What is 5 S?

My first job was at a small IT firm here in Davao. It was a good start for an aspiring IT professional to be employed at that company. There was much learning not only from a technical point of view, but also in terms of business logic and human resources. One of which would be the 5S. I first encountered the term at that company but they never did tell us what those 5 S's were. When our HR officer says "Let's do a 5S!", all employees proceed to general cleaning. We dust out the dirt from our system units, wipe our monitors' screens, and clean the balls of our mouse.
Until the time I left the company, I didn't know what 5S means. All I know is 5S means cleaning.
Good thing though is that I took up MBA (Masters in Business Administration) where I first encountered the term TQM (Total Quality Management). In TQM, high product quality will enable the business to save on costs and improve bottom line (profit in most cases).

Here, I learned about how the Japanese developed a systematic approach to the elimination of root cause of product defects (I was only oriented with the Kaizen). It's composed of a 4 steps:

  1. Kaizen - a system of continuous improvement,
  2. Atarimae hinshitsu- examines intangibles that affect the process and works to optimize their impact on the process,
  3. Kansei - (Five Senses, concentrates on the user of the product), and
  4. Miryokuteki hinshitsu - broadens the management concern beyond the immediate product. This is a business-oriented step that looks for opportunity in related areas identified by observing the use of the product in the marketplace,
5S is part of Kaizen (which is of top priority for many companies). 5S refers to the starting letters of the 5 Japanese words: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. Here are their meanings:

Japanese Term

English Equivalent

Meaning in Japanese Context



Throw away all rubbish and unrelated materials in the workplace



Set everything in proper place for quick retrieval and storage



Clean the workplace; everyone should be a janitor



Standardize the way of maintaining cleanliness



Practice 'Five S' daily - make it a way of life; this also means 'commitment'

5S is all about establishing not just a visual workplace, but a standardized and organized one. Although this is undertaken mostly in a working environment, we can also practice it at our homes or in anything we do. After all, we are all capable of "continuous improvement". :D


1 Response to "What is 5 S?"

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