The Quick Beginner’s Guide to 5S – Introduction

5S are as well an approach, philosophy and methodology to better workplace organization, foundations for efficient and safe work, as well as insuring quality and continuous improvement.

In a nutshell, 5S provide simple, effective rules for tidiness, maintaining workplace in good, safe condition and fostering a continuous improvement of the standards, rules and discipline in order to get further.

The 5S philosophy is a way of thinking, focusing on organizing workplace in order to simplify the work environment and strive to reduce wastes while improving quality and safety.

There is no way to work efficiently and ensure quality within dirty messy workplace where one wastes time searching for tools, material or information and takes chances with safety and quality with all the scrap.

5S are often presented as ‘housekeeping rules’, which like all other short definitions is over simplistic and potentially misleading while being correct in essence.

Acronym and mnemotechnics

5S is an acronym made of five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke transliterated and translated into other languages among which English. The transliteration allows the common explanation “the five words all starting with the letter S”, which you now understand is not fully true.

While in Japanese culture the number five bears a special signification, a list of five items is generally admitted as fairly easy to remember. Add a convenient way to link those five items to a common reminder, here letter “S”, and you’ll get an acronym and mnemotechnics in one. Besides, the order in which the five words are taught is the logical sequence of deployment.

5S Meaning

Seiri Sorting Out
Seiton Systematic Arrangement / Set in order
Seiso “Sweep”, “Sanitize”, “Shine”, “Scrub” or “Spic and Span”
Seiketsu Standardizing
Shitsuke Sustain of Self-discipline

As 5S is now a common name in industry and many businesses, the translations in other languages generally try to find the local equivalent starting with “S”.

It once was fashionable in the West – in some countries / businesses it still is – to “speak” japanese, but shop floor people generally rejected the japanese words trying to escape the effort learning them and to camouflage their resistance to the coming change.

It also happened that some companies invented their own suite of five words, without “S”, crafting acronyms that just cut themselves off the rest of the community who would not understand what they mean when mentioning their ORDRE program,  ROUND efforts or SOBRE initiative.

ORDRE (French) means orderliness, ROUND was an approximate acronym to remember with 5S everything should go smoothly round, while SOBRE (French) means sober and was a kind of incentive to use the only necessary resources and keep workplace tidy. These acronyms and names are ununderstandable for anyone not involved.

Nowadays, for what I have seen in many companies and businesses, 5S as a common name and shared expression is widespread and well accepted, even so the people mentioning 5S would rarely be able to name the original japanese words.

The translation into words starting with “S” is not even mandatory.

>Next: Seiri or Sorting


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3 thoughts on “The Quick Beginner’s Guide to 5S – Introduction

  1. Pingback: Beginner's Guide to 5S by Christian Hohmann | T...

    • Hi, I updated the post to explain the acronyms, but your question is the perfect illustration of what I mean: get away from “5S” and you cut yourself from the community as nobody will understand what you’re talking about…

      Like

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