A method for organizing a workplace, especially a shared workplace (like a shop floor or an office area), and keeping it organized. The 5Ss are used to eliminate waste and increase efficiency. Some companies add safety and call it 6S. The Ss are derived from the Japanese words:
- seiri = sorting: Going through all tools, materials, etc., in the work area and keeping only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded. This leads to fewer hazards and less clutter to interfere with productive work.
- seiton = simplifying, or straighten: Focuses on the need for an orderly workplace. “Orderly” in this sense means arranging the tools and equipment in an order that promotes workflow. Tools and equipment should be kept where they will be used, and the process should be ordered in a manner that eliminates extra motion.
- seisō = sweeping, systematic cleaning, or shining: Indicates the need to keep the workplace clean as well as neat. Cleaning in Japanese companies is a daily activity. At the end of each shift, the work area is cleaned up and everything is restored to its place, making it easy to see what goes where and to know when everything is where it should be. The key point is that maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work – not an occasional activity initiated when things get too messy.
- seiketsu = standardizing: This refers to standardized work practices. It refers to more than standardized cleanliness (otherwise this would mean essentially the same as “systemized cleanliness”). This means operating in a consistent and standardized fashion. Everyone knows exactly what his or her responsibilities are, and time is built into their jobs to perform them. In part, this follows from seiton where the order of a workplace should reflect the process of work, these imply standardized work practice and work station layout.
- shitsuke = sustaining: Refers to maintaining and reviewing standards. Once the previous 4Ss have been established, they become the new way to operate. Maintain the focus on this new way of operating, and do not allow a gradual decline back to old ways. Shitsuke is also about changing processes, equipment and individual behaviors to prevent disorganization and uncleanliness from occurring in the first place. Further, when an issue arises such as a suggested improvement, or a new way of working, or a new tool, or a new output requirement, then a review of the first 4Ss is appropriate.