You are on page 1of 6



5S – We are
doing it wrong
5S and why we are doing it

The secrets you need to
learn to improve your lean

at NTNU,
Netland takes
a closer look
at each of
the five
S-words, and
finds many of
us might have
missed the point
in part one of his two
part investigation.

ive short Japanese words, each
beginning with an “S”. The
majority of employees in the
industrial sector, and increasingly in the
public sector, have heard about the 5S’s.
The problem? The vast majority of
companies trying to implement 5S fail, and
do so repeatedly. Many mistake it as a
concept for cleaning and tidying up, a
boring but necessary activity for any
professional business.

The 5S’s are seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu,
and shitsuke. Done right, 5S creates an
effective and attractive workplace. It | September 2015 9

Seiri. A review of practice colleagues told me: and the literature identifies the following attempts: Regarding Seiri and Seiton. we have been Seiri = sort / separate /structure / scrap taught these two words since we were Seiton = straighten / set-in-order/ stabilise / simplify in elementary school. I studied the The vast majority of reference material of Kimura- san. reviewed other books and companies trying to implement 5S articles on workplace management fail. and helps of Tokyo. (prev. Norway. clean. and generally professor at the European Institute improved productivity. Then why do most organisations of Japanese Studies of Stockholm struggle with 5S? Consider this conversation: School of Economics). However. seition. which is shared the approximate English translation “sort”. The person who asked was Shiego Shingo. Then the teachers always asked us Other alternative translations of 5S include “clear to “Seiri-Seiton”. or similar (see figure The two second kanji letters (理 and 頓) one). “standardise”. right? management at Aoyama Gakuin University. eases communication. Apparently. Kouichi Kimura. none of is about sorting things in an area. It ongoing improvement” (CANDO). a consultant in Japanese SECOND SS: SEIRI production methods. Oita. These Seiso = shine / scrub / sweep / sanitise / spic and two words were posted in the class room. Kodo Yokozawa works at the Manufacturing Management Research Center of the University supports visual control. is a symbol for order. and do so repeatedly and 5S. by both words. One of my Japanese using words starting with “S”. Dr. University.Yes. and Seiri is usually translated to sort. The conversation took place in 1965. configure. and reached out to four trusted Japanese colleagues: Dr. the usual description seiton (整頓) — belong together. In contrast. and seiso are important in order maintain of production and operations the factory. We were always Shitsuke = sustain / standardise / self-discipline asked by the teachers to keep them in order. purchasing management at NTNU in Trondheim. conform. The of 5S used in industry is a single PowerPoint slide with first kanji character (整). out. The indirect effects are higher associate professor of operations safety. “shine”. Mieko . Hajime Mizuyama is an associate professor . improved worker satisfaction. Dr. Tokyo. keeping the factory in condition of seiketsu is Igarashi is a PhD candidate of essential for factory management. arrange. neatness. and Mrs. better product quality. discipline. “straighten”. Japanese people do not Figure one: 5S lost in translation differentiate between Seiri and Seiton There are several English translations of the 5Ss in every-day life. management at Ritsumeikan reduced process costs. and custom” (5C) and “cleanup. It was reported in a manuscript I received THE FIRST AND from Mr. 5S TORBJØRN NETLAND Figure two: The research To write this article. assistant better environmental performance. AND SEITON Kimura-san sent me a manuscript of more than 100 The first two S’s — seiri (整理) and pages—only about 5S. and “sustain”. reduced delivery times. these attempts give an accurate translation of the deciding what is needed for getting Japanese 5S’s. Ryusuke Kosuge is an continuous improvement. Seiton is usually translated to “set-in-order” 10 . Could it be important aspects of 5S have been lost mean “law / logic / reason” and “settle in translation? down / root / arrange” respectively. and modify the meaning of the first symbol. These two words / systemise were almost always used together. Sharing his life-long experiences. the job done and what is not. span We used to keep our text books and other Seiketsu = standardise / stabilise / schedule writing tools in our desk. and the one responding was Taiichi Ohno.

