Principles of 5S

Last update: April 16th, 2010
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Efficient work and quality require clean environment, safety and discipline.
5S are simple, effective rules for tidiness.

Principle of 5 S

The 5S are prerequisites for any improvement program. The basic assumption states "wastes are potential gain, eliminating wastes is a gain".
The 5S philosophy is a way of thinking, focusing on effective work place organization, simplified work environment, strives waste reduction while improving quality and safety.
There is no chance for efficiency or quality improvement within dirty work place, waste of time and scrap.

The five S stand for the five first letters of these Japanese words:



Seiri Sorting Out
Seiton Systematic Arrangement
Seiso Spic and Span
Seiketsu Standardizing
Shitsuke Self-discipline

Calling these principles the "5S" is a good way to remember their meaning and content.

What are 5S?


Sorting, keep the necessary in work area, dispose or keep in a distant storage area less frequently used items, unneeded items are discarded.

Seiri fights the habit to keep things because they may be useful someday. Seiri helps to keep work area tidy, improves searching and fetching efficiency, and generally clears much space. Seiri is also excellent way to gain valuable floor space and eliminate old broken tools, obsolete jigs and fixtures, scrap and excess raw material.


Systematic arrangement for the most efficient and effective retrieval. A good example of Seiton is the tool panel. Effective Seiton can be achieved by painting floors to visualize the dirt, outlining work areas and locations, shadow tool boards. For improving changeover time with SMED or reduce machine downtime through Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) it is necessary to have tools at hand. So a specific mobile tool cart was designed. An other example of Seiton are "broom carts". As cleaning is a major part of 5S we custom made carts to hold brooms, mops and buckets. Several carts have specific locations and all employees can find them.

Seiton saying would be: "A place for everything and everything on its place."


Cleaning. After the first thorough cleaning when implementing 5S, daily follow-up cleaning is necessary in order to sustain this improvement. Cleanliness is also helpful to notice damages on equipment such as leaks, breakage and misalignment. These minor damages, if left unattended, could lead to equipment failure and loss of production. Regular cleaning is a type of inspection. Seiso is an important part of basic TPM; Total Productive Maintenance and Safety matter through cleanliness is obvious.


Standardizing. Once the first three S have been implemented, it should be set as a standard so to keep these good practice work area. Without it, the situation will deteriorate right back to old habits. Have an easy-to-follow standards and develop a structure to support it. Allow employees to join the development of such standards.

The 3 first S are often executed by order.
Seiketsu helps to turn it into natural, standard behavior.


Finally, to keep first 4 S alive, it is necessary to keep educating people maintaining standards. By setting up a formal system; with display of results, follow-up, the now complete 5S get insured to live, and be expanded beyond their initial limits, in an ongoing improvement way; the Kaizen way.

The effect of continuous improvement leads to less waste, better quality and faster lead times.



Hints to 5S

The 5S principle is gradual and necessarily in that order.

5S are for everybody, it is hopeless expectation for subordinates to follow 5S if manager class does not comply to it.

5S show efficiency in time, transforming the physical environment of work area and spirit of all employee levels.

All this seems obvious? Looks easy?

Of course there is nothing really new, but before saying it is so simple or even doute its efficiency, try to set up 5S for yourself, for your unit.
You will see difficulties and reluctance, so called resistance to change, the natural tendency to return to the status quo and the good old way.

After succeeding in setting up 5S, don't forget to keep them alive!













Read more about 5S and related topics by checking the 5S portal

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