5S is a reference to five Japanese words that describe standardized cleanup:
- Seiri : tidiness, organization. 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.
- Seiton : orderliness. 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.
- Seiso : cleanliness. 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.
- Seiketsu : standards. 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.
- Shitsuke : sustaining discipline. Refers to maintaining standards and keeping the facility in safe and efficient order day after day, year after year.
Often in the west, alternative terms are used to disguise the Japanese origins of the methodology. These are “Sort, Straighten, Shine, Systemise and Sustain” and “Safety” as a 6th optional S. These were arguably derived to prevent 5S from being perceived as yet another Japanese improvement process in an era when western industry was already being overwhelmed by strategies to combat foreign business.
Alternative Americanizations have also been introduced, such as CANDO (Cleanup, Arranging, Neatness, Discipline, and Ongoing improvement). Even though he refers to the ensemble practice as “5S” in his canonical work, 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace, Hirano prefers the terms Organization, Orderliness, Cleanliness, Standardized Cleanup, and Discipline because they are better translations than the alliterative approximations. There is a photo of a Japanese sign in 5 Pillars that shows the latin “5S” mixed with Kanji.
Additional practices are frequently added to 5S, under such headings as 5S Plus, 6S, 5S+2S, 7S, etc. The most common additional S is for Safety mentioned above.
In physical work areas the idea is to organize and clean up the area, make sure that there is a place for everything and that everything is in its place, and that there is a system in place to ensure that the improvements are sustained. The classic example is the home garage, wouldn’t it be nice if your garage met the requirements above and if you could instantly find exactly what you needed when you needed it (maybe your garage is like that – but you wouldn’t be the average person)? The same principle applies to the office, the truck, the shop, and to the conference room.
In the digital work space (hard drives, network drives, etc.) the idea is to have the folders and files well-organized and clear of duplicate and unnecessary files. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could immediately go to the file that you needed without searching through multiple directories, folders, and files (maybe you can – but you wouldn’t be the average person)?
It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to determine how much waste is associated with unorganized workspaces (physical and digital). However, I’m sure we can all think of many examples from just the past week, of time that was wasted looking for a particular tool, part, file, phone number, book, form, or other objects or data that you needed to do your job.
The whole idea of 5-S is to organize and clean up your workspaces in order to improve safety, efficiency, and effectiveness as well as to eliminate waste and frustration in your daily work