5 S - Basics

The “5-S” practice is a well-recognised methodology used by the Japanese to improve the work environment.  It has now evolved into a formal technique, which the Japanese believe is useful not just for improving the physical environment, but also for improving Total Quality Management (TQM) processes as well. Many everyday problems could be solved through adoption of this practice. It is also seen that many companies have included a few aspects of the “5-S” in their routine processes without being aware of its existence as a formal technique. In fact, the “5-S” can be applied to activities in all walks of life.

1. Seiri - Sorting 

Organisation is about sorting items (like tools, parts and materials), which are essential for a job from those that are not. Efforts should be made to select only the vital few and place them at convenient locations. The essence of organisation is defined by:

  • Discard unwanted things
  • Organise the storage of parts, files and other items
  • Deal with the causes of defects, noise and leaks
  • Treat defects, leaks and breakages
  • Aim for the policy of “one is best” ---one-location file, one-stop service for customers etc.,

2. Seiton - Simplifying

Neatness determines the rate at which things can be located or placed. It eliminates the time wasted in locating and placing things in an organisation. In simple terms, it emphasises on:

  • Clearly designated names and places
  • Functional placement of parts, tools and materials
  • Quick (30-second) and easy retrieval of documents, parts and tools
  • Neat and easy-to-read notice boards (with special attention to removal of old and obsolete boards)
  • Filing standards and controls
  • Zoning and placement marks
  • Arrangement for first-in, first out

3. Seiso - Sweeping

In any organisation, cleaning involves delegating individual areas of responsibility. Every individual should be thoroughly aware of his duties and responsibilities. In doing this, it is important that all assignments be absolutely clear and that there are no undefined, unallocated, or grey areas. This can be done by:

  • Assigning individual cleaning responsibilities
  • Adopting simple methods for cleaning and inspection
  • Regular cleaning activities
  • Cleaning even the less-noticed places

4. Seiketsu - Standardising

This emphasises strict and continual maintenance of organisation, cleanliness and neatness. It includes personal and environmental cleanliness. It also implies standardising the principles of “5-S” practice. By maintaining standardised conditions using visual management, employees are motivated to act fast in any circumstance. This necessitates:

  • Certification of inspections using labels, tags, etc.,
  • “Danger” warning marks and signs
  • Colour coding of files, pipes and containers
  • Responsibility labels
  • Preventing noise and vibrations
  • Directional markings on pipes and gangways

5. Shitsuke - Sustaining

Discipline involves instilling the ability of doing things as per the defined rules and regulations. This helps in building good habits like framing and following rules. Discipline, an integral part of industrial safety emphasises on:

  • Following safety rules;
  • Wearing safety helmets, gloves, shoes while at work
  • Executing individual responsibilities
  • Good communication practices
  • Practicing dealing with emergencies
  • Checking and following “5-S” practices always

Many successful organisations found that by developing a high quality work environment and instilling discipline in the form of procedures and work instructions, the employees devoted more energy and time to achieve results. The ‘5-S practice’ has now become a highly appreciated technique in business, which not only helps to impress the customers but also to establish effective quality processes for good services and products.

Total Quality Management 5S Seiri Seiton Seiso Seiketsu Shitsuke

About the author

Arun Kumar Davay

16K+ | Media/TV Talk Shows | Senior Management


Hundreds of Television Shows on Entrepreneurship, Business, Marketing, Sales, ECommerce, Finance, Human Resource, Government Policies, Economic Scenario, Women Empowerment.

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