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What is 5S?

5S is a Lean tool authored by Hiroyuki Hirano that is foundational to any facility to help support workflow. It helps support every facet in the production process by creating an orderly and consistent work environment. Just as the name of it sounds, 5S, there are five words that start with the letter ‘s’ and each word describes the task to be completed. In this article we will go through each word and describe how it reduces waste.
Seiri (Say-re) (Separate or sort)
During this first stage of 5S, essential items are separated from unessential items. A rule of thumb could be that essential items are used frequently (on a cyclical basis), and unessential items are used occasionally (on a non-cyclical basis). What this does is remove any clutter present at the work area that would create an uneven workspace and over burden the operator. This stage is the most important because each stage after this one responds to the changes made. 5S is about having a healthy motion economy an
Seiton (Say-tun) (Set in order, simplify the arrangement)
In stage two of 5S, after the items are sorted, they are arranged in an order that is ergonomically productive and safe. Each item has their own designated spot that helps the operator develop muscle memory when grabbing for the required item. That is, an operator should be able to memorize where everything is once a qualified and thoroughly experienced operator. An operator who is acclimated to their workspace becomes more fluid and confident in their work. For example, a frequently used item should within an arm length’s grasp or equipped to the operator instead of placed on the back end of a table that requires walking to get there.
Seiso (Say-so) (Shine, sweep, cleanliness)
In stage three of 5S, cleaning is performed for the work area. This is a daily task for the operator(s) who run the work area. At the end of the workday, the work area should be cleaned up and restored to its assigned order. Tools or items that are used to perform work are to be cleaned thoroughly to be ready for use for the next operator or tomorrow’s shift. This process allows for any broken or malfunctioning items to be identified as well as any unsafe working conditions. This is not a janitorial task but an operator task so appropriate supplies must be present for use. An incentive to encourage this is by recognizing the work area that is consistently compliant with the company’s standard and reward them. The inspector should be a different person every number of inspections as this will avoid any potential contention or dislike on the production team.
Seiketsu (Say-ket-sue) (Standardize)
In stage four of 5S, after the work area is polished and refined into optimal working conditions, a picture is literally taken of the work area. What this does is provide a measurable standard for operators to understand about how their work area should look. It shows the importance of the first three stages and why they need to be repeated on a regular basis. This standard is included on operator instruction sheets and job descriptions.
Shitsuke (Sh-sue-kay) (Sustain, self-discipline)
In the fifth and final stage of 5S, effort is the key for successful 5S implementation. If no effort is exerted during this implementation, the work area will return to its former level of disorganization. Operators are to develop habits of conducting 5S procedures, thus it is imperative for managers to participate because leading by example is a great way to create an organizational culture founded on Lean principles. Educating the production team is important so they know what they are doing matters in the bigger picture of the business.

5S appears like micro-management at first, but it is designed to make the job easier. The hardest part is making the initial change, but with effort, it can be done and will pay off on the macro level. Money will be saved, work culture will be improved, productivity will increase, and waste will be eliminated. Your company can take preliminary steps for 5S by conducting observations of the current conditions at a given work area and begin to formulate a plan to execute.
The following resource were used to write this article:
Lean Six Sigma – Process Improvement Tools and Techniques by Donna C.S. Summers

1. Flexibility
From a budget standpoint, hiring an engineer consultant makes sense due to the flexible nature of the business arrangement. With flexible agreements, consultants can be used on an ad hoc, as needed basis as opposed to permanent business arrangements. The flexibility offered by consulting teams also vary by schedule and by project, with the capacity for extra hours and flexible schedules to meet strict deadlines due to the availability of a team as opposed an individual. Last minute projects can be completed with more urgency.

2. Risk Reduction
There is less risk and upfront expense to hire a consulting firm than a full-time employee. The average upfront cost of hiring a full-time employee is $4,129 with around 42 days to fill the position, plus training. In contrast, a consulting firm can begin immediately upon contract execution with little to no upfront cost. Using a consulting firm therefore has the potential to save time as well as resources that stretch beyond the result of the engineering project.

3. Collaboration
The skill of hiring a team as opposed to hiring an individual engineer is invaluable. An engineering consulting firm will bring a team of experts to your project to study, design, and improve workflow processes and plant layouts. Consultants will utilize specific members of a team with expertise to match the needs of the project and facility.

4. Expertise
Engineering consultants bring expertise from a variety of industries, facility sizes and project scopes. This background knowledge and experience can be of assistance in every phase from pre-planning to expansion. The benefit of having experienced a wide range of problems – as well as finding solutions to those problems – can be a great source of knowledge and expertise.

5. Innovation
Engineering consultants are autonomous and non-biased when it comes to giving recommendations for improvement. Enlisting the assistance of an outside consulting team can bring invaluable creativity and innovation to any project.


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