5S approach

The 5S approach is a method which helps to organise the workplace in order to increase efficiency and eliminate waste. One of the main ideas of 5S is the reduction of Non-Value-Adding activities (NVA).[1] To achieve this aim several steps have to be accomplished.

  • Seiri (sort): Unnecessary items -like equipment and not used machines- should be removed from the production area and the workplace in order of making it cleaner and clearer.
  • Seiton (straighten): The essential items for the process should be placed or arranged in a way that a clear identification and an easy access are guaranteed.
  • Seiso (shine): All items and the workplace have to be cleaned regularly, which means that cleaning is part of the daily work. During that step the whole equipment and workplace gets inspected for defects.
  • Seiketsu (standardise): The creation of visual controls and guidelines ensure that the workplace is clean and organized.
  • Shitsuke (sustain): Training and discipline to assure the durable compliance of the 5S.[2]

Implementation of 5S

The implementation process involves the 5 steps mentioned above. Each of them focuses on different methods to create the whole way of thinking.

Seiri (sort)

The first step in the implementation of 5S is the sorting. It’s necessary to create a project team and distinguish between necessary and unnecessary items in the production area. Items which are no longer required get marked with a red label. The sorting process is applied on tools, toolboxes, raw material, benches, machines and all other equipment located in the production area. The found items could be sold or discarded.[3]

It’s necessary to make decisions in a careful way. On the one hand the focus is on eliminating all items which are not supporting the process but on the other hand it’s important to consider the future and not sell or discard equipment which will be probably needed later.

Seiton (straighten)

Seiton describes the organising aspect of the 5S approach. The equipment should be placed in a way that the user has easy access to it. An elementary point during this step is to evaluate every item regarding its necessity and avoid taking items back to the process which are not needed.

During the new arrangement of the equipment it’s important to consider the frequency of use. If the item is often used it should be located at a place which is easy to reach. This ensures the ergonomics and therefore reduces the unfitness for work of the employees. The places chosen were marked with colors and a label.[4]

Seiso (shine)

The main targets in this step are the rules, methods and responsibilities for the cleaning process. Therefore it’s compulsory to select machinery, equipment and areas which have to be cleaned and to determine the respective method (broom, mop, hand brush). The responsibilities were scheduled and positioned at a place which is accessible for each worker. If the cleaning process is finished the executing person has to sign the schedule. The cleaning step has to be included in the everyday work of each employee.[5]

Seiketsu (standardise)

In the standardising phase the cleanliness gets maintained and the whole concept is daily routine.[6] This step contains the development of policies and guidelines which manage the disposal of unnecessary things. Furthermore standard procedures for each worker will be created. These checklists help the worker to accomplish the different procedures properly.[7]

Shitsuke (sustain)

This step should maintain the discipline and the compliance of each employee to the 5S approach. Hence it’s essential to check if everyone treats the workplace in a proper way. The management should encourage the employees for this purpose. The compliance could be improved through the implementation of trainings covering the aspects of the 5S approach.[8]

[1] Allen (2010), Introduction to Engineering Statistics and Lean Sigma, p. 125.

[2] Harry, Mann, De Hodgins (2009), The Practitioner’s Guide to Statistics and Lean Six Sigma for Process Improvements, p. 73.

[3] Carreira, Trudell (2006), Lean Six Sigma that works, p. 137.

[4] Harry, Mann, De Hodgins (2009), The Practitioner’s Guide to Statistics and Lean Six Sigma for Process Improvements, p. 74f.

[5] Dennis, Shook (2007), Lean production simplified, p. 36.

[6] Harry, Mann, De Hodgins (2009), The Practitioner’s Guide to Statistics and Lean Six Sigma for Process Improvements, p. 75.

[7] Suganthi, Samuel (2004), Total Quality Management, p. 208.

[8] Harry, Mann, De Hodgins (2009), The Practitioner’s Guide to Statistics and Lean Six Sigma for Process Improvements, p. 75.


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