Five Japanese words that will dramatically improve productivity within your business

5S methodologyThe Japanese are well known for developing management practices that deliver efficiency and continuous improvement in the workplace and the ‘5S’ methodology is a classic manufacturing methodology that fits just as comfortably in today’s knowledge / information economy.

5S refers to five Japanese words that form a framework for improving efficiency by:

  • Removing waste
  • Reducing red tape
  • Improving process flow

The result is a less cluttered and more organised work place, with higher levels of staff morale and the ability to complete tasks quickly and easily.

By assigning physical and digital items with a logical location, time is not lost looking for the item or duplicating effort to produce something similar.

The process also ensures that useless items are identified and discarded, providing a cleaner and clearer workspace.

Another advantage stems from the way items are ordered and positioned in a manner to promote workflow; for example placing tools at the point of use or grouping all the documents required to complete a process in one place.

Each ‘S’ in the methodology describes an improvement phase that builds on the benefits delivered by each previous phase:

Phase 1 – Seiri (Sort)

An audit takes place of all items in the workplace, whether they are tools and machines in a factory, computers and workstations in an office, files, folders or processes.

Only essential items are kept and useless items are discarded or archived.

Phase 2 – Seiton (Straighten)

The remaining essential assets and artefacts are arranged or stored, so that they can be easily accessed at key points within the flow of business processes.

The business processes themselves are set out in a way that maximises efficiency.

Phase 3 – Seiso (Shine)

Once a clean and orderly working environment has been created, it is important to maintain it to a high standard.

For example, at the end of each working day, staff should be responsible for tidying up their personal workspaces and returning any items used to appropriate storage areas.

Phase 4 – Seiketsu (Standardise)

Key processes, working practices, workspaces, files, folders, tools and equipment should be reviewed at least once a quarter and efforts made to standardise them throughout the organisation.

Phase 5 – Shitsuke (Sustain)

This final phase refers to a responsibility by all for ensuring a strong culture of 5S exists throughout the organisation.

The ultimate aim is for people to do this without having to be told.

Until this aim is achieved regular audits should be undertaken and a culture of continuous improvement promoted.

Organisational turnover will mean that a communications programme should be implemented to ensure new staff quickly understand and adopt the culture, whilst keeping the concept fresh in the minds of existing staff.

More 5S resources

Using the 5S methodology to improve your personal productivity

SlideShare introduction to 5S:

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