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[1]. 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

The original concept was developed by Osada in the early 1980s. It has been widely practised 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 practised 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 probles 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.

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.

© MCB University Press · ISSN 0968-4875



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