The 5S Steps of Housekeeping

March 26, 2010

Standardization, 5S (housekeeping) and muda elimination are the pillars of gemba kaizen in the common-sense, low-cost approach to improvement.  Kaizens at any company – whether it be manufacturing or a service industry should start with these three activities: standardization, 5S, and muda elimination.  I have been around manufacturing for over 20 years now, and I can honestly say these three activities when focused and done right leads to productivity improvements. 

I have seen many people do 5S for all the wrong reasons.  I have seen it done in a weekend because a VIP, upper management, or even the customer was coming into the plant and management wanted to show the shop floor that we practiced 5S.  I have seen groups of managers stay late into the night implementing 5S as the production workers performed their duties nearby.  I have seen blitz over blitz over 5S blitz only to have the shop floor go back to its messy old habits.  Putting it simply, I have seen 5S implemented for all the wrong reasons by many who claim to be experts in 5S.  The point that many of these so-called 5S experts are missing is that 5S has no end point or finish line.  Like many of the tools in the lean manufacturing tool box, it is a never-ending approach to continuously improve the process.  so don’t look for it to be done in a day, a week, a month or a year.

The five steps of housekeeping with their Japanese names are;

  1. Seiri: distinguish between necessary and unnecessary items in gemba and discard later
  2. Seiton: Arrange all items remaining after seiri in an orderly manner
  3. Seiso: keep machines and working environments clean
  4. Seiketsu: extend the concept of cleanliness to oneself and continuously practice the above three steps
  5. Shitsuke: build self-discipline and make a habit of engaging in 5S by establishing standards

As was done with many Japanese terms introduced into Western culture, we developed english equivalents as follows;

  1. Sort: separate what is unnecessary and eliminate it (red tagging)
  2. Straighten: put essential things in order so that they can be easily accessed
  3. Scrub: clean everything (tools & workplaces) removing stains, spots, debris, and eliminating sources of dirt
  4. Systemize: make cleaning and checking a routine process
  5. Standardize: standardize the previous four steps to make the process one that never ends and can be improved upon

There are also the 5C, which are;

  1. Clear-out: determine what is necessary and unnecessary and dispose of the latter
  2. Configure: provide a convenient, safe, and orderly place for everything and keep it there
  3. Clean & check: monitor and restore the condition of working areas during cleaning
  4. Conform: set the standard, train and maintain
  5. Custom and practice: Develop the habit of routine maintenance and strive for further improvement

In my next blog we will take a detailed look a the five steps of 5S.


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