5S is part of the Toyota Production System, anglicized in the US as Lean. 5S is a reference for standardized cleanup, order, or tidyness. Defined,
- Sort (Seiri): This refers to the practice of sorting through all the tools, materials, etc., in the work area and keeping only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded. This leads to fewer hazards and less clutter to interfere with productive work.
- Straighten (Seiton): Focuses on the need for an orderly workplace. Tools, equipment, and materials must be systematically arranged for the easiest and most efficient access. There must be a place for everything, and everything must be in its place.
- Shine (Seiso): Indicates the need to keep the workplace clean as well as neat. Cleaning in Japanese companies is a daily activity. At the end of each shift, the work area is cleaned up and everything is restored to its place.
- Standardize (Seiketsu): Allows for control and consistency. Basic housekeeping standards apply everywhere in the facility. Everyone knows exactly what his or her responsibilities are. House keeping duties are part of regular work routines.
- Sustain (Shitsuke): Refers to maintaining standards and keeping the facility in safe and efficient order day after day, year after year.
The 5S supports other Lean ideas such as the Visual Workplace, SMED (Single-Minute-Exchange-of-Dies), Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), and to some small measure Just-in-Time (JIT). 5S is also a foundation for Safety in the workplace.
I’ve seen companies try 5S and fail. The Toyota Production System, besides all the jargon and pragmatic concepts is, at bottom, a culture. 5S is part of the Toyota culture. When I’ve seen 5S fail, it was because it was part of a mandated program, not a self-organizing, organice one, that is supported and pushed by the workers.
Here’s an example: At Toyota, Hebron, Kentucky, at the end of the shift it was expected as part of the culture to clean your work area. But, there was a short time where some workers were systematically *not* performing 5S after their shift. Why?
A self-organized team quickly got together, and conducted a root cause analysis, and followed the Plan-Do-Check-Act pattern. They brainstormed and used an Ishikawa Diagram to help them arrive at the root causes for why 5S wasn’t being performed at the end of shift. This Kaizen activity was done in just a few hours, and the output of which were root causes and a detailed plan to eliminate them with a deadline and people responsible for making it happen.
Once ingrained in the culture, concepts such as 5S, JIT, SMED, NVA, etc, are just part of work. Doing them and participating in them is part of the collective consciousness of the workplace.
5S is an important concept; a foundation for safety and exposes the time-traps and non-value-added activities that might be present in your process or workplace. But, to fully benefit from 5S, it’s important to try to make it part of the culture; part of the collective consciousness of the workplace.