What is 5S?

5S is a systematic process for creating an orderly environment that is easily maintained, whether it is in the workplace or in your personal life.

Hiroyuki Hirano is responsible for developing 5S as part of his system for production.

In his book, 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace, Hirano says:

“A company is like a living organism. When its environment changes abruptly, it must also change --- or perish. The 5S’s comprise the basic civilization that protects corporate organisms from the ravages of the changing environment. Not only are the 5S’s the foundation upon which a company must stand to survive, they are also part of a company’s unique corporate culture. No matter how you envision it --- companies truly intent on finishing this century ahead of competition must make the 5S’s their first step.”

While the steps originated in Japan and therefore have Japanese names, we will refer to their English names.

  • Sort
  • Set
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

Let’s briefly explore each step.

Sort: Seiri, in Japanese. Originally translated as Organization.

What items are needed, and which are not? Eliminate the unneeded items

Set (in order) or Straighten: Seiton, in Japanese. Originally translated as Orderliness.

As attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”  We’ll add make sure the needed items are easily available and can be retrieved quickly.

Shine: Seiso, in Japanese. Originally translated as Cleanliness.

Keep the workplace environment clean.

Standardize: Seiketsu, in Japanese. Originally translated as Standardized Cleanup.

Do the steps in a consistent manner, consistently.

Sustain: Shitsuke, in Japanese. Originally translated as Discipline.

Put procedures in place to maintain the first four steps.

Let’s look at the application of the 5S’s at Boeing Corporation in both a manufacturing line and in an office area. As expected, first there was a healthy skepticism, but then a thorough embracing of the system. We hear from actual Boeing employees in this Youtube video.

Remember the 5S’s can be implemented in any organization and in any environment, even at home.