The 5S System

The 5S method is used basically for workplace organization, originally come from 5 Japanese words: Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set in order), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu (Standardize), Shitsuke (Sustain).                  

The 5S process describes in 5 steps, how to organize a workspace for efficiency, identifying, and removing items that are unnecessary in your environment.

Through this process, we should understand how to organize different items in specific categories for maximum efficiency. Another important step of this process is cleaning the working area, transforming it into a routine. Finally, implementing color coding as well as labels to standardize the whole process to maintain it.

1. Sort

Sort through every object in the workplace to get rid of unnecessary items that don’t add value to the process.

Ask questions to decide the purpose of each item:

  • What purpose has the object?
  • When was used last time?
  • How frequently is used?
  • Who used it?
  • Does it need to be here?

Identify items that are not used in that area and sort them in different categories like:

  • Broken items
  • Items from a different department
  • Unidentified items

Use Red tags to get an ID for items that need to be removed from that place in a special area. A red tag contains information about the product. Red tags are usually cardboard tags or stickers that can be attached to the items in question.

2. Set in order

Once the unnecessary items are gone, sort the remaining objects considering the following questions:

  • Which work station use which item?
  • How often the item is used? 
  • Which item is used most frequently?
  • Should the items be grouped by type?
  • Where is the most ergonomic to place the item for reaching it fast?
  • Is more storage necessary to keep everything organized?

The purpose of this phase is to identify necessary resources for each workstation such as material, components, tools, boxes, assigning them fixed places, and quantities.

3. Shine

This step is unavoidable in the 5S methodology because employees must understand how important it is, to clean regularly their working area, and also their equipment or tools.
All the employees should take responsibility for cleaning up their working area after every shift.
In this way, people take ownership of the space, working more carefully, without leaving a mess.
Tools, machines, equipment must be ready for use anytime, so keeping them clean, used, or broken tools can be easily identified and replaced.
This step includes also regular maintenance of the equipment or machine used in the company.

Using the example below, you can familiarized with the idea of the Cleaning Instruction:

4. Standardize

The Standardize step systematizes everything that just happened and turns the sorting-cleaning effort into habits. In time turn these activities into a routine in everybody’s life.
Depending on the working area, a daily checklist or chart would be ideal in this step.
Instructions and photos help employees to take 5S as part of their job, to clean and organize their workplace automatically. Visual management is the key to maintain the results.

5. Sustain

The last step indicates the process of keeping the 5S running smoothly, but also of keeping everyone in the organization involved. Sustain is about making 5S a long-term project until becoming the organization’s culture.

Regular audits are essential in sustaining and improving 5S projects.

Here you can download a 5S Checklist for Audits:

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