In Lean Six Sigma, the 5S program stands for the Japanese words seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. Roughly translated, the American equivalent becomes:

  • Sort. Separate and eliminate unnecessary tools, parts, and methods to de-clutter work areas.
  • Systematize (or Set in Order). Organize and arrange retained tools, parts, and methods to find them more efficiently.
  • Sweep (or Shine). Clean and maintain retained tools, parts, and the work area to infuse workers with pride.
  • Standardize. Arrange and maintain identical work areas to identify abnormalities quickly.
  • Sustain. Maintain new work standards while reviewing and updating for continual improvement, and retaining the new status quo.

In general, 5S is not just a methodology, it’s a culture, used to organize, develop, and sustain a productive work environment. The benefit of utilizing 5S is that if offers improved safety, productivity, housekeeping, and employee satisfaction.

However, according to the Institute of Industrial Engineers, knowing where to begin improvement efforts is the first and biggest challenge in 5S. To eliminate waste you have to identify waste. Then you need to pinpoint the causes. Many workplaces wind up fighting fires. Reactive problem solving is always less efficient than proactivity.

Additionally, it’s critical to realize that 5S is about more than just housekeeping. It isn’t a fancy way to describe audit sheets or check lists. It’s not about remodeling or cleaning up a work area. Instead, it places in practice the Lean philosophy of continuous improvement. And, like LSS, it’s a tool for finding and correcting irregularities (or defects).

Though, it is often used to teach the general waste reduction concepts of Lean, it’s important not to simply think of 5S as a teaching tool. It is useful in creating and maintaining efficient and effective work areas.

Finally, the only way for 5S to be effective is to recognize, like LSS, it takes everyone in the organization to make it successful.

If your organization is looking for information, training, and guidance regarding Lean Six Sigma, 5S, and other LSS tools, browse our website, read our blog, or contact us directly. When it comes to Lean Six Sigma, we offer training, certification, and more.

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