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  3. Key to understand the way Japanese management thinks is to understand 5S.

Key to understand the way Japanese management thinks is to understand 5S.

Have you heard about 5S ?  When you visit Japanese companies especially manufacturing companies, you often see this slogan on the banners or on the walls of the companies.

5S is a Japanese workplace management methodology.  

This methodology has been implemented as a pat of Toyota Production System since 1980s and it is regarded as one of the most known Japanese management system.  It is widely implemented not just in manufacturing companies but also in service companies in Japan.

5S might sound rather old-fashioned but this methodology is still regarded one of the core Japanese management style which is the most known to achieve efficiency and productivity.

To understand 5S can be a key to understand the Japanese work culture.

What is 5S ?

It is called 5S as this slogan with 5 words staring all with S.   

  • Seiri
  • Seiton
  • Seiso
  • Seiketsu
  • Shitsuke

5S is actually 5 steps.

1. Seiri = Sort
Seiri is sorting outing and removing all unnecessary items from the location.

2. Seiton = Set in Order (Straighten)
Seiton is arranging items in the optical place so that they are ready to use and return them once the task is completed.

3.  Seiso = Shine
Seiso is cleaning and inspecting the workplace, tools and machinery on a regular basis.

4.  Seiketsu = Standardise
Seiketsu is to standardize the processes of the first 3 steps of Seiri, Seiton and Seiso and to maintain the workplace clean as well as health of the employees.

5. Shitsuke = Sustain (Self-discipline)
Shitsuke is to keep the above standardised rules to maintain the standards by self-discipline and make them like habits.

Concept of 5S

We spend so much time to look for items at work.  Time spent on finding items is a “waste of time”.  If the time spent for finding items can be used for actual work, productivity is naturally improved.

In order to reduce time to look for items, you should sort what you need and what you do not need and eliminate unnecessary items. This can even include the data in your computer. You can clean unnecessary or outdated data. (Sort)

Then you store the items at the optical location where you or anyone can easily find them. (Set in Order)

The next thing to do is to keep the place clean and to maintain the equipment and facility to the state for ready to use.  (Shine)

Then these steps will be standardised. When things are in order and clean, your motivation and your mental as well as physical health will go up in addition to improvement of productivity.(Standardise)

To sustain the first 3 steps,  it is important that all employees to be self-disciplined and improve the process by finding reasons behind the problems, so the same thing will not be repeated.  (Sustain/ Self-discipline)

This methodology is not to clean “rubbish”, but then to educe the rubbish for improvement such as not purchasing unnecessary items.

Benefits of 5S Implementation

5S tends to be considered that it is just the methodology to keep the workplace clean and in order.  But what 5S is meant is much more than that.

5S is not only to clean the workplace by Seiri, Seiton and Seiso, but these first 3 steps are maintained and have to be sustained and improved by Step 4 and Step 5 of Standardise and Sustain. 

The benefits of 5S Implementation are to eliminate wastes and reduce time to spend on each action.  As a result, efficiency and productivity is achieved which will lead to higher profits of the company.   In return, morale and motivation of employees will be boosted which will lead to continuous improvement.

5S stays as a core Japanese management style across the industries. Understanding of 5S when you work with Japanese companies can give you understanding of how the way of Japanese thinking work.

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