Integrative Improvement Blog

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Why 5S makes sense

Why 5S makes sense

5S, the Japanese continuous improvement tool developed by Hiroyuki Hirano for use in the Toyota Production System (TPS), is a great workplace organisation tool. Commonly referred to as ‘housekeeping’, we prefer not to call it by that name as 5S is so much more all encompassing than the mere tidying of work spaces. In a previous post, we said 5S should rather be viewed as a systematic methodology which instils discipline, standardisation and orderliness in the workplace.


Rooted in Lean, 5S has many benefits:

  1. Improved productivity: The practices of sorting (seiri) and setting in order (seiton) see a much neater and better organised work area. All unnecessary tools or pieces of equipment have been moved away or eliminated from the area altogether. Furthermore, team members have analysed their work processes and tightened or eliminated any cumbersome/unnecessary steps.These all make for more time spent actually doing the job, as less time is spent searching for ill-placed equipment or performing unnecessary tasks. The practice of standardising processes (seiketsu) will see that equipment is put back into its correct place after use, ensuring it’s always easy to find.Why 5S makes sense
  2. Better care of equipment:  The practice of sweeping, shining, cleanliness (seiso) means workspaces, tools and equipment are continually being cleaned. Cleaning equipment regularly means that indicators that the equipment is defective (such as oil, fuel or product leakage) are picked up timeously. These visual signs will spark action amongst staff to alert maintenance teams and ensure immediate corrective action.
  3. Increased quality: The practice of standardising (seiketsu) sees the standardisation of work practices and processes. This step ensures that no matter which work teams are on shift, tasks are carried out in the same way. This standardisation not only pertains to work practices and processes, but includes standardisation of how we tackle seiri, seiton and seiso – so all team members are in a continuously improving state of sorting, straightening, shining and generally sustaining the 5S effort.

This culture-based commitment to Lean can only serve to improve quality. This includes quality of work areas, quality of work processes, quality of team members’ shifts (by eliminating cumbersome tasks), and ultimately the quality of the overall output.

For best practice improvement tools and techniques such as 5S to have a sustainable impact, we recommend that they be implemented as part of a process-driven integrative improvement system. Find out more.

The TRACC framework helps organisations build standardised and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organisation itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable competitive advantage.

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