What is the 5 S Methodology

Ramu I.


The 5 S Methodology is a method of organizing the workplace and derives its name from the first letter of five Japanese words:  seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. The words describe how to organize the work place for maximum productivity and effectiveness and is generally accompanied by training for workers on why their work should be organized in this fashion. The process involves the identification and storage of various items used, the maintenance of the workplace and the items used, and the continuation of the new way of working.

The methodology was first developed in Japan and was one of the enablers of Just-In-Time manufacturing. Hirano propounded one major framework which is structured with a series of steps with each one leveraging on its predecessor and Toyota uses his methodology as standard procedure. Though it was originally developed for lean manufacturing, it can also be applied to other processes such as information or software in place of physical products.

The Pillars

Seiri: May be translated into English as "storage" and has several objectives. These include the removal and proper disposal of unnecessary items, eliminating obstacles to improve workflow, preventing the accumulation of items which are not necessary and evaluating the necessary items in terms of costs and other factors.

Seiton: Normally translated into English as "straighten" (another meaning is "streamline") and describes the arrangement to be followed. It involves

- arranging items in the proper order so that they are easily available for use

- preventing waste of time and minimizing loss

- making it easy to find and pick up the items which are necessary

- ensuring smooth and convenient workflow

Seiso: Sometimes rendered in English as "shine" or "sweep" and involves:

- keeping the workplace squeaky clean

- using cleaning as an opportunity for inspection

- preventing plant and machinery and other equipment from deteriorating

- keeping the workplace clean and conducive to pleasant working conditions

Seiketsu: The English equivalent is "standardization" and involves:

- enforcing at all times high standards of housekeeping and organization at the workplace

- ensuring orderliness and cleanliness

- making sure that everything is in the proper place

Shitsuke: Translates into English as "sustain" and is sometimes interpreted as keeping everything in working condition without being specifically instructed told to do so.

Other phrases such as security, safety and satisfaction are added to the five basic words to clarify the benefits of the methodology.

Potential Environmental Benefits

The Seiso "shine" pillar, which involves painting the equipment in light colors and cleaning windows, can have the additional benefit of decreasing energy consumption due to lower lighting requirements and less waste.  To elaborate, painting and cleaning reduces the buildup of substances such as shavings or dirt which can contaminate items being produced resulting in the production of defects and the associated waste of materials and energy. Implementing this methodology results in better organization and the use of less space because of the elimination of unnecessary equipment and other items. This in turn leads to lower heating and lighting requirements and the avoidance of waste.