Ask GembaThe 5S

Ask Gemba: Do We Need the 4th and 5th S?

By Jon Miller Updated on May 18th, 2017

Personally I don’t care a great deal for the 4th and 5th S. The team activity of throwing things out, rearranging and cleaning things up can be a blast. Once that’s done and the excitement wears off, the daily maintenance and self-discipline can be a drag. As a consequence I have tended to give the 4th and 5th S short shrift in discussion of 5S. I know I am not alone in doing this.
Standardizing and sustaining are vitally important. But they are not things you can do as a kaizen event (like you can with the 3S). The 4th and 5th S are not things that can be instilled into a company culture through a 5S program. This is one reason why many companies fail at 5S. You need discipline and standards to sustain the sort, straighten and sweep (3S). In fact if you have the 4th and 5th S to begin with, chances are the workplace is fairly neat and tidy already. Even if not, the 3S have a greater chance of success with a foundation of the 4th and 5th S. Perhaps we have the order wrong if the foundation building is the last two steps?
The 5S are built into nearly all aspects of lean from TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) to SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) to kanban (pull system) to visual management to cellular work flow to in-process quality assurance, to list just a few. The essence of 5S activity is to:

  1. Restore normal conditