The 5S Method

22 April 2021

Lean Management Lean Six Sigma

A brief article on what 5S means, what its main benefits are, what its place is within the context of Continuous Improvement and how you can put it to use in your daily life.

What is the 5S method?

“5S is a five-step cyclical method used to organize a workplace for maximum efficiency and productivity, of which the name is derived from the Japanese words for each phase, all starting with an S. The steps are Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu (Standardize) and Shitsuke (Sustain).
The first thing that springs to mind when most people hear this definition is that it is a cleaning routine for factory floors and offices. However, this really doesn’t do the method justice at all.

5S Objectives

5S aims primarily to help you achieve the typical ‘Lean’ objective of reducing ‘waste’ to zero, or as close to zero as possible. Now we could write entire books on waste reduction and the principles of Lean and how 5S ties into all of this, but if we generalize a bit we can keep it concise. 5S lets you organize the workplace in such a way that all tools and materials are always ready-for-use, that defects, blemishes or problems can be easily spotted and that everything is placed where it is needed the most. And yes, it helps keep things clean and hygienic as well, but that’s really just the cherry on top.

Why 5S?

‘Fine and dandy to know, but what’s in it for me?’, I hear you asking. But the answer depends entirely on what you’d like to use it for. You could implement it on an entirely factory floor to promote efficiency, productivity and waste-free working, which would work just as well with an office space as well. Or you could use it at home to control clutter and keep everything pleasant and presentable. Whatever type of space you use it in doesn’t really matter though, as it will always lead to the same positive results. With the right plan and structure, keeping everything organized, standardized and clutter-free is actually pretty easy and more than worth the effort.

5S and Continuous Improvement

It is however important to note that 5S shouldn’t be a one-off event; it has to be repeated and reinforced regularly. This might sound draconic, but it’s not much effort actually. 15 minutes a day is ideal, but doing a comprehensive sweep every once in a while is advised. 5S is a cyclical method and should be repeated regularly. This is also why it is very often incorporated as a standard component of organizations’ Continuous Improvement programmes, such as a Lean or Lean Six Sigma implementation. The 5S method is the ideal tool with which to start building a culture of Continuous Improvement and gets an entire team or even the full workforce to take ownership over their shared workplace.

If you’d like to learn more about 5S method and how to put it into practice, you can always give our online 5S course a try. You’ll learn the background of this method and get a full step-by-step walkthrough on how to get 5S done.

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