The 5 S: the Pivot of Continuous Improvement

The “5 S” method is one of the most important Japanese methods used for continuous improvement. This is an essential preliminary for any improvement project. It builds a functional work environment governed by simple and effective rules.

The implantation consists of five steps:

Eliminate (Seiri)

The first step is to remove any material that is not needed in the work area. It is recommended to identify each article deemed unnecessary with a red sticker to allow employees to validate if the items are useless before eliminating them.

Organize (Seiton)

The second step is to establish a place for everything and put each one in its place. Each object must be visible and accessible. In addition, one must be able to easily identify missing objects. In the case of closed drawers, a list of objects in the storage unit must be visible from the outside.

Clean (Seiso)

Now that useful objects have their own place, it’s time to thoroughly clean workstations and equipment. Everything must be clean; the ceiling, the floor, the tools, the equipment and the work areas. Thus, power outages and equipment malfunctions will be diagnosed quickly and the risk of an accident at work will inevitably decrease.

Standardize (Seiketsu)

The fourth step is to define the responsibilities to ensure that the work is standardized. A proven technique is to establish a work plan that defines the tasks to be performed for each position. It is necessary to establish procedures and display them.

Get involved (Shitsuke)

The last step is to ensure that the efforts made are maintained. To do this, internal audits are in order. A team is then responsible for evaluating each workstation at regular intervals. This team must include workers and a management representative to show the seriousness of the project.

The results of the audits must be posted at each workstation so that employees can see their progress. It is suggested that this performance be part of the employee evaluation.

The “5S” produces spectacular and indisputable results, it physically transforms the work environment which is manifested in terms of more suitable work habits, improving safety and productivity of the working environment. Like any management method, in order to observe results, it requires a strong involvement of the senior management and a step of information, training and supervision.