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What Is The 5S System?

Written by Steve Stephenson

"Americans too often expect high drama from an idea when what's needed is simplicity and a solid foundation to sustain good work."
Hiroyuki Hirano, Author of 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace

Free 5s Guide

5S System is a five-step process for reducing waste and optimizing productivity within the workplace. Its success comes from maintaining an orderly workplace and using visual cues (colored signs and labels) to achieve more consistent and more error-free results. Implementing the 5S System involves cleaning up and organizing the workplace basically in its existing configuration. The 5S System is typically the first lean method which organizations implement.

Why Is It Called the 5S System?

The 5S System refers to the five Japanese words that begin with the letter S and define the 5S System: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, shitsuke. The English translations are: organization, orderliness, cleanliness, standardized cleanup and discipline. Note: Still another translation of the 5S System uses the words sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain.

What Does the 5S System Provide?

The aim of a 5S System is improved safety, efficiency and employee morale. By deciding what should be kept, where it should be kept, and how it should be kept, the 5S System eliminates wasteful clutter and creates ownership of processes among workers. The results of the 5S System are both visually and economically dramatic

The 5S System is much more than a standard clean up, it is a methodology used by industrial plants and manufacturers, service providers, restaurants, educational institutions, government agencies, and more. It endorses continual organization and efficiency in the workplace with an emphasis on eliminating waste and creating visual communication.

What Are the Benefits of the 5S System?

The benefits of 5S include: higher quality, fewer defects, lower costs, more reliable delivery, improved safety, better maintenance, improved morale and company growth.

If you see a factory with equipment operators wearing stained uniforms accepting dirt, debris and oil, you're looking at a factory with far too many defective goods that misses far too many delivery deadlines, and that has low productivity and morale. It's obvious such a factory has failed to implement Organization and Orderliness.

The goal is to make conditions as visual as possible. Sort what you need from what you don't need. Orderliness has to do with putting everything in its place. The main strategy for implementing visual organization is called the "red tag strategy." Things that aren't needed are red tagged and removed to make room for the things that are needed.

The following explains the five elements of 5S:

1. Organization

Organization in 5S means something more than simply lining things in rows or neat stacks. In 5s organization means clearly distinguishing between what is needed and kept and what is unneeded and meant to be discarded.

  • Unneeded inventory, unneeded documents, unneeded pallets and unneeded "stuff" increases inventory expenses
  • As your inventory gets bigger and bigger it becomes more and more difficult to sort through what's needed and what's not needed
  • Unneeded equipment poses a daily obstacle to production activities

2. Orderliness

Orderliness always accompanies organization. When things are organized only what's needed remains. Orderliness means knowing where things belong so that tools and such are easy to find and so that workers know where to return things when they've finished their work.

3. Cleanliness

Cleanliness means just what it sounds like. It means keeping things clean: sweeping floor, emptying trash, washing windows so light can come through, keeping horizontal surfaces clear and clean, and ending each day with things in the same shape they were first thing in the morning. Cleanliness also entails saving labor by finding ways to prevent dirt, dust and debris from piling up in the workshop.

4. Standardized Cleanup

Standardized cleanup is not an activity it is a state. Standardized cleanup means organization, orderliness and cleanliness are always being maintained.

5. Discipline

Discipline means always following specified (and standardized) procedures.

Orderliness is a misunderstood word. It's more than an orderly appearance of pattern, which means it's not just lining things up. Orderliness always accompanies organization. Once everything is organized, only what is necessary remains. Orderliness means standardizing how needed things are kept.

The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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