ensure uniformity and eliminate variations. This step prevents backsliding into disorganization and inefficiency.
  5. Sustain: "Sustain" is all about maintaining the established standards over the long term. It involves continuous monitoring, reinforcement, and adaptation. Organizations work to cultivate a culture of sustained improvement, where everyone actively contributes to maintaining the 6S principles.
  6. Safety: At the heart of 6S lies "Safety", reflecting the organization's commitment to providing a secure work environment. By identifying potential hazards and taking preventive measures, organizations safeguard the well-being of employees and prevent accidents.

The Inextricable Bond Between 6S and Lean Principles

The symbiotic relationship between 6S and Lean principles is undeniable. 6S acts as a catalyst that accelerates the achievement of Lean goals:

  • Waste Elimination: The "Sort" step directly addresses waste by eliminating unnecessary items. This reduction in waste aligns seamlessly with Lean's objective of minimizing non-value-added activities.
  • Efficiency Enhancement: "Set in Order" and "Standardize" contribute to streamlined processes and standardized procedures. These principles resonate with Lean's focus on creating efficient workflows.
  • Continuous Improvement: The "Sustain" step encapsulates the essence of Lean's commitment to continuous improvement. By upholding standards and fostering a culture of ongoing enhancement, both methodologies converge on the path of excellence.

Embracing 6S: A Pathway to Operational Excellence

The adoption of 6S yields an array of benefits that resonate throughout the organization:

  1. Enhanced Efficiency: 6S streamlines workflows, reduces wasteful activities, and optimizes resource utilization. This efficiency translates to heightened productivity and reduced operational costs.
  2. Improved Quality: Standardization and cleanliness lead to improved product and service quality. Consistency in processes minimizes errors and defects, aligning with Lean's pursuit of perfection.
  3. Safe Work Environment: Prioritizing safety through the "Safety" step enhances employee well-being, resulting in reduced workplace accidents and injuries.
  4. Cultural Transformation: Implementing 6S cultivates a culture of continuous improvement. Employees actively engage in maintaining standards, fostering a sense of ownership and empowerment.
  5. Sustainability: The "Sustain" step ensures that improvements are not short-lived. Organizations that uphold 6S principles experience sustained efficiency gains and ongoing process enhancements.

The definition of 6S transcends mere words; it embodies a holistic approach to organizational excellence. By embarking on the journey of 6S, organizations infuse their operations with purpose, organization, and safety. The symbiotic relationship between 6S and Lean principles underscores their shared commitment to efficiency, quality, and continuous improvement. As organizations embrace the 6S methodology, they carve a pathway to operational excellence, ensuring that every facet of their endeavors is optimized for success.


View all 6S Q&A

Free E-Book

6S Guide

A step-by-step guide to organization improvement using 6S.


Free Samples

Get samples of our most popular products so you can see the quality before you buy.

Other FREE Resources:

Helpful Resources