Taiichi Ohno

Gemba Keiei by Taiichi Ohno, Chapter 30: Seiri Seiton Seiso Seiketsu Shitsuke

By Jon Miller Updated on January 5th, 2018

“Seiri (Sorting) is throwing out what you don’t need and Seiton (Straighten) is arranging items so that they are ready when you want them. Arranging things neatly is only Seiretsu (lining up in rows) and proper shop floor management requires Seiri and Seiton.”

Taiicho Ohno goes on to tell a story of when he visited a warehouse that was a mess. There was no order there and all incoming parts were stored so that even obsolete designs were kept for a long time. Ohno told them to do 2S and when he came back he found that they had done Seiretsu (lining up parts in neat rows) but they had not thrown anything out or put items in their proper place. So he scolded them.

Ohno further explains the correct meaning of Seiton. The “ton” part of that word means “right away” or “immediately” and suggests that when you do the second S (Straighten or Set in order) this means it is in the place where you need it and accessible immediately.

If you need to move other things out of the way to get at it, you have not done Seiton. Chances are, you haven’t really done Seiri either and there’s more there than you need.
Ohno says that people who spent time as soldiers may have a habit of Seiretsu or lining up in rows. Ohno denies that drawing lines on the floor to mark boundaries or lines for marking height limit has anything to do with true 2S.

Even at Toyota there was confusion in the beginning. They had 4S competitions (Seiri Seiton Seiso Seiketsu) once or twice per year where the areas of the factory with the best examples of 4S were given awards. But people did not understand and they lined things up in neat rows. Ohno told them this was no good since stacking things neatly or lining things up just made first in first out harder to do since it required re-stacking to get tot he first item.

Seiso (Sweeping) and Seiketsu (Sanitary or Spic and span) are not the same as making things look better. “If you do Seiso and Seiketsu wrong it can cost you a lot of paint.” Says Ohno. Many companies on the Lean journey today could heed these words.
The true meaning of Seiketsu is to create and maintain a cleanly and sanitary workplace. Sweeping away the dust and chips on the floor of a machine shop and keeping it clean is the original meaning, but Ohno says that Seiketsu is sometimes misunderstood as “color coordination” of machines and making things pretty.

Ohno explains that the idea of “clean” is not something that is the result of a janitor cleaning up after you. It is a question of attitude and of creating a healthy work environment. If your attitude is that “the janitor will clean it” you will not have a clean or sanitary workplace and it will always be dirty.

Ohno goes on at length about the added 5th S of Shitsuke (Self-discipline or properly Discipline) and how it is lacking in the schooling system of today. The way Ohno talks about Shitsuke (Self-discipline) the meaning is closer to “upbringing” or the kind of discipline that comes from being properly socialized in school, a sports or military organization.

After further criticizing the lack of discipline being taught in Japanese society Ohno says “Somebody needs to say these things. And the person that says them definitely has to practice what he preaches.” Ohno ends the chapter with these wise words:

“These days not so many people point out these things. That is the biggest problem. Discipline is taught when the senior ones scold the junior ones. This is not only in work but also between elders and youth. There must be scolding and correction, and not just talk but it must be followed by action.”

  1. Meikah Delid

    September 26, 2006 - 2:36 am

    Very useful information you got here. I have heard of 5S several times but this is the first time I get to read it like a narrative. I agree with you on the last part: discipline should be imposed on the floor.

  2. Jack Parsons

    September 26, 2006 - 8:19 am

    Disipline is not imposed. Discipline begins with management. I know of a company where the plant manager took ownership of one of the small machines on the plant floor. He was responsible for the cleaning and preventive maintenance of that machine. He demonstrated by example the principle that he wanted to instill on the factory floor.

  3. Barry

    September 30, 2006 - 1:01 pm

    When I read this chapter in the English version, I recall Onosan saying that things should basically be organized in such a way as to promote order and highlight the opportunities where kaizen could be done. Onosan seemed to imply that there should be order, but things did not have to be pretty. Is this what the Japanese version says ?

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