5S is the abbreviated reference to five Japanese words that govern workplace organization and housekeeping. The five words are: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke.
The 5s philosophy is a common-sense approach to improve visual control in the workplace, and it goes hand-in-hand with good safety practices, and is equally applicable to manufacturing and service settings.
5S can be translated into the following five words:
- Housekeeping. Separate the needed items from unnecessary items, and remove the unnecessary items from the shop floor where they collect dirt, get damaged, get lost, obstruct the view of what is going on, and create trip/fall hazards.
- Workplace Organization. Structure the workstation so needed items can be located quickly and easily. Everything should have a defined, standard storage location. Follow the old axiom: "A place for everything, and everything in its place." Avoid storing anything directly on the floor, which creates an impediment to cleaning, and one more thing to trip over. A good rule to follow is "Nothing on the floor but feet!"
- Cleanup. Clean, sweep, and scrub everything around the workstation. This is also the first step toward Total Productive Maintenance. Process discipline is reinforced by a clean workplace, which sends the very visible message to the workforce that management cares about working conditions, and there is a defined way to do things.
- Cleanliness. If you stay ready, you never have to get ready. Clean continually, not just at the end of the shift or end of the week. If the workplace is cleaned continually, you will avoid shift to shift squabbles about who created and left a mess. Establish clear responsibility for every square foot of the workplace so that there is no "no-man's zone" that doesn't get attention.
- Discipline. Good housekeeping and organization requires consistency of attention and effort. This requires daily (hourly) management reinforcement. Housekeeping practices cannot be turned off and on. Rules must be clearly communicated and everyone must be held accountable to obey rules and proper work practices. If you establish this discipline, it will reinforce adherence to proper process methods and standards, and quality will improve.
The 5S tool is a simple yet powerful tool to decrease distractions in the workplace. The tool positively affects visibility of a process, safety, and worker performance. In many cases it can decrease defects associated with lack of cleanliness and increase throughput by decreasing the time a worker searches for tools. Incorporating 5S into a process will be a quick win for any process.
A related tool is the CHECK Process also found in the Toolbox.