5S - Technique : Simple Way to Manage Things at A Workplace

Posted by admin 04/01/2017 0 Comment(s) Quality System,



After the second world war, Japan was in trying to stand up out of the destruction all around. The world war had inflicted a lot of damage to the nation. Therefore every Japanese was very committed to improve their quality of life. Their untiring efforts to improve and quest for excellence gave birth to most of the "japanese" methods.  5S is one of the such methods. This is basic, yet very powerful tool to manage things around us at workplace.



Many things keep on accumulating at workplace, thus wasting the available space and valuable surface. The excess inventories and disorganized storage are also reason of such cluttering. Additionally, overproduction, waiting times, unnecessary transportation and handling, useless and excess inventories, wastage in production process, useless motions, scrap and defects are some of the main reasons of wastage.




The word '5S' is a roman transliteration of Japanese workplace organization technique popularily known as '5S Technique'. These all start with the letter "S". The technique gets this name because it uses five Japanese words: seiri (sort), seiton (set in order), seiso (shine), seiketsu (standaridize), and shitsuke (sustain).


This is a systematic, sequential and methodical approach that helps to organize and make workplace cleaner, safer and more efficient.  This reduces wastage of time and material resources. The word “5S (five S)” was generalized in I980’s in manufacturing sector in Japan as Toyota Production System (TPS) became famous in the sector.  Toyota used “5S” as one of the bases of TPS.


5S can be used to setup rules for storing, define space and places. These rules have to be widely communicated so that everyone knows what is lying where, why and for how long. The rules have to be continually updated as per the requirement of the situation for improved state. With the use of 5S techniques, anything that is useless can be eliminated. As already stated the '5S' is a sequential practice.


Benefits of 5S Technique:

  • Organizing and managing the workspace
  • Managing the work flow
  • Improving efficiency
  • Improving work flow
  • Elimination of waste
  • Reducing process repetitiveness and unreasonableness



In order to take advantage of this technique, the first and foremost requirement is to make people in the organization understand its importance for them as well as the organization so that they feel connected and relevant. As already discussed, this technique involves five steps to be followed in a sequence as discussed in the ensuing section.



1. seiri: Sorting – separation of the necessary from the unnecessary


This is the beginning of the the use of 5S. Generally at workplace there are so many things which are kept at workstation itself in anticipation of any need in future.  However, these just occupy the working space and are seldom used, may be once a year or so. Serie suggests elimination of such items from workplace.


The organization must define and establish the criteria for distinguishing necessary from unnecessary items. Only neccessary items should be retained, and the unnecessary items (such as excess materials, occassionaly used items, defective materials, documents, books, notebooks etc.) should be identified removed from work place and moved to another area. The items can be broadly categorized as:

  • Need It: Oftenly used items
  • May Need It: Seldom used items
  • Do Not Need It: Never used items

The employees must be made aware and trained about disposing the unnecessary items. The items which have been irrelevant over a period of time, may considered for disposal. This will make the place look cleaner and tidier.


It is equally important that organization is suitably made sensitive and aware not to allow the cluttering of unnecessary items at workplace during routine activities. When the 5S is implemented, it must be checked if the necessary, unnecessary/occasionally used items and excess inventory do not remain mixed together at the work place.



2. seiton: Setting in Order – a place for everything and everything in its place


The next step of 5S practice is 'Setting in Order'. There should be a place for everything and everything in its place. This makes the access to any item safe, fast and easier, whenever required. Otherwise, there is a lot of time wastage in searching for the item in a clutter.


Labeling, color coding, numbering, zoning are good tolls for 'Setting in Order'. The locations for storage of the items should be enough for the quantity or the size of item to be stored.


The items that are relevant and occasionally required should be separated from the items are regularly used. The storage locations should also be identified and visually marked. Different items such as tools, materials and supplies should be kept at separate and individually designated locations after due identification. This is important to facilitate safety, timely access and retrieval when required.



3. seiso: Shine - systematic cleaning


The workplace should be tidy and clean. The work areas including offices, conference rooms, workshops, production floor should be clean and orderly. This includes cleanliness of the tools, machineries, office equipments, floors, windows, walls and furniture etc. In order to support the cleanliness, required systems and accessories such as vacuum cleaners, mops and brooms should be in place and accessible.


A conscious effort to develop and follow regular cleaning and maintenance schedule is important. Housekeeping responsibilities for respective workplaces should be clearly communicated so that these are understood properly and practiced continually. Preventive maintenance is also helpful in maintaining cleanliness.



4. seiketsu: Standardizing – developing common methods for uniformity and consistency

A conscious effort on standardization of activities through proper documentation are important for continual improvement. The changes made as a result of improvement must also be properly documented and communicated in real time/advance.  The standardization involves creation and dissemination of the following:

  • Work instructions
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Checklist development and their regular usage
  • Mechanism and format development
  • Color coding for waste segregation
  • Standardized common symbols


Use of common organizational language and vocabulary to understand each other in organizational terms is very important. This minimizes the scope for confusion. All the procedures should be standardized and documented for the reference of anyone on need to know basis.



5. shitsuke: Sustaining – harnessing the gains and improving continually


Once the four stages have been crossed, next is to sustain what has been achieved in previous stages. The purpose of 'Sustaining' is to improve, prevent fallback and improve further through:

  • progress reporting
  • refresher training
  • periodic evaluation of 5S for continual improvements
  • appreciation and recognition
  • spreading across the board good 5S activities through news letters etc.


Routine checks and audits, finding the root cause of the problems noted, providing the resources that are required to maintain the 5S implementation are critical. The audits may also include checking whether the safety and housekeeping policies followed or not, are there any risks at workplace and have they been identified and addressed; is the cleanliness visible throughout the organization.



5S is beyond just a cleaning campaign. It aims to create congenial environment for work, makes access to the tools and materials easy and safer. Like any activity, positive attitude is very important for successful implementation of 5S technique.

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