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What is 5S?

5S is an organizing methodology that originated in Japan. If you have been to Japan, you'd likely agree that their discipline with regard to organization and cleanliness is among the best there is. The 5S methodology is also recognized as one of the many techniques used in Just-In-Time manufacturing. While it applies to and probably began for manufacturing and warehouse facilities, I have worked in office environments that have applied this methodology with success. The 5S are as follows:

  • Sort (seiri 整理) – sorting all physical items enables easy and safe retrieval while reducing the time of searching for the item. It also facilitates item inspections and reduces the occupation of physical space.

  • Set in Order (seiton 整頓) – this further supports the organization of the workspace by aligning required items with its function and workflow to reduce material handling effort.

  • Shine (seiso 清掃) – represents regular and thorough cleaning. The power of cleanliness is often underestimated. A clean workspace improves health and safety, the efficiency of workflow, worker comfort/productivity; and, reduces errors or defects.

  • Standardize (seiketsu 清潔) – picking from the best processes and materials and then using them uniformly will reduce complexity and increase efficiency. The more regularly something is done, the faster and less prone to error they become. Investigations also become easier when errors do occur. Onboarding new employees and worker coverage are also improved when processes are standardized.

  • Sustain (shitsuke しつけ) – making sure the changes made and the standards set up are followed are essential to capitalizing on the benefits gained from the previous steps. The whole 5S process should be continuous and not static. There should also be a process to make improvements in each of the steps.

In summary, organization and cleanliness play are very large role in the safe and efficient operation of a facility. As a procurement professional, I sometimes use it as an indicator of a business's professionalism and capabilities. If their facilities are physically unorganized, I may question other aspects of their performance as well.

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