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The 5 "S" method


The 5 "S" method is a process improvement methodology that uses 5 Japanese words to help a company standardize cleaning and organizing. The goal of the 5 S method is to create a smooth-flowing workstation by reducing waste, reducing process unevenness, and improving production. It is designed to improve safety in the company while meeting the quality expectations of your customers.

The 5 S method is defined as follows:

  • Seiri - Sort

  • Seiton - Set in order

  • Seiso - Shine

  • Seiketsu - Standardize

  • Shitsuke - Sustain

Seiri - Sort

Seiri focuses on eliminating unnecessary items from the workplace. Workers are encouraged to sort through their workstations and eliminate all the items they do not use. The only items that will be placed on their desk are the items they actually use to make their job easier.

Companies commonly refer to this process as "red tagging". All the items that are considered wasteful will be marked with a red tag. The items with a red tag may still be useful so they are kept in a storage container for future use. The purpose of the sorting phase is to eliminate the broken tools from drawers along with the obsolete materials that do not add value to your job.

Seiton - Set in order

Now that you have removed all the items you do not use, set in order seeks to find effective ways to arrange your workstation to increase efficiency. Many companies refer to set in order as straighten because it is basically tidying up your desk. There are 3 main things you need to ask yourself when you are straightening:

  • What tools do I need in order to effectively do my job?
  • Where should the tools I need be kept?
  • How many of these tools do I need in order to do my job?

Set in order helps your employees to place the extra stapler in the supply closet or to remove 15 pens from their desk. They will realize that they only need one of everything to actually perform their job. You are simply organizing things and designating areas for them, making it easier to find things when you need them.

Seiso - Shine

Since you have cleaned up your office and eliminated a bunch of waste, you will now perform daily cleaning to your office to keep it tidy. This involves keeping a watchful eye on clutter build-ups and tossing them before you are back to the beginning. In order to increase efficiency, you must have a clean work environment. Provide all of your workers with antibacterial wipes so they can clean their workstations each day. The cleaning step provides the employee with a sense of ownership for their area. This also helps to uncover some problems within the company like water leaks, broken equipment, misalignment, and vibration.

Seiketsu - Standardize

Seiketsu refers to giving everyone at the company a role. Employees will practice standardized procedures and avoid stepping on other employee's toes. Give your employees a role in developing standardized procedures since they are the individuals that deal with it on a daily basis. This phase eliminates confusion in the workplace because everyone knows what they need to be doing.

Shitsuke - Sustain

The final phase involves maintaining and reviewing quality standards. This phase is often challenging for businesses because employees are naturally reluctant to change. They may be excited about the changes in the beginning but then they stop caring and fall back into their old patterns of behavior. Hold regular training meetings to make sure the employees are following the new patterns of behavior. Continue to listen to suggestions for improvement and look for ways to implement them if they seem credible.

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