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Managing the Workplace

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What is the Five S Program?

The 5S program is usually a part of, and the key component of Visual Factory (Workplace) Management. It focuses on having visual order, organization, cleanliness and standardization. The results you can expect from a 5S program are improved profitability, efficiency, service and safety.

A well implemented 5S program is a good foundation for workplace improvement. In fact, it is a prerequisite for effective implementation of JIT production or Total Productive Maintenance.

What are the pillars of the 5S Program?

The 5S system is a Japanese system on practical housekeeping technique and involves five pillars:

Japanese Word

English Translation




An ACTION to sort the items and classify them as to whether they are needed or unneeded. The unneeded items are discarded, eliminated or disposed while the needed items are managed and stored properly.



An ACTION to put each needed item in their proper location and making sure that it is in good order. This involves the use of labels, signages, storage and record keeping systems to make the storage and retrieval of these items easier.



An ACTION to clean your workplace thoroughly making sure that it is neat and tidy.



A CONDITION where high standard of good housekeeping is maintained so that there is no dust and rust anywhere and that the employees are committed to the first 3S's.



A CONDITION where all members practice the above 4S's spontaneously and willingly as a way of life and has become a company culture.

Pillar 1 SEIRI (Organization)

In this pillar, you should be able to clearly distinguish between what is needed (i.e., those items that are often used, occasionally used, rarely used and therefore may be kept / stored) and those that are not needed , and therefore, maybe discarded. This pillar has the following steps:

STEP 1: Separate needed items from unneeded items.

Do a Red Tagging activity (refer to Example of a Red Tag) . It is a means of implementing organization by labeling all unneeded items with conspicuous red tags.

STEP 2: Store the needed items in the following storage sites:

•  Ready-access storage (needed in 1 – 6 months)

•  Remote storage (needed in more than 6 months)

In this step, it is important that you determine the storage periods in advance and you should also have labels and description on all storage sites / containers.

STEP 3: Discard / dispose the red – tagged (unneeded items) 

Discard remote storage items by the box load at the end of the storage period.

Pillar 2 SEITON (Orderliness)

For the items that you have sorted as needed items , you must keep them in the correct place to allow for easy and immediate retrieval. The targets for orderliness could include any of the following:

•  Spaces. Floors, walkways, operation areas, walls, shelves, warehouses

•  Products. Raw materials, procured parts, parts for machinery, in-process inventory, assembly parts, semi-finished products, finished products

•  Equipment. Machines, tools, jigs, gauges, carts, conveyance tools, work tables, cabinets, chairs

In this pillar, you may want to employ signboards and painting as forms of visual methods of orderliness.

The Signboard Strategy

The signboard strategy is a method for clearly indicating where, what, and how many necessary items go where, as you make your facility more orderly.

The signboards should include the following information:

•  Specific places – “where things go” via location indicators

•  Specific items – “what things” via item indicators

•  Specific amounts – “how many things” via amount indicators

The Painting Strategy

This strategy involves marking off the factory's walking areas (“walkways”) from its working areas (“operation areas”) using any of the following (1) divider lines, (2) door range lines, (3) markers for inventory, carts, worktables, and (4) tiger marks (yellow & black striped lines).

Pillar 3 SEISO (Cleanliness)

This pillar means that you need to keep things in order. This should be integrated into daily maintenance tasks to combine cleaning checkpoints with maintenance checkpoints. It involves the following phases:

•  Daily cleanliness

  • Determine cleanliness targets.
  • Determine cleanliness assignments.
  • Determine cleanliness methods and tools.
  • Implement cleanliness.

•  Cleanliness inspection

•  Maintenance

Pillar 4 SEIKETSU (Standardized Cleanup)

This pillar is not an activity unlike the first three pillars but is a state or condition that needs to be maintained when the company implements the first three pillars - Organization, Orderliness and Cleanliness.

Pillar 5 SHITSUKE (Discipline)

This involves the habit of maintaining and following specified (and standardized) procedures. This pillar is best taught by example, and therefore, the person ultimately responsible for any 5S backsliding is not the individual worker but the manager / owner himself. Given this critical role, the manager / owner of the business may employ the following measures:

•  The CEO must take ultimate responsibility in 5S adoption and implementation.

•  Explain the 5S's until everyone understands them. Emphasize that 5S is the company's road to survival due to its practical approach in minimizing wastes and generating savings.

•  Promote company-wide participation.

  • 5S Poster making contest
  • 5S Badge making contest
  • 5S Slogan making contest
  • 5S Ideas contest
  • 5S Day
  • Plant tour of a 5S Practicing Company
  • 5S Snapshots

•  Make Organization and Orderliness activities as visual as possible (Be persistent, meticulous, quick and ruthless when red-tagging and making signboards).

•  Manage people's resistance to 5S

  • Provide encouragement at every opportunity.
  • Give and receive criticisms carefully. Be polite.
  • Immediately correct and slacking-off on 5S conditions.
  • Stick to hands-on, here-and-now approach.
  • Improvement requires effort and effort requires enthusiasm.



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