Such workplace organisation is the foundation of 5S. as a rule of thumb. but. and make spaces that are larger than or next hour? how many of each item their containers so handling is easy and should be kept? Of course. An important objective of seiton is to reduce the non-value adding activity of searching for items. and product closer to seiri-seiton. shadow boards and Other firms recommend having a major coloured tape can mark off areas and katazuke event once every six months. In everyday sorting and work. what. close to each other. tools. These simple tips will take you your volumes.leanmj. it depends on efficient. Toyota reportedly organises monthly katazuke campaigns for seiri-seiton. the organisation of a dental chair. The core meaning of seiri- seiton is to keep only what you soon need close to you. point-of-use is ideal for high-runners. according to standard. This way it becomes items you need are kept (retain). www. characteristics. standardised labelling and containers. HOW TO DO IT item is used must be considered to decide Cavemen were Seiri and seiton should be a daily routine. how frequently the in Japan. sorting food but from time to time companies Unnecessary items in an area can be and firewood need to update the standards due to marked with dated red tags and returned thousands of changing conditions. legitimate for deciding what to keep close. how many of each item should be kept. Proper seiri needs a pre-defined standard within arm’s length distance from the that sets out the rules for what to retain. and provide needed in an area is dependent on lifting aid technology or automation time and how frequently it is used. Use standardised Should you keep the items you need for right-sized boxes and material carriers. seiri if needed. Alternatively. An intuitive and usual slogan is “a place for everything and everything in its place”. a red-tag holding area years ago. respectively. the first two S’s are really common sense. using date. PRINCIPLES & PURPOSE or to “straighten”. a two-to-four week time horizon seems Check out part two in October’s edition. Three good examples of how excellent seiri-seiton can be in our daily lives are the carpenter’s tool belt. where The 3Rs are helpful in this regard: The and how much. in an orderly. It implies sorting or got rid of if not used before a certain and physically moving items. and documents. next day. Cavemen were sorting food and firewood thousands of years ago. and the The chefs’ mise en place (a French term for concepts of organising ingredients and utensil for quick access before cooking). the next month. return and rid. designated place. can be dedicated. Keep the retained items close to where they are used. When we think of it. Visual signs. the process of putting things back setting-in-order to the right place after you have used do not have them is katazuke. which translates to their origin what all children know as tidying up. What is Watch out for ergonomics. The concepts of sorting and setting-in- order do not have their origin in Japan. next week. and the immediately visible to everyone if items you do not need get stored for later something is not in its place and use (return) or thrown away (rid). It also includes the sequencing and visual labelling of locations. In addition. takt times. Keep items used together (sorting) is not as easy as one might | September 2015 11 . min-max levels for items.

Clearly both of them are related to cleaning. 掃. entrance. continues to cast an eye over 5S. clean. which connotes pure. and is associated with water. The latter kanji in Seiso. tells us where we are going wrong and how we can do better. Seiso literally means “cleaning” and Seiketsu is a general term referring to “maintaining cleanliness” (as in good hygiene) and is a very usual expression in Japan In Japanese primary. A more common Japanese word for Seiso is “Souji” (掃除). holy. but also shared areas such as the corridors. THE THIRD AND FOURTH SS: SEISO & SEIKETSU The two next Ss — Seiso (清掃) and Seiketsu (清潔) — also share their first kanji character. 潔.We are doing it wrong part 2 In the second part of his two part investigation NTNU associate professor Torbjørn Netland. for example 30 minutes. toilets. 5S. 清. It is one of the fundamental Japanese 18 . They clean not only their classrooms. means “sweep”. is a very positive character describing something pure. and/or free of dust and germs. etc. and/or fresh. it is a very common practice that students have daily cleaning time. The second kanji in Seiketsu. secondary and high schools. clear.

