A Practical Approach To The Successful Practice Of 5S

In real terms, 5S can be described as a complete quality improvement system that aims at making continuous improvements in the immediate work environment as well as in the work conditions. To understand how it actually works, let us study each one of the given methodologies in detail:


The Japanese word Seiri basically means ‘to sort’ and as such the given methodology deals with sorting out the equipment associated with a workplace. The sorting is done to identify and remove all the unnecessary items from the workplace so as to achieve a higher level of efficiency.

The sorting is based on the simple logic that items that are used every hour and every day should be kept within arms reach; items used once or twice a week or month should be kept within the work area; and items used even more infrequently should be kept in a more distant location. Apart from these, items that are tagged as unnecessary should be completely removed from the workplace.


Systematize, or Seiton in Japanese, this methodology basically aims at putting the required items at appropriate places. This is done by using a workflow analysis chart that indicates all the items that will be required for a given process in a systematic order. Sometimes, inputs and suggestions sourced from the employees are also used for placing the required items in appropriate places.  


Sweep, or Seiso in Japanese, aims at keeping the workplace clean and fully functional year round. Equipment and other mechanical items are cleaned and inspected regularly to ensure that production is not affected by small problems. For most items, the cleaning and inspection is to be done on a daily basis, but if the organization feels otherwise, it can create a cleaning and inspection schedule based on the cleaning requirements of individual pieces of equipment.


Standardize, or Seiketsu in Japanese, this methodology aims at developing visual controls and guidelines in order to keep the workplace organized and clean. The purpose is to achieve a level of standardization that can then be implemented on a daily basis. The standardization process is heavily dependent on the 3S explained above and as such it is necessary to ensure that the 3S have been properly taken care of before implementing Seiketsu.


Self-Discipline, or Shitsuke in Japanese, this methodology aims at making the employees aware of the 5S by providing them  training at regular intervals. It is based on the logic that the 5S will deliver results only when employees extend their full cooperation and support, something that can only be achieved through regular training and guidance.

When 5S is implemented, it helps in increasing the morale of employees, a prerequisite for achieving higher levels of efficiencies. Once this is done, the organization can then easily hope to reduce wastage, improve quality and facilitate faster lead times, all of which are necessary for the success of any business organization.