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  • Writer's picturehidet77

Subject of Seiri


You spend so much energy & time on your 5S.

But you don’t see a result.


I have posted in the past that “Seiri【整理】” is about;

1️⃣ Organize based on science/logic.

2️⃣ Organize the science/logic.


What is important here is that the subject of “Seiri” should be work (or operations), not materials.

We call this “Work 【作業】Seiri.”


Maybe it’s time to change the approach to 5S.


I don’t know why 5S became so popular. Some started adding more “S” words (regardless of the language) as it became more popular. Some added a weird “audits.” Some created a new position. Yet, few try to understand the original thinking.


The misdirection starts by focusing on materials. Materials include components and raw materials or tools. These grab the attention of the 5S activities. They concentrate on visualizing these materials. Come up with colorful stuff. Paint. Etc.


Focusing only on throwing away the material is like cleaning the room with water leakage from the ceiling and just taking the water out. Water will continue to leak as you take it out. Nobody will do such a thing. Typically, people will focus on stopping the leakage first. Why is the water leaking? Where is it coming from? Is there a crack in the pipe or the logic? Are the pipes connected? Is there a hole in the roof, or do we even have a roof? Without sealing the cause, cleaning the leaked water is pure waste activity.


This misdirection started in Japan. Along with 5S, they made this “Red tagging” activity famous. I know that in some other countries or companies, “Red tag” means defects. But in some parts of Japan, the “Red tag” shows unnecessary materials identified during the 5S activity. They tag and tag materials. And they throw away these tagged things. But then there is a problem. The materials started to go out of control the moment they cleaned up. “It’s the discipline of the operators.” Thought a manager. So, it adds “Training” programs and slogans. But the materials still go out of control. And then, the organization stops to think. They keep doing “Red tagging.” They keep throwing away things. They keep doing the training. The cost of 5S is high without the actual benefits.


As one CEO mentioned, “5S is the most expensive cleaning staff.” When my coach heard this comment from a CEO, he started laughing and mentioned to the CEO, “That’s because you are focusing on the wrong thing. Instead of material, we need to Seiri, organize people's work logically.”


Materials do not move by itself. They don’t have wills or legs to move around. It is always an act of humans that places the material out of designated locations. And, it is typically not the discipline of the people. Discipline will come automatically if the work is well-designed and easy to follow.


The first material handler I designed, I reported the cycle time to 25 minutes. My coach instantly sighed with disbelief. He started asking, “What will happen at the end of cycle one? Cycle two? Three?” As he repeated the questions, I recognized that the material handler would not end its work at break or the end of the shift at the exact same place. Then, the starting point would become random, meaning I created some “searching,” which is a waste. Even if I designed a perfect handoff between the shifts, variable location means variable walking toward the starting point will become a variation. This variation creates mistrust, and mistrust leads to misbehavior. The fear that the material handler might not return at the right time will create the psychology of keeping more inventory, which will cause violations of the 5S. There is this terminology in TPS called “Fixed position stop.” There might be a million reasons to stop production, but we stop at the same position when we do. It’s a minor concept but powerful.


This is one example of “Work Seiri.” After all, 5S is not an enforcement activity. The condition of 5S should come automatically with logical work designs.


Note here that I am not against throwing away unnecessary materials. If our works are organized based on logic, we should be able to remove unnecessary stuff. Fewer materials are the result of the logical coordination of works. Organizing work and then throwing away unnecessary stuff is the true Seiri.


After all, my coach always said, “Discipline in 5S is not about the people. It is about the manager asking the right question to the people. Why was the 5S violated? What flaws do we have in our work that caused that violation?”

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