Here at Management Pocketblog, we love the ideas that come out of Japanese manufacturing. And none more so than the 5S approach to creating and maintaining an efficient workspace.
Originating with the work of Hiroyuki Hirano, and rapidly adopted into the Toyota Production System, 5S is now an essential part of Lean Manufacturing and Just in Time processes. It has also been adopted into the Six Sigma quality process tool set.
What is 5S?
5S offers five steps for organizing your work spaces so you can work efficiently, effectively, and safely. This system takes its name from five Japanese words that start with the ‘s’ sound – and which can, fortuitously, be translated into English words that also start with an s.
The approach is about reducing clutter by keeping only the things you need close at hand, putting everything in its proper place, and keeping your work area clean. This will make it easier for you to do your work quickly, easily, and safely.
Definition of the 5S
In Japanese, the 5 S words are:
There are different translations for some, but in English, we can use;
- Sort, Select
- Systematise, Set in order
- Shine, Sweep
Let’s Look at Each of the 5S in Turn
Seiri – Sort
Although ‘sort’ is the more common translation, I prefer ‘select’. It helps me recall that this is all about getting rid of stuff you don’t need around you, and moving the things you do need into close proximity. It’s also about getting rid of broken things and either fixing them or replacing them with fully functional versions.
Some people use the ‘red tag’ process of tagging things with a red tag, and removing the tag when you use something. After a set period, anything that still has a red tag needs to be moved to storage further away. You can, of course, repeat this for tiers of storage.
Seiton – Systematise
With the things you need most often closest at hand, do you know exactly where they are? If everything has a correct home, and is always replaced there, then you’ll find it quickly. The archetype of Seiton is the ubiquitous workshop ‘shadow board’ where each tool has a place and its shadow is painted behind, so missing objects are easy to spot.
Another part of this approach is the ergonomic considerations that place objects at heights and in storage that make them easy to remove and handle.
Seiso – Shine
A clean home is a happy home – and so it is with your workplace. get rid of rubbish, clean and tidy behind you at the end of a working day or project. The default state should be clear work surfaces that make clutter and dirt easy to spot and sweep up. And that also means good lighting.
Seiketsu – Standardise
If two workers are doing the same job, then they will need the same equipment. If it’s laid out the same way, they can swap workstations with no loss of efficiency. This is the opposite of personalisation, so apply it to the extent that is right for the culture you want to create.
Shitsuke – Sustain
Here’s where it gets tough. A new project can set up the first 4S. But sustaining it needs discipline.
Create rules, standards, and processes that embed the habits you want to see. And make sure people know the reason for them: arbitrary rules create disaffection. Better still, get your team to craft their own rules.
Are there others?
I’m not sure about Japanese, but in English usage, you may also find:
What is Your experience of 5S?
We’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.