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Japanese 5-S Practice

Japanese 5-S Practice Abstract

5S is the name of a workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words: seiri,seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke, they all start with the letter “S”. The list describes how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order The 5-S Japanese technique is used to sustain the good and disciplined environment for the employees in the organization for better quality production.

Japanese 5-S Practice

Japanese 5-S Practice Video

what is Japanese 5-S Practice ?

The 5-S practice is a technique used to establish and maintain quality environment in an organization. The name stands for five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke. They mean organization, neatness, cleaning, standardization and discipline respectively. For the sake of consistency, an attempt has been made to find the appropriate “S” terms in the English language. They all start with the letter “S”. They meant sort out, set in order, shine, standardized and sustain respectively.

Sort (Seiri)

• Make work easier by eliminating obstacles.
• Reduce chances of being disturbed with unnecessary items.
• Prevent accumulation of unnecessary items.
• Evaluate necessary items with regard to cost or other factors.
• Remove all parts or tools that are not in use.
• Segregate unwanted material from the workplace.
• Define Red-Tag area to place unnecessary items that cannot immediately be disposed of. Dispose of these items when possible.
• Need fully skilled supervisor for checking on a regular basis.
• Waste removal.
• Make clear all working floor except using material.

Set In Order (Seiton)

• Arrange all necessary items so that they can be easily selected for use.
• Prevent loss and waste of time by arranging work station in such a way that all tooling / equipment is in close proximity.
• Make it easy to find and pick up necessary items.
• Ensure first-in-first-out FIFO basis.
• Make workflow smooth and easy.
• All of the above work should be done on a regular basis.
• Maintain safety.
• Place components according to their uses, with the frequently used components being nearest to the work place.

Shine (Seiso)

• Clean your workplace on daily basis completely or set cleaning frequency
• Use cleaning as inspection.
• Prevent machinery and equipment deterioration.
• Keep workplace safe and easy to work.
• Keep workplace clean and pleasing to work in.
• When in place, anyone not familiar to the environment must be able to detect any problems within 50 feet in 5 secs.

Standardize (Seiketsu)

• Standardize the best practices in the work area.
• Maintain high standards in workplace organization at all times.
• Maintain orderliness. Maintain everything in order and according to its standard.
• Everything in its right place.
• Every process has a standard.

Sustain (Shitsuke)

• Not harmful to anyone.
• Also translates as “do without being told”.
• Perform regular audits.
• Training and discipline.
• Training is goal-oriented process. Its resulting feedback is necessary monthly.
• Self discipline
• To maintain proper order




The original concept was developed by Osada in the early 1980s. It has been widely practiced in many Japanese firms, both at home and abroad. In 1993, as the Quality Expert to the Malaysian Government, Samuel Ho was requested by the Director General of the Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) to act as the 5-S Champion and promote the 5-S concept to the Malaysian industries. As part of the staff training, he has developed a 5-S Audit Checklist, and conducted in-house 5-S audits. Many firms have started using the 5-S since then. In 1994, similar successes have been recorded in Hong Kong through the partnership with the Hong Kong Government Industry Department.

The technique has been practiced in Japan for a long time. Most Japanese 5-S practitioners consider the 5-S useful not just for improving their physical environment but for improving their thinking processes as well. Apparently, the 5-S can help in all strata of life. Many of the everyday problems could be solved through adoption of this practice. Surprisingly, this powerful quality tool has been a secret to the West. The western world has just recently recognized the significance of the 5-S practice although there are indications that some companies have included some aspects of the 5-S in their routines without being aware of its existence as a formalized technique.

There are many examples of successful implementation of some principles of the 5-S, especially in the service sector organizations, such as fast-food restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, libraries, and leisure centres. The difference between the Japanese and western approach lies mostly in the degree of employee involvement.

How Japanese 5-S Practice works?

By formalizing the technique, the Japanese established the framework which enabled them successfully to convey the message across the organization, achieve total participation, and systematically implement the practice. The 5-S has become the way of doing businesses, not only to impress the customers but to establish effective quality processes as prerequisites for good products and services
Typical examples of the 5-S activities are: “throwing away rubbish”, “30-second retrieval of a document”, “individual cleaning responsibility”, “transparency of storage” and “do 5-S daily” respectively. These are simple, self-explanatory activities which everyone should be doing in order to have a total quality environment at their workplace. There is nothing new about these activities but, in general, people have not been aware of their significance until now, so there is ample scope for improvement.


Japanese 5-S Practice Advantages

The benefits of a 5S program include improved visibility of problem conditions, improved safety, reduced waste, and improved morale, an increased sense of ownership of the workspace, improved productivity, improved quality, improved maintenance, shorter lead times, and a better impression on customers. It makes the employees goal oriented.More fundamentally, a well-implemented 5S program helps the culture develop a new sense of discipline and order that carries over into all activities.
Indications that an organization needs a 5S program
• Space is crowded with parts and tools.
• Unnecessary items are stacked between workers.
• Excess inventory.
• Excess items and machines make it difficult to improve process flow.
• Equipment is dirty and a collection point for miscellaneous materials.
• Tools and equipment are difficult to find.


Japanese 5-S Practice Disadvantages

• It is too expensive in terms of time in adjustment and learning.
• It may require frequent meetings and which may reduce the interest of the employees in 5-S techniques.
• The employee may feel inferior if he is a bit less representative in comparison to other in a company.
• The employee may lack confidence which may further affect his work progress and lead him to severe depression.

Implementation guideline for Japanese 5-S practice

Implementation guidelines for a 5S program

• Practice the old slogan, “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
• Place tools and instruction manuals close to the point of use.
• Design storage areas with a wide entrance and a shallow depth.
• Lay out the storage area along the wall to save space.
• Place items so that they are easy to access
• Store similar items together and different items in separate rows.
• Do not stack items together. Use racks or shelves when possible.
• Use small bins to organize small items.
• Use color for quickly identifying items.
• Clearly label items and storage areas to improve visibility.
• Use see-through/transparent covers and doors for visibility.
• Remove unnecessary doors, walls, and other barriers to visibility, movement, and travel.
• Use carts to organize, move, and store tools, jigs, measuring devices.


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