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The 5S system in a nutshell

Learn the basics of the 5S Method, a tool that allows you to organize your workplace well and improve the quality of your processes.

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Basic information about the 5S system

The 5S method is a set of techniques and methods which aim is to implement and maintain high quality of work environment organization and improve organizational culture of a given company. Due to its high efficiency, this approach is implemented in both manufacturing and service companies. The 5S system is effective and at the same time very universal. The method takes its name from the first letters of the Japanese words that describe the steps in the process. These steps are: sorting (seiri in Japanese), systematization (seiton in Japanese), cleaning (seiso in Japanese), standardization (seiketsu in Japanese) and self-discipline (shitsuke in Japanese).

5 steps to follow

Step 1 – seiri

The first step – sorting – is to eliminate all the things from the workplace that could obstruct the proper performance of tasks. This is because according to the 5S method, we should take away or throw out all items that are redundant and unnecessary. The correct implementation of the sorting step can eliminate many problems resulting from an excess of objects and tools at the workstation. After performing a proper selection, the first effects are already visible.

Step 2 – seiton

Systematization, on the other hand, is the step in which you label all elements of the workstation in such a way that they have their specific place and are easy to use. This step relies on transparency and complete visualization to effectively eliminate various types of waste in the workplace. Standards are also set for the marking and placement of work equipment and tools at workstations. For example, cleaning tools assigned to a particular production line, e.g., line A, are colored blue, and line B is colored red.

Step 3 – seiso

The third step, cleaning, involves the elimination of dirt and debris to keep the workstation clean. In practice, these steps primarily involve creating and following schedules for daily cleaning and reviewing equipment used to perform job duties. It is also important to remember about regular inspections, carried out as part of the cleaning process. The inspection may concern, for example, checking the condition of the machine – the more often we clean, the sooner we will notice a possible failure and we will avoid a major breakdown or even worse, stopping the production line.

Step 4 – seiketsu

The fourth step, standardization, on the other hand, involves stabilizing and improving the behaviors implemented in the earlier steps. In this step, we create a structure and establish a way of investigating the causes of possible irregularities. It is worth emphasizing that once implemented standards will not be valid forever. A good practice is to create a so-called “Book of Standards” and update it in case of appearance of better solutions than those written down so far.

Step 5 – shitsuke

The last step of the 5S method is self-discipline. It is aimed at maintaining the actions taken in the previous 4 steps. It can also be said that this action is a kind of welding of the previous actions. However, don’t associate self-discipline with a top-down set of imperatives and rules for the company’s hired employees that will result in negative consequences if disregarded. Self-discipline defined in such a way can bring completely opposite results to those intended. In the case of the 5S method, self-discipline should be based on developing certain habits and customs that will improve the work and make it comply with the standards set by the top.

Focused female paper factory employee implementing the 5S system

How to implement the 5S system?

To implement the 5S method, it is necessary to properly train and motivate employees. This involves changing not only the current way of thinking, but also making the organization of work and previously used practices and habits more efficient and better. The implementation of the 5S approach very often also involves the need to change the organizational culture of the company. This, in turn, requires the involvement of the entire company, including the highest level of management. Without the involvement of top level employees the whole undertaking may not be successful.

Benefits of implementing the 5 steps of the 5S system

The implementation of the 5S method in the company can bring many positive benefits. By maintaining discipline and order it affects the quality of work.

The implementation of this approach contributes among others to:

  • reducing the number of mistakes made,
  • protecting company data against unauthorised persons,
  • significant increase of work efficiency,
  • optimized use of office equipment,
  • improvement of work organization and existing habits of the personnel,
  • improvement of the company’s image and reputation in the eyes of customers,
  • increased quality of offered services.

Want to learn more about the 5S method? Check out the “5S Method” course.


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The 5S Method

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