5s systems

The 5S system is a management technique that originated in Japan in the 1960s. It was started by Toyota and it is made up of 5 basic principles: sorting, straightening, sweeping, standardizing, and sustaining discipline. Sometimes, a sixth principle is added: safety. It is a model used not only by big manufacturing companies worldwide, but also by different organizations such as hospitals or educational centers. The results obtained by implementing the 5S system are improved profitability, efficiency, service, and safety.


The first principle of the 5S system is sorting (seiri, in the original in Japanese), and it refers to cleaned things up and organizing. Sorting must be applied to all materials, tools, etc., in the workplace, and the necessity of keeping only important items. Therefore, all unused stuff must be stored or discarded. The second principle is straightening (seiton) and it refers to the idea that there should be a place for everything and everything should be in order. The place for each item must be labeled and every item should be arranged in such a way so as to promote efficient work. Every tool, supply, or piece of equipment should be close to where it will be used and properly stored.


The next principle of the 5S system is sweeping (seiso). It refers to systematic cleaning and states that the workplace should be both neat and clean. Every worker should clean their work area and make sure everything is in the right place. In this way it is easier to know what goes where knowing that everything is in order. It is essential to maintain cleanliness every day. The fourth principle is standardizing (seiketsu). It means that work should be standardized in such a way that everyone should know his or her responsibilities, taking into account the previous steps.


And last but not least, the final phase of the 5S system is sustaining personal and corporate discipline (shitskuke). To begin with, it is necessary to make a commitment on behalf of the company, so as to ensure that the proper managerial decisions are made. In this way, keeping communication channels open, every member of the personnel will know exactly what to do, and what is expected from each one of them. This system is based on the idea of cells or circles, and each part of the productive process contains smaller teams that must be in charge of certain aspects of production, for which they are responsible.


Some authors also consider a sixth principle: safety. It is a key factor in any production structure. It must be given primary consideration, and the workplace and procedures must seek safety at all points. To sum up, this system is a method that is based on Oriental philosophy, but it has become so popular, that it has rapidly spread throughout the world. It is based on improving profitability, efficiency, service standards, and safety. If the principles on which it is based are properly applied, they provide the organization with higher efficiency, and contributes to saving time and achieving better results.

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