5S that will improve your company’s organization

5S philosophy of Kaizen is the name given to a workplace organization method based on a list of five Japanese words: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke. These words describe how to organize a work space for effectiveness and efficiency by categorizing and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order. The 5S philosophy is a systematic and methodical approach that allows teams to organize their workplace in the safest and most efficient manner. It can give your company profitability, efficiency and safety, helping in the decision-making process and building understanding among employees of how they should do the work.

The 5S method was developed in Japan in the 1960’s. Its main goal was to better organize the Gemba (working place) in order to show respect for it creating cleaner and more productive working spaces. It has been identified as one of the techniques that enabled Just in Time manufacturing as it drives to continuous improvement helping to achieve high impact results in all sectors.

Here the 5S steps are broken down in order to show that this could be the very first step to continuous improvement for your company:

#1: Sorting

tools_kaisen_improve your company_david kiger_5S
Image courtesy of Andy / Andrew Fogg at Flickr.com

Sort out and separate what is needed from what is not in the working place. Remove unnecessary things, keeping what is essential. Having a bunch of stuff around you may be very distracting for you and others around you. Some of the positive effects of Sorting are listed below:

  • Eliminating obstacles makes work easier.
  • Lower chances of being disturbed with unnecessary items.
  • Most effective use of space, time, money and energy.
  • Reduces problems and annoyances in the work flow.
  • Improves communication between workers.

#2: Straightening

Dispose items that are usually needed in a way they are easy and ready to use. Identify locations for your items so that anyone can find them and return them once the task is completed. We are more likely to get things done when the process is simple. Some of the positive effects of Straightening g are listed below:

  • Prevent waste of time by arranging work station according to your daily activities and needs.
  • Finding and picking up necessary items faster and easier.
  • Workflow makes sense and becomes smooth and easy.
  • Enhances productivity.
  • Less waste of energy.
  • Safer working conditions.

#3: Shine

This one is a basic principle we learned as kids. Clean your workplace and equipment on a regular basis in order to maintain standards, identify defects and prevent possible machinery damage. When the day is done, make things tidy and ready for the next day (or user). Some of the positive effects of Shinning are listed below:

  • Prevent possible machinery and equipment deterioration.
  • Keep workplace clean, safe, easy and pleasing to work in.
  • Things are ready to be used when needed.

#4: Standardize

Review the first three of the 5S steps on a daily basis and check the condition of the Gemba (workplace) using standard procedures. Define procedures clearly, and – if applicable- mark where things belong. Set a place for everything. Here is where you make the process a priority. It must be integrated as part of the workplace culture in order to stick. Add it to a schedule, keep team members accountable. Some of the positive effects of Standardizing are listed below:

  • Maintain high standards at all times.
  • Always keep workplace organization.
  • Every process has a standard.
  • Create workplace culture.
  • Increases product quality.

#5: Sustain

Stick to the rules to maintain the standard and continue to improve results every day. Search for ways to promote your new systems. Continue to review procedures and ask for feedback from every team member. This step will ensure that processes remain relevant and efficient. It also helps employees feel more motivated to keep up with new procedures as they feel as they are part of the solution. Some of the positive effects of Sustaining are listed below:

  • “Do without being told”
  • Training and Discipline
  • Teamwork

How to apply the 5S philosophy of Kaizen

The 5S methodology is typically implemented using a three-step process:

  1. Establishing a cross functional team.
  2. Touring all areas associated with process under review.
  3. Brainstorming on ways to improve organization to reduce waste.

Adopting the 5S works differently in every company. It can be applied to any work environment, depending on the needs, processes, and culture of any given workforce. This methodology has expanded from manufacturing and is now being applied to a wide variety of industries including healthcare, education, and government. The 5S philosophy begins the setting of the foundation to continuously apply lean concepts and techniques to eradicate waste and restructure processes.


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