Business Efficiency: What is 5S?

Unlike the other methodologies for business change that can be applied to a variety of scenarios within an organization, 5S is only concerned with increasing productivity by enhancing your physical workspace. The drive behind 5S is the belief that a clean, well-laid-out office contributes to increasing employee well-being, reducing defects and saving time.

5S: The Japanese path to efficiency

The key differentiations of 5S include the following:

  • Focus on physical space: 5S is about making your actual office more efficient. In 5S, even the placement of a plant can be relevant (and improved upon).

  • Freeing up space: It’s a success by 5S standards if you reclaim 100 square feet previously lost to excess inventory or even garbage cans. “Cleared space” is a key metric.

  • Communications board: Almost like a scrapbook for cleanliness, 5S relies on bulletin boards with employee photographs, floor plans, and before/after photos. Teams can actually have fun with this board, which encourages ongoing participation.

The 5S’s of efficiency

Originally based on five Japanese words beginning with “s” (when translated into English, anyway), equivalent English “s” words have since been massaged into the process. They are Sort (Seiri), Straighten (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu), and Sustain (Shitsuke). 5S’s mantra is “only what is needed, in its proper place, clean and ready for use.”

5S is best for manufacturing plants, large offices, and neat freaks.

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