The 5STips for Lean Managers

Announcing the 5S Challenge Winners!

By Jon Miller Published on May 18th, 2007

Thank you Konrad, Ron, Robert, Nancy, Chris, Eric, Jason, Rajdeep and Dee for your thoughtful answers to the question “which of the 5S is hardest and why?
There was a lot of emphasis in on keeping it going, the 5th S known as sustain, shitsuke, self-discipline or stick-to-it. A number of people also commented on the difficulty of getting started, particulary doing the 1st S properly, sorting or seiri. The difficulty of standardizing 5S between individuals and shifts was also pointed out.
Each of these answers is correct and collectively they add great insight on how to succeed with 5S from the personal experiences of practitioners.
Personally, the 2nd S is the most challenging, because it is deceptively simple. Called set in order, straighten, or seiton, the goal of the 2nd S is to make everything that is left after the 1st (getting rid of items not needed) readily available at the point of use. Many times a shadow board is as far as companies go with seiton. Yet they struggle to sustain. Why?
In Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management the 2nd S is explained as arranging items for swift retrieval. He used the Japanese characters for seiton to explain that “ton” is the same word used for “tonpuku” or fast-acting medicine. True 2nd S makes items immediate accessible, rather than simply lining them up or arranging them neatly and putting labels and location markers around them.
If 2nd S was done properly, the items would be truly and exactly where people wanted them, making work easier. People would take ownership and defend the location of these items because seiton was a real improvement for them. When “fake” seiton is done it does not sustain because items migrate back to where they are really used or needed.
There is also the problem of gravity. The opposite of swift retrieval is swift return. If it is easier to drop the item or lay it flat on a table than to put it in the “correct point of use storage location” identified by the 5S team, you can bet that gravity will win. People will do what takes least effort. So we need to think harder about how to not fight gravity and how to make it easy to sustain what you set in order.
And last but not least, here is a video announcing the 5S challenge winners! If your name was picked out of the bag, please e-mail us at [email protected] and tell us where to send your prize, the 5S in A Bag teaching aid.

  1. Gil Nelson S. Padama

    May 18, 2007 - 11:16 pm

    I think that the hardest part is the first S or Seiri. Seiri means you have to sort first what items are needed and not needed. You must decide which item to throw away, to sell, to send back to its proper owner or location, to repair if it can be repaired and to put all of the needed items in a location where everyone can see. Likewise, red Kanban or label must be stick to all the items that are not needed and there must be a person who will decide on what to do with these items. If you do not know what items are needed then you can not do also seiton how to arrange all the necessary things. It is deciding first what items are needed before you can arrange them.

  2. Konrad Grondek

    May 19, 2007 - 12:53 pm

    Congratulations to all winners!
    Jon, if the 2-nd S is the most difficult to implement, I wonder if I’d ever succeed in implementing it in my previous company! Therefore I have left them lately and joined Japanese company (Tier 1 supplier to Toyota). Here should be no problem in Lean implementation.

  3. Jon Miller

    May 19, 2007 - 9:58 pm

    I wouldn’t say Lean implementation should be no problem at a tier 1 Toyota supplier, Konrad. There is nothing inherently superior about Japanese management. They are just as human. You can expect a better understanding of Lean tools and principles, at least on the surface, but they may not have the same long-term philosophy or values as that makes Toyota great. It should be a good learning opportunity nonetheless.

  4. Ron (Yes, Winning Ron)

    May 20, 2007 - 8:27 pm

    SWEETNESS! I can’t wait to get my 5S kit. I’ll shoot Marcie an email with my home address. Thanks Jon!

  5. Yufi Priyo

    December 30, 2010 - 9:38 pm

    In my opinion the most difficult part is managing the organization of 5s itself. Since 5s are the basic manufacturing that should be done by all components of the company, from top managers to production operators. And everyone must be mutually supportive. Good management of 5S cannot be said to succeed if you cannot make a habit of 5s activity. Therefore, briefing, training conducted regularly and continuously be a factor in the successful of 5s implementation in a company

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