As most of us know, the Japanese can teach us all a thing or two about efficiency and quality. Along with the manufacture of cars, production of meticulous food and even the creation of a unique and minimal beauty model, the Japanese reach the field of production and development, and succeed in making this field efficient as well.
Familiarize yourself with 5S, a Japanese method designed to improve workplace efficiency, by creating a systematic framework for controlling order, organization and cleanliness. The 5S is derived from the life-wisdom approach exercised daily in Japan and is used as an optimization tool in many environments, from schools and households to workplaces and enterprises.
The 5S Method comprises five phases, each of which starts with the letter S (surprising eh?):
- SORT (or in Japanese: SEIRI) – The first phase in the process is sorting, or SEIRI which means “order”. The purpose of this phase is to reduce the load and free up work space by clearing things that do not belong to the work surface.
- SET IN ORDER (or in Japanese: SEITON) – The second phase in the process is set in order, or SEITON in Japanese which means “stewarding”. The purpose of this phase is to organize the work area. At this phase, each item is put back in place so that in the future it will be easy to find and use it.
- SHINE (or in Japanese: SEISO) – The third phase in the process is shining, or SEISO in Japanese which means “sweeping”. While the first and second phases clear and tidy the workplace, this phase is designed to handle dirt which inevitably accumulates under all the load, and works out to prevent it from returning.
- STANDARDIZE (or in Japanese: SEIKETSU) – The first three phases of 5S Method cover the areas of work space evacuation, organization and cleaning. Performing all three only, will provide a short-term optimization only. The fourth phase, called standardization (both in English and Japanese), is involved with recording what was performed, where and by whom. Performing this phase will preserve the efficiency and effectiveness of the change that will be maintained in the long term.
- SUSTAIN (or in Japanese: SHITSUKE) – The fifth and final phase in the process according to this method, is sustaining or SHITSUKE which means “self-discipline”. The purpose of this phase is to create a continuing commitment. This phase emphasizes the importance of repeating the previous phases in order to create an efficient, organized and economical long-term work routine. The solution for preserving an orderly work environment is the implementation of all the phases over and over again, as a routine part of the work agenda. Therefore, SUSTAIN is one of the most important and significant phases.
In summary, the 5S Method has many advantages as a focused work method which may increase workplace efficiency, reduce costs and improve quality. At the same time, as many other focused methods, along with the many benefits, the method may result in focusing on goals and to some extent, to the loss of the human factor, reflected for example, in safety of workers. Therefore, many enterprises choose to upgrade the original method and add the sixth S element – SAFETY, in order to preserve the human factor, and as a derivative of it, the safety of workers.