meetingRoomThe 5S is a methodology developed to maintain an organized, clean and safe workplace in which organizations can carry out processes with a high level of performance. It’s a systematic and methodical approach for organizing, cleaning, developing, and sustaining a productive work environment.

This methodology was originated by Japan industries, where workers would organize their workplace in the safest and most efficient manner to allow a smooth and efficient flow of activities.

The 5S is a simple methodical process that is based in having visual order, organization and cleanliness in a consistent manner. This outcome will be achieved by implementing the five stages of this process, which are  based on five Japanese words that begin with the letter S (Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke). These words can be translated in English as:

  1. SeiriSort out and separate what is needed from what is not. Only what is necessary should be kept in the workplace, the rest should be removed in order to eliminate obstacles.
  2. SeitonSet in order or Straighten. Items must be sorted and identified so that they are easy to access and use. A location for every item needs to be identified so that anyone can find them and return them once the task is completed.
  3. SeisoShine. The area and workplace should be cleaned on a regular basis to maintain high performance and identify defects.
  4. SeiketsuStandardize. Eliminate the causes of dirt and clutter and make a standard of the first 3S. Everything must be in its right place. Maintain orderliness. Maintain everything in order and according to its standard.
  5. ShitsukeSustain. The standards must be maintained in order to continue with the practices and continue to improve.

Manufacturing industries were the first ones to implement the 5S process, but today it is used by all types of organizations. Everyone can benefit from having an orderly and clean workplace. Some of the benefits organizations may expect from its implementation are:

  • Efficiency increases.
  • Set-up times are reduced.
  • Cycle times are reduced.
  • Increased floor space.
  • Decreased incident/accident rate.
  • Less wasted labor.
  • Better equipment reliability.
  • Existing problems become obvious.

The 5S program requires training and commitment from everyone in the workplace in order for it to be successful. The main resource required for its implementation is time. This program is also considered the basis for the implementation of other lean manufacturing techniques, and the main resource that 5S needs for its establishment is time; time to sort, set and shine everything in the workplace. Regardless of the resources needed, after the program has been set up, the results will greatly exceed its initial investment, and the new clean and organized working space will provide the foundation to create a more efficient and productive work environment.