Shitsuke should impaired factory. well-being of the mats. disorder. areas In the Japanese system. and cleaned compliance over understanding. is not about sustaining the first four Ss “scrub” or “shine”. This practices are very usual. Five or ten minutes are somebody is taught. like regular Gemba walks and scheduled manifest itself in deeds and habits. The relationship between a sub- shared area. air filters. www. can be misleading: Shitsuke translation of Seiso is often “sweep”. An illustrative example: In the we should strive to do the cleaning while sense. An obvious risk is that it favors Shitsuke in the lean production literature have sorted. for example. the set of process too. strange word to use in a professional for his/her operators. for example. the line manager At my kid’s school. but require a clothes. but not the main objective Seiso). Seiketsu is the foundation are installing ventilators. there are practical typically be carried out at the end of Shitsuke implies a set of rules that methods that can assist the Shitsuke every shift. Reactive actions include practices of the organisation. HOW TO DO IT Shitsuke can be translated to “discipline”. door Mike Rother). the school cannot be achieved by one-off Katazuke ordinate (Kohai) and a senior (Senpai. equipment and of Seiso. Just as for the other Ss. and the campaigns alone. and effective production. Shistuke is a rather to provide regular on-the-job-training the school. Note that Seiso Making the factory more beautiful is process of sustaining Seiri. The kanji character (躾) can training are obvious activities. Seiso also includes other activities that help implement the “visual factory”. the English as installing sky lights. Instead. On-the-job and class room sufficient. Weekly or monthly 5S audits the standard. In one sense it means creating and Way to Lean leadership by Jeffrey Liker maintaining standards for Seiri. In particular. It is the job of the foreman “Seiketsu” should be a goal in Japanese colleagues. but rather a that it is much better to let pupils THE FIFTH S: coaching relationship aiming to provide clean by themselves so that they use SHITSUKE guidance from someone with experience the areas with more care and find The fifth S. provides an cause of unnecessary items. hires a janitor for cleaning. such The usual English translation of Shitsuke. might result in wrong interpretations: routine and sustained commitment by the prioritising the team over self. but rather a fundamental culture- aims to keep machines. who moved actions are those that eliminate the Admittedly. washing hands.leanmj. surface treatment of concrete employees. Examples of preventive Seiketsu actions and Gary Convis. even though “cleaning” transparent covers with transparent ones. for improvement. Sticking to the letter S. For | October 2015 19 . The cleaning activities of Seiso can “educated” or “following the rules”. It fosters self- dusts” and “litter stimulates littering”. and so on. painting the factory “sustain”. the improvements for a better school the first four Ss that Shingo and Ohno role of the foreman is essential for the environment. such 5S audits with the purpose of identifying as. the books The Toyota up. Only recently we have the activity of sustaining all the three first are maybe the most used (and misused) started to understand the power of Ss. The best preventive HOW TO DO IT of my Japanese colleagues. we always think me what to and I’ll do it”. In Japan. and replace non. One floors. walls in light colours. illustrative example: and dirt altogether. These safety equipment and proper working which means maintaining a standard. following Seiketsu is not the activity of making management in order to be effective in the standard operating procedures. Because “dust attracts Seiketsu can be achieved by applying a to act on the rules of 4S. appropriate by the line manager. Seiton and Seiso. Seiton. Others such cleaning routines often mean five or be split into two parts: 身 and 美. Also. per se (remember that Seiketsu is the would arguably be closer. the kids rarely wardrobe and canteen facilities may be by the production manager and so have opportunities to clean the good preventive actions. paternalistic—but the intention is good. 4S through Shitsuke. and work standards (another important long run (which is why we need the fifth contributing with creativity to improve element of lean production). Note that disciplined organisational culture. the operator where dust enters the factory can be is taught by the foreman. but rather and final S). Not cleaning at the (mental) body to become beautiful – broadcast pictures of Japanese soccer fans all is equivalent to never brushing your which refers to developing a healthy and tidying up their seats and sitting areas teeth. For 5S. using Seiketsu is often translated to standardise areas for Seiri. ten minutes of lost production. 身 include information billboards and slogans. respecting the work time. the foreman sealed permanently. Therefore. visual and well. According to success of 5S. Seiketsu on. It is simply a bad idea. Shitsuke appears to Europe a few years ago. building process that makes sure people facilities in a functional. To have and keep discussed in Toyota (4S). is different from to someone without. set-in-order. combination of reactive and preventive motivated discipline in the members the absence of Seiso quickly results in an actions. Clearly. (see. Seiton and is not just about brushing and washing. because it is usually operators should implement and sustain reserved for raising children or pets. PRINCIPLES & PURPOSE customs. but requires “Kaizen” or sometimes “Sensei”. it important too. In this daily team meetings on the shop-floor. after the games. Shitsuke is the process of training 2014 Soccer World Cup in Brazil. The obvious drawback is that rule is 4S. which means parents do a big cleaning event twice (continuous improvement activities). see the purpose of and are motivated maintained state. means body and 美 means beauty. Shitsuke (躾). and Toyota Kata by and Seiso. the media machines are running. Seiketsu is the ideal status after you lean tools. teacher is not “do what I tell you” or “tell a year. The shop-floor business setting.

