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5S Seiton, Seisou, Seiketsu, Shitsuke



Seiton (整頓)


Seiton. The second word in the 5S. The fact is that “Seiri-Seiton” is a typical Japanese proverb that is part of daily life. My three years old son uses this phrase. I did not, and my father did not teach this phrase because we know that our understanding will be too much for the three-year-old to handle. (Our knowledge of “Seiri” is to organize according to standardized work. What is standardized work for three years old?)


Regarding this proverb of “Seiri-Seiton,” Ohno states that set in a row is not the correct understanding. Materials can’t be just neatly in line. It needs to be in a condition that is ready to be used.


Ton (頓) is an interesting symbol. Taichi Ohno used a word called “Tonhuku,” a medicine that comes in effect immediately, to explain this symbol. This symbol, Ton (頓)has following meanings;

· Without time. Immediately

· Without gap or space.

· Rapid

So, by understanding the meanings of that symbol, I state that the definition of “Seiton” is to Organize without waste. The materials & tools must be in condition an operator can use them immediately. There should be no need for the operator to search for things.

On today’s shop floor, because of the popularity of the 5S activities, there are many fancy cases & boxes. Although these cases and boxes may look nice, it requires different motion from the operator, defeating the purpose of 5S. 5S is not tape on the floor. 5S is not tools located on the board with those shadows. 5S is a tool to eliminate waste.

The wasteless shop floor is the ideal state, and 5S should be the tool to drive toward that ideal state.




Seisou (清掃)

Seisou is to clean. But not just clean or to shine. It to prevent problems from happening. TPS tools highlight issues and lead to problem-solving. But they place enormous attention to prevent problems from occurring.

I had an opportunity to go to a factory with the former team leader of Toyota. As soon as he arrived at the plant, he complained that the plant is too dirty. He started cleaning. Then a problem happened, a pump broke. The former team leader immediately opened the pump, following the safety protocol. Then he found some foreign object inside the pump and told me, “This is why we need to clean the plant.”

The unfortunate truth about our operations is that we appreciate the firefighters. There is always this guru in the plant who knows how to recover the machine. He is well respected. Then you look around that factory and notice some devices running without downtime. So I asked the question “Why such a difference of stability?” to the management. Eventually, the guru answered, “those are stable machines.” There is no such thing as a stable machine. The machine becomes unstable if it is not appropriately managed. And proper management pays attention to preventive measures such as cleaning. Somebody was maintaining or cleaning the machine properly but those effort was not recognized.

So “Seisou” is clean to prevent or to be proactive. The management paying respect to those activities that create a stable environment to work.




Seiketsu (清潔)

Seiketsu is known as Sustaining the above three conditions. There is another hidden key concept in this word, “Seiketsu.”

“That person is a “Seiketsu” politician.”

This is another way of using the word “Seiketsu.” It does not mean the politician is a conservative because it means to sustain. It means the politician is clean or fair.

“Fairness” is key to sustaining the 3Ss. I thought about two types of fairness.


First is the task and allocated time. Very often, an allotted time is missing for the job of cleaning. Even if there is a time slot, the number of tasks exceeds the time slot. Under such an environment, there will be 5S violations, and the shop floor’s frustrations towards the management will increase.

The other type of “Fairness” is the activity when there is a violation of 5S. I observed a supervisor taping the floor around a pallet. I ask the supervisor why are you taping around the pallet? The answer was that somebody left the pallet here, and the 5S audit is coming up soon, so the supervisor is taping the floor. I told the supervisor don’t tape because we do not need the pallet here. A couple of hours later, the supervisor returned angrily to me that the area received a bad score. So I grabbed the plant manager and together started problem-solving on why the pallet is sitting there. In the end, we found out that those pallets were materials which the incoming inspections were incomplete and exposed arbitrary decisions by the quality acceptance team to the plant manager. Often such problem-solving around 5S do not take place, and unfair evaluations happen. The truth is that the supervisor should have given the authority to start problem-solving that somebody violated the 5S. Instead, the 5S became another “number” on the shop floor, creating wrong actions.


So Seiketsu is to sustain with fairness.




Shistuke (躾)

Shitsuke is discipline. But the discipline of who?

Very often, we see the tie of this discipline to the operators.

Ohno mentioned that discipline is constant coaching by the boss to their peers. [Modified translation] My father was always asking the managers why the material is here. The subject of this discipline is the manager. And the action of the manager is to ask questions on the shop floor on why regarding the 5S. I have seen some companies that distributed trash grabbers to the managers. Trash grabbers do not seem the right tool for a manager. It connects the criticism by the CEO that 5S is the most expensive janitor that they have hired. If the manager is continuously picking up the trash, it is the most costly janitor. Picking up the trash is a necessary action by the manager, but it should be once. During that one pick-up, the manager must ask the right question.

This right question is something tricky. The company that distributed the trash grabbers asked the question, “how to make the trash picking easy?” Some managers ask, “why do I need to pick up the trash?” and add more janitors and costs. The right question is to ask, “why this trash exist?” and continuously drive the organization to eliminate the need to deal with the trash and reduce the cost. Often the manager stops asking questions regarding the why, accepting the current condition. It is always important that these questions should lead to science/logic of standardized work, elimination of waste, preventive actions, or fairness. If the manager asks the right questions, then the 5S will become a complete cycle that drives Kaizen in an organization.





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