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The 5 Ss of Japanese efficiency
January 16, 2007
5S is the acronym for five Japanese words, seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke, which signify order, cleanliness, purity and commitment.
The 5S philosophy focusses on effective workplace organisation, helps simplify the workplace environment and reduce waste, while improving quality and safety.
Seiri (sort) means to put things in order. Seiton (systematise) means proper arrangement. Seiso (clean) implies keeping things clean and polished in the workplace. Seiketsu implies purity and focuses on maintaining cleanliness and perpetual cleaning. Shitsuke is commitment.
This is a typical teaching and attitude towards any undertaking to inspire pride and adherence to standards established for the four components.
The principles underlying a 5S programme appear to be common sense -- and they are. But until the advent of 5S, many businesses ignored these basic principles. There is an order and logic to how 5S is carried out, which is:
1. Seiri or sorting
Seiri means sorting through everything in each work area. It requires keeping only what is necessary.
Materials, tools, equipment and supplies that are not frequently used should be moved to a separate, common storage area. Items that are never used should be discarded. This makes it easier to find the things needed and frees up additional space.
"Tagging" items is a common approach when deciding what is to be thrown away. An area is targeted; items likely to be disposed off are tagged with a red tag and a date. If the item is not used after a certain period of time, say, between one and six months, it is disposed of. Practising seiri at Sona Koyo, for instance, led to the freeing up of an 8x6 ft by removing unwanted rakes.
2. Seiton or systematise
This is the next step. It requires organising, arranging and identifying everything in a work area for efficient retrieval and return to its proper place.
Commonly used tools are readily available; storage areas, cabinets and shelves are properly labelled; floors are cleaned and painted to make it easier to spot dirt, waste materials and dropped parts and tools; spaces are outlined on the floor to identify work areas, movement lanes, storage areas, finished product areas and so on; and shadows are drawn on the tool boards, making it easy to quickly see where each tool belongs.
In an office, bookshelves are provided for frequently-used manuals, books and catalogues.
There are two important parts to systematic organisation -- putting everything in its proper place and setting up a system so that it is easy to return each item to its proper place. The second part is where labelling and identification practices are important.
3. Seiso or shining
Once everything from each individual work area to the entire facility is sorted and organised, it needs to be kept that way.
Regular cleaning and inspection makes it easy to spot lubricant leaks, equipment misalignment, breakage, missing tools and low levels of supplies. When done on a regular, frequent basis, cleaning and inspecting does not take a lot of time and, in the long run, actually saves times.
4. Seiketsu or standardise
Seiketsu ensures that the first three steps of the 5S programme continue to be effective. The good practices developed in the first three steps need to be standardised.
Therefore, organisations must develop a work structure that will support the new practices and turn them into habits.
5. Shitsuke or self-discipline
This implies continuous training and maintenance of standards. The organisation must build a formal system for monitoring the results of the programme. A follow-up is a must for the above four steps to continue to be practise.
There will have to be continuous education about maintaining standards. When there are changes that will affect the 5S programme -- such as new equipment, new products or new work rules -- it is essential to make changes in the standards and provide training.
A good way to continue educating employees and maintaining standards is to use 5S posters and signs.
Surinder Kapur is chairman, CII Mission for Manufacturing Innovation, and chairman and managing director, Sona Koyo Steering Systems.
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