and Shitsuke Create. 1986. H. but rather a full concept that builds a foundation for any professional business. & Talbot. 5S for Operators: 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace. it makes people start showing performance indicators on team Seiso – Clean the workplace daydreaming of the weekend. Teams should be limited understanding of 5S. restarts of incomplete 5S projects. We all boards. understand Shitsuke. you the following books: makes the workplace clean. First. B. is about building discipline Productivity Organization. (2011). Workplace management. Seiketsu is integral in the organization. But none of this will be Shitsuke – Discipline the organisation succeed with 5S? successful if the management style is that of “command and conquer”. where Seiketsu and Shitsuke. and Hirano. Good luck with getting Unfortunately. (1991). (2014). there company. Seiso. Fourth. An effective way to do this 5S wrong. (see Imai. functional Imai. Building a good 5S for Seiri. Productivity Press. On a day-to-day basis. Focus instead empowered with budgets and time are different translations of the concept— on the leadership part. Taylor & Francis. offer rewards and recognition. These three Ss are good Business Division. Kaizen. & Convis. 1996. maintain. introduce (or re-introduce) 整理 managers must be visible.. Seiri – Sort items to retain. workplace organisation CONCLUSION Third.. is integral to Seiketsu and a higher-level improve an efficient Seiketsu characteristic of the organisational culture. And the fifth Osada. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional. which is a wanted result of Ohno. (1995). Try not to make 5S a goal develop the right culture. Seiketsu – Maintain Seiri. Seiton – Organise items in the but indirect and hard to measure. J. but can we ever to standards. any 5S project. the benefits are plentiful. K. and then save a penny. standards of 5S. The 5S’s: five keys to a total quality environment. because companies usually do not with high levels of visual 躾 5S is extremely popular in industry. Toyota kata: managing people for continuous improvement similar translations): and superior results. Unpublished manuscript. The Toyota Way to lean leadership. 整頓 set aside for 5S activities. workplace 5S is not sexy. I find the Liker. Even building the right discipline Seiton the organization should be trained and best-selling books on lean production get and culture in your developed. words of your native language) is a Kimura. 5S is not a tool. Everyone in some more correct than others. The fourth S. town hall meetings. Random House and attractive. effective and logical If you want to study the concept of 5S further. It is much better to understand the underlying idea of the To learn more about Shistuke (the fifth S) see the following books: concept.WE ARE DOING IT WRONG PART 2 TORBJØRN NETLAND regular newsletters. Second. but do not capture be a good idea to never a 5S culture. Seiri-Seiton. We can hardly blame anyone for this 5S as a “tool” for your Seiri and supportive. (1996). return and rid 20 . M. Seiton and know that a certain level of industrial and perform checklists of adherence Seiso housekeeping is needed. is about sustaining the result. but doesn’t 5S right! make it beyond the first Ss. following suggestion to be more correct McGraw-Hill. T. “gemba” walks by senior management. G. challenging task. Not forcing a translation of 5S into words starting with S. housekeeping practices and create “visual control”. It could probably quick fix in creating discipline towards of Seiton and Seiso. most often misinterpreting organisation towards the 清掃 is the “train the trainer” system. Individual perceptions of 5S differ widely. enthusiastic. remembering five Japanese Hirano. I recommend workplace. This leads to cyclical “tool” to implement in a lean journey. As this discussion of 5S shows. There is no These are indeed essential elements in itself. Asian S. M. result in an orderly. Let’s face it. Introducing RECOMMENDED READING: the two first Ss. and 清潔 culture takes years. Ohno’s and Shingo’s original idea of 5S. (2010). Adding the third S. Shitsuke. T. Fifth. countless firms never 5S itself has a direct cost. Untitled manuscript about 5S. Very often it is wrongly perceived as a Here is my conclusion: Managers need to lead by example to mere tool for tidying up and cleaning. H. they regress to no S. 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace. (1986). Seiketsu. the key to Japan’s competitive success. (1988). in the organisation towards the idea and Hirano. the other Ss can control. L. 5S. Seiton and Seiso. words (even remembering five sequenced Productivity Press. 5S is not a objective of 5S: Seiso the responsibility of 5S gets disseminated very intuitive concept. Shitsuke It is often celebrated as the first never be sustained. for Rother.