is a basic, fundamental, systematic approach for productivity, quality and safety improvement in all types of business.

A Five S program is usually a part of, and the key component of establishing a Visual Workplace. and are both a part of Kaizen — a system of continual improvement — which is a component of lean manufacturing.

The Five S program

focuses on having visual order, organization, cleanliness and standardization. The results you can expect from a Five S program are: improved profitability, efficiency, service and safety. The principles underlying a Five S program at first appear to be simple, obvious common sense. And they are. But until the advent of Five S programs many businesses ignored these basic principles.

What are the Five S’s?

Use the following links to learn more about 5S

  • Sort

    – the first step in making things cleaned up and organized
  • Set In Order

    – organize, identify and arrange everything in a work area
  • Shine

    – regular cleaning and maintenance
  • Standardize

    – make it easy to maintain – simplify and standardize
  • Sustain

    -maintaining what has been accomplished

5S is a reference to five Japanese words that describe standardized cleanup:

1.Seiri :

tidiness, organization. Refers to the practice of sorting through all the tools, materials, etc., in the work area and keeping only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded. This leads to fewer hazards and less clutter to interfere with productive work.

2.Seiton :

orderliness. Focuses on the need for an orderly workplace. Tools, equipment, and materials must be systematically arranged for the easiest and most efficient access. There must be a place for everything, and everything must be in its place.

3.Seiso :

cleanliness. Indicates the need to keep the workplace clean as well as neat. Cleaning in Japanese companies is a daily activity. At the end of each shift, the work area is cleaned up and everything is restored to its place.

4.Seiketsu :

standards. Allows for control and consistency. Basic housekeeping standards apply everywhere in the facility. Everyone knows exactly what his or her responsibilities are. House keeping duties are part of regular work routines.

5.Shitsuke :

sustaining discipline. Refers to maintaining standards and keeping the facility in safe and efficient order day after day, year after year.


Kaizen is often translated in the west as ongoing, continuous improvement. Some authors explain Japan’s competitive success in the world market place as the result of the implementation of the Kaizen concept in Japanese corporations. In contrast to the usual emphasis on revolutionary, innovative change on an occasional basis, Kaizen looks for uninterrupted, ongoing incremental change. In other words, there is always room for improvement and continuously trying to become better.

Originally a Buddhist term, Kaizen comes from the words, “Renew the heart and make it good.” Therefore, adaptation of the Kaizen concept also requires changes in “the heart of the business”, corporate culture and structure, since Kaizen enables companies to translate the corporate vision in every aspect of a company’s operational practice.

According to Imai (1986), an important advocate of Kaizen, “Kaizen means improvement. Moreover it means continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life. When applied to the workplace Kaizen means continuing improvement involving everyone – managers and workers alike.” Believers of this theory maintain that managers of production operations cannot stand still; continuous development and improvement is critical to long term success.

In practice, Kaizen can be implemented in corporations by improving every aspect of a business process in a step by step approach, while gradually developing employee skills through training education and increased involvement. The principle in Kaizen implementation are:

  1. human resources are the most important company asset,
  2. processes must evolve by gradual improvement rather than radical changes,
  3. improvement must be based on statistical/quantitative evaluation of process performance.

Support throughout the entire structure is necessary to become successful at developing a strong Kaizen approach. Management as well as workers need to believe in the Kaizen idea and strive toward obtaining the small goals in order to reach overall success. Therefore, all members of an organization need to be trained in a manner to support this idea structure. Resources, measurements, rewards, and incentives all need to be aligned to and working with the Kaizen structure of ideas.



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