5S describes a standard approach to housekeeping within a lean manufacturing operation. And as many elements of lean, it originated within the walls of Japanese automaker Toyota.
Simply speaking, 5S refers to keeping work areas tidy and free of clutter. It also suggests people are happier working in a clean and tidy environment.
The elements of 5S, known as pillars, are all Japanese words beginning with the letter S and are known as:
Seiri: To identify the best physical organization of the workplace. Describes a series of steps to identify things being held in the workplace that shouldn’t be.
Seiton: Puts the series of steps optimizes organization identified in the first pillar into action.
Seiso: Anglicised as “cleanliness.” It is based on the principle that people are happier and more productive when working in clean environments and suggests that operations should be halted everyday for regular cleanings of workstations and machines to ensure maximum productivity.
Seiketsu: The mechanical means by which the first three pillars are maintained. Seiketsu is designed to ensure changes are permanent and not set on the back burner once a new problem arises. Simply, it involves setting a schedule that revisits all 5S elements on a regular basis item stored in it? Does the area meet the general standards of cleanliness?
Shitsuke: The final stage translates to discipline. While both Seiketsu and Shitsuke aim to encourage ongoing maintenance of 5S, the fifth is the set of approaches used to win hearts and minds, making people want to keep applying the best practices identified in the four other pillars.
To truly implement 5S, however, it must not stand on its own. Like many other productivity theories, 5S is dependent on other elements of productivity improvement like kaizen and lean.