5S is a workplace organization methodology named after five Japanese words “seiri," “seiton," “seiso," “seiketsu" and “shitsuke," translating to "sort," "set in order," "shine," "standardize," and "sustain." 5S best practices ensure productivity, quality, and safety improvement.
5S Best Practices Related to Seri (Sort)
The first 5S principle is Seri or "Sort" that advocates elimination of unnecessary tools, parts, and instructions by retaining only the essential items.
Some established 5S best practices in this area include:
- Red-tagging items not used, quarantining all such unnecessary items into one area, and disposing any items if they are not required for a period of one month. Chances are that an item not required for a month of smooth operations is not required in the first place.
- Establishing wastebaskets within four steps of an employee to encourage throwing away junk as the junk is created.
- Not allowing unnecessary items such as family pictures, post it notes, and other non-essentials posted on walls to keep walls free except for printed work related items.
Application of the 5S Sort principles bring forth many benefits such as more space, better employee communications, and easier arrangement of tools, for example.
5S Best Practices Related to Seiton (Set in Order)
The second of 5S principles is Seiton, which means “Set in Order" or “Simplifying." This principle advocates that there should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. All work items should be set in clearly labeled established areas and arranged in a manner that promotes efficient work flow.
Some 5S best practices in this area include:
- Creating a 5S map of the department that shows location of all work stations, and storage areas of all tools and equipment.
- Using labels extensively to mark item storage areas, and outlining a tools diagram on boards.
- Using pegboards to hold the tools.
- Using low level boxes for items held in drawers.
- Keeping rarely used items outside the work area and using a check out sheet to log the in/out status of such tools.
- Using visual controls to identify the location of the items. For instance, a blue tape could indicate “store here," a red tape could indicate “do not move" and so on.
5S Best Practices Related to Seiso (Shine)
Seiso, meaning "Shine" or "Cleanliness" entails keeping the workplace tidy and organized by ingraining such habits as part of the work culture instead of making cleaning a periodic exercise. 5S Best practices toward this direction include:
- Cleaning the work area including equipments, floors, tables and cabinets, and making sure everything is restored to its place at the end of each shift using a checklist.
- Using a portable shine cart to store cleaning supplies and moving the cart from location to location during the cleaning activity.
- Documenting the specific procedure of cleaning required for each item to train the employees appropriately.
- Routine scheduling of painting and other non-daily maintenance activities.
Keeping the workplace clean improves safety and productivity, and impresses customers.
5S Best Practices Related to Seiketsu (Standardization)
5S "Standardization" or the Seiketsu principle of 5S, establishes consistent work practices through rules and regulations in order for everyone know their exact responsibilities. This entails establishing the 5S best practices of Seri, Seiton and Seiso as the norm in the workplace.
5S Best practices in this regard include:
- Setting a location, maintenance check schedule, cleaning procedure, and updating 5S maps whenever a new item enters the unit.
- Conducting regular training to refresh the employees regarding 5S knowledge and responsibilities.
Creating a visual 5S Assessment chart that lists all the 5S tasks to be completed in a designated area, the frequency of the task, the person responsible for completing the task, and the tools needed for each task. Sorting this list in the order of the person, task, frequency, and tools, all in alphabetic order makes it easy for each person to find their own tasks and do what is required.
- Empowering workers to participate in the development of standards.
5S Best Practices Related to Shitsuke (Sustain)
The Shitsuke or "Sustain" principle of 5S is the maintenance and review of the first four standards. The responsibility is on management to maintain focus on the 5S principles to make them a part of the work culture and not allow a gradual decline to the old ways, after the initial zeal of the 5S implementation wanes off.
5S best practices in this regard include:
- Conducting periodic 5S audits that check not just compliance with 5S principles but the level of knowledge and awareness of employees regarding 5S stipulations.
- Developing a checklist for the periodic audit that incorporates all the 5S practices adopted by the unit.
- Making sure team leaders use the audit as a means to help employees through comments rather than convert the audit as a report card on 5S compliance.
- Encouraging employees by empowering them to find better ways to sort, set, shine and standardize.
- Developing a system of division of 5S tasks by team members themselves rather than team leaders assigning tasks.
- Creating a system of the employee signing off the completion of each task in the 5S assessment chart, and having team leaders review the same.
5S, in its core basic, utilizes common sense that many organizations may fail to apply when first using the methodology. 5S implementation in an organization brings about improved profitability, better service and safety standards, and improves efficiency.