5S is the abbreviation used to describe a clearly defined range of measures based on the principles of Japanese lean concepts. The method aims to make workstations and their surroundings safe, clean and orderly, as improved organisation and tidiness reduce waste. Originally developed for manufacturing companies, the methodology is now also used by service providers and administrative organisations.
The 5 "Ss" are five Japanese terms
Seiri - tidiness. Only necessary items should be kept at the work bench.
Seiton - orderliness. All parts should be arranged in dedicated places according to ergonomic requirements and be appropriately labelled.
Seiso - cleanliness. Cleaning work carried out at a workstation should create order and reveal faults.
Seiketsu - standardisation. Regular cleaning and tidying should become routine and also make it easier to identify potential improvements.
Shitsuke - discipline. Tidying and cleaning should become part of everyday work. Line managers must demand discipline in working toward this objective. 5S should become a way of life in the workplace.
The addition of another point produces 6S:
Shukan - habituation. Consistent discipline ultimately creates order and cleanliness as a matter of course.
5S in lean production
When rolled out in a business, 5S always starts with training for executives. The next stage is to specify binding targets, including for management staff. This results in individual steps that support the implementation of the 5S principles. The plant in question will often be gradually divided into zones, pilot areas will be identified, project and team structures created and responsibilities regulated. Team leaders are nominated, as are sponsors, guides and team members.
The executives who are managing 5S are subject to rules of conduct that are just as strict as those that apply to the personnel at the work bench who are to put the five "Ss" into practice. For example, sufficient resources must be provided for implementation, each 5S step must be explained in detail, every employee must be involved and the 5S champions and core team members must be kept up to date and trained. However, the most fundamental task is communication!
As with all lean methods, the success of 5S depends on more than just knowing the methodology. It is imperative that companies are aware of all the opportunities and risks and grasp the fact that 5S is primarily used to modify old habits and structures. If they can do that, 5S acts an additional lean management component that supports major company changes – it helps businesses to change their corporate culture.