What is 5s? 5 Steps to Better Manufacturing Efficiency


We have now finished our 5 articles on explaining and implementing the 5s methodology. 5s is a great lean manufacturing method for organising and making sure a workplace is clean. It can reap many benefits such as improved efficiency, productivity, employee morale and cleanliness of your workplace. In this article, we will be looking to sum up 5s, briefly refreshing you – what is 5s, what each step means and how to implement them. If you want to read about any of the points in more detail, the links to the main articles will be in the title.

What is 5s Seiri; Sort

The first step in our article on what is 5s is Seiri, or to sort. This is all about analysing workstations or offices and making it more ordered. This involves removing clutter from the workplace and reorganising equipment. At a workstation, the tools and equipment used, as well as the work process, are analysed. The aim is to find out which equipment or tools aren’t required for the process, leading to their subsequent removal and hence overall removal of clutter from the workplace. By reducing clutter, you can keep a workplace much more organised with more space available.

Seiton; Orderliness

Seiton directly follows on from Seiri and is all about producing and maintaining order in a workplace. After implementing Seiri, a workstation should subsequently only have the tools and equipment required to do the job. Seiton involves taking your remaining tools and equipment, and organising them into a logical, and therefore easy to operate system. The tools used and business process are again analysed to find out where each tool or piece of equipment is used, and how often. The equipment is then categorised based on how often it is used. Equipment used very often should be located close to the employee, on a tool rack adjacent to a workbench for example. When it comes to rarely used items, those you can put away in a cupboard or drawer.

Seiso; Cleanliness

Seiso is about maintaining cleanliness in a workplace or organisation. It involves the thorough cleaning of tools, equipment, machines etc. in a workplace. The cleaning should be such that equipment returns to a ‘nearly new’ state. The principle aim of Seiso is error and fault reduction. For instance, if a machine is very clean, it becomes much easier to spot problems such as an oil leak. A clean workplace can also do wonders for employee morale and satisfaction, as well as reducing the required maintenance on equipment and machines.

Seiketsu; Standardise

Seiketsu builds upon the previous steps of 5s by standardising them. Doing just a single action won’t make a huge difference, however bringing all the steps together, documenting them on paper and placing in standard procedures is definitely worthwhile. Ensuring this standard is in place helps workplaces maintain their new conditions and therefore performance. It also makes it easier to implement the actions or things done as a result of 5s in other work areas or when the business is expanding.

5. Shitsuke; Sustain

The final step in our guide on what is 5s is Shitsuke, which involves sustaining. The benefits of the 5s system are often long-term and so need to be sustained for a long period. Shitsuke encourages the company to continually improve and maintain the principles of the 5s system. This involves making sure employees follow up on the actions, and cleaning and organisation procedures become the norm. This requires a conscious and consistence effort by management, as well as the workforce, to successfully implement the 5s system. It may involve doing things such as 5s audits, ensuring best results.

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