5S is a method for making your workplace a more productive place and reducing waste. It stands for Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. If you know Japanese, it originally stood for Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke, but the meaning is pretty much the same. 5S is a loop – you repeat the steps regularly to make sure that your workplace remains clean and efficient.
CANDO is the westernised version of 5S, and stands for Clearing, Arrangement, Neatness, Discipline, Organization (‘we CAN DO 5S”). The steps are the same whichever initials are used.
5S leads to ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’
Why do we do 5S?
- A clean and efficient workplace is a great timesaver; time spent looking for materials or tools is waste of effort and money
- Improves morale as employees have more pride in the company and a better working environment
- Reduction in trip hazards, dangers and other health and safety issues
What are the 5 steps of 5S?
- Seiri / Sort / Clearing – remove anything from the workplace that doesn’t need to be there
- Seiton / Straighten / Arrangement – organise the work area so that items are in a logical place
- Seiso / Sweep / Neatness – clean the work area
- Seiketsu / Standardize / Discipline – change processes so that being orderly is part of the way things are done
- Shitsuke / Sustain / Organization – create a 5S culture to maintain the progress
Sort (Seiri) / Clearing
The first step is about getting rid of the clutter that builds up in so many workplaces, and gets in the way of efficient business. Anything that you may trip on, have to walk round or
- Take before (and after) photos to show staff both how it should / shouldn’t look, and the improvement that can be made
- Remove unnecessary items from the workplace (from raw material all the way up to machinery) and dispose of any rubbish in the area (known as red tagging)
- Reduce the level of rarely used items
- Mark for removal / sorting anything which can’t be instantly solved (and set a time limit for sorting)
- Creates extra working space
- Improved safety (trip and other hazards)
- Improves productivity
Straighten or Set / Streamline (Seiton) / Arrangement
This is about making the workplace organized, so that all materials / resources are close at hand, and easy to find when required.
- Organize the work area for maximum efficiency
- Clearly label all items so that they can be found quickly
- Place arrows to show flows through the workplace
- Use colour codes and clear signs to show the correct area; if the items are stored on the floor, mark the storage space with paint or tape
- Make it obvious where things ‘belong’
- Make sure all work and inspection areas are lit sufficiently
- Improve productivity (less time spent looking for things)
- Less maintenance as tools are in their proper place and less likely to get damaged
- Improves safety
Shine or Scrub / Sweep (Seiso) / Neatness
This is a regular (often daily or weekly) activity to keep the work area clean and free from dirt / contamination, that could be the cause of waste.
- Clean the working area
- Find ways to reduce future dirt and contamination
- Remove out of date product / information / charts
- Reduces maintenance and machine breakdown
- Improves safety
- Easier to see issues
- Nicer work environment; improves morale
Red Tag exercise
Part of the sort stage often involves a ‘red tag exercise’. This involves attaching a red tag to anything in the work area that the inspector thinks could be removed. A period of time is then waited, with work taking place – the people using the tools will then query the red tags from anything that they are using and need to remain in that location.
After a period of time, items that haven’t been queried can be safely removed from the workplace (usually to a ‘red tag area’, prior to disposal. Items which have been queried can be decided on whether they stay or not by someone with authority.
The tags are usually red, and have the name of the tagger, date tagged, location (in case it is removed) and the date it will be removed. The red tag area should be tidy and organized, so that items that are later found to be needed can easily found. There should also be a disposal date on the items (shorter for lower or obviously not useful products), to avoid the red tag area getting disorganized.
Standardize (Seiketsu) / Discipline
The standardize step is to establish process, procedure and knowledge so that improvements can be more regimented, and follow the best possible procedures.
- Establish the best practice for procedures
- Create a schedule and assign tasks so everyone knows their responsibilities
- Make sure that all items have an official place
- Ensure all processes have a set procedure
- Clean up the workplace every day
- Improves teamwork
- Promotes pride in the working area
Sustain (Shitsuke) / Organization
The final step is to regularly check that the procedures laid down in ‘standardize’ are followed, and so the gains of efficiency and waste reduction made are permanent.
- Regularly review the workplace to ensure standards are being continued (timetable future checks)
- Maintain training and discipline to keep standards high
- Set regular goals and feedback on achievement towards them
- Benefits from previous steps are retained
- Promotes a culture of continuous improvement
6S – Safety
Some companies have added a sixth ‘S’ – safety (this was a late addition in the 1990s). This ensures that whilst you are sorting out your workplace for maximum efficiency, the safety risks are minimized at the same time.
Most workplaces don’t include this ‘S’ as they incorporate it into the other steps