5S (Overview)

What is 5S?

The following article comes from  SiliconFarEast.com. (Copyright © 2003-2004 All Rights Reserved) and is a succinct description of each of each “s”.


“5S” was invented in Japan, and stands for five (5) Japanese words that start with the letter ‘S’: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke.  Table 1 shows what these individual words mean. An equivalent set of five ‘S’ words in English have likewise been adopted by many, to preserve the “5S” acronym in English usage. These are: Sort, Set (in place), Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.  Some purists do not agree with these English words –

they argue that these words have lost the essence of the original 5 Japanese words.

Japanese Term English Equivalent Meaning in Japanese Context
Seiri Tidiness Throw away all rubbish and unrelated materials in the workplace
Seiton Orderliness Set everything in proper place for quick retrieval and storage
Seiso Cleanliness Clean the workplace; everyone should be a janitor
Seiketsu Standardization Standardize the way of maintaining cleanliness
Shitsuke Discipline Practice ‘Five S’ daily – make it a way of life; this also means ‘commitment’


The first step of the “5S” process, seiri, refers to the act of throwing away all unwanted, unnecessary, and unrelated materials in the workplace.  People involved in Seiri must not feel sorry about having to throw away things. The idea is to ensure that everything left in the workplace is related to work. Even the number of necessary items in the workplace must be kept to its absolute minimum. Because of seiri, simplification of tasks, effective use of space, and careful purchase of items follow.


Seiton, or orderliness, is all about efficiency.  This step consists of putting everything in an assigned place so that it can be accessed or retrieved quickly, as well as returned in that same place quickly.  If everyone has quick access to an item or materials, work flow becomes efficient, and the worker becomes productive.  The correct place, position, or holder for every tool, item, or material must be chosen carefully in relation to how the work will be performed and who will use them.  Every single item must be allocated its own place for safekeeping, and each location must be labeled for easy identification of what it’s for.


Seiso, the third step in “5S”, says that ‘everyone is a janitor.’  Seiso consists of cleaning up the workplace and giving it a ‘shine’.  Cleaning must be done by everyone in the organization, from operators to managers. It would be a good idea to have every area of the workplace assigned to a person or group of persons for cleaning. No area should be left uncleaned. Everyone should see the ‘workplace’ through the eyes of a visitor – always thinking if it is clean enough to make a good impression.


The fourth step of “5S”, or seiketsu, more or less translates to ‘standardized clean-up’. It consists of defining the standards by which personnel must measure and maintain ‘cleanliness’.  Seiketsu encompasses both personal and environmental cleanliness. Personnel must therefore practice ‘seiketsu’ starting with their personal tidiness. Visual management is an important ingredient of seiketsu.  Color-coding and standardized coloration of surroundings are used for easier visual identification of anomalies in the surroundings. Personnel are trained to detect abnormalities using their five senses and to correct such abnormalities immediately.


The last step of “5S”, Shitsuke, means ‘Discipline.’ It denotes commitment to maintain orderliness and to practice the first 4 S as a way of life.  The emphasis of shitsuke is elimination of bad habits and constant practice of good ones.  Once true shitsuke is achieved, personnel voluntarily observe cleanliness and orderliness at all times, without having to be reminded by management.

Source: Copyright © 2003-2004 SiliconFarEast.com. All Rights Reserved.



Some Lean Terms Visually

Communicating Lean principles, concepts, and terminology can be tricky. Many Lean terms originate in Japanese, introducing a barrier to understanding. In an effort to sidestep the language barrier, Stappan Noteberg posted this presentation on Slideshare.com. I think it’s an innovative way to show some Lean ideas and hope you think it’s worth a look. 😉

Bob Hubbard, Sept 2010

A Stapffan Noteberg presentation on Slideshare.com