This is one more misleading article about 5S. Following are a few of the more questionable assertions in it:
- “5S is a system to […] optimize productivity” If all you do is 5S, you will not see a massive productivity increase.
- “…the concept is especially attractive to older manufacturing facilities looking to reduce their costs.” Don’t expect any measurable cost reduction from just 5S.
- “The 5S methodology is a simple and universal approach that works for companies all over the world.” It may look simple, but it is not, and most companies fail when they try to implement it. It is not for Lean beginners. If you try it with beginners, the most likely outcome is a mutiny.
- “It is typically the first lean method that organizations implement.” Yes, due to simplistic advice, and it is a well-traveled shortcut to failure at Lean. Successful Lean implementations almost never start with 5S. Don’t take my word for it. Check out, for example, Art Byrne’s Lean Turnaround.
- “The term refers to five steps — sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain.” This is a common mistranslation of five Japanese terms that also start with S:
- Seiri does not mean Sort. It means removing from the shop floor the items you don’t use routinely.
- Seiton is not too badly mangled by “set in order.” It refers to having assigned locations and labels for everything you retain on the shop floor.
- Seiso means Clean, not Shine. The idea is to have production operators clean their workplace at shift end, so that they notice details like spills, frayed cables, or broken lamps. It is not about making it pretty.
- Seiketsu does not mean Standardize. It is the reduction of the first three S’s to daily practice by management enforcement, through things like checklists and audits.
- Shitsuke does not mean Sustain, and it is not an action but the condition you reach when the performance of the first three S’s has become second-nature to the organization. As long as you tell your kid to brush his teeth every day, you are practicing Seiketsu; once he does it without prompting, you have achieved Shitsuke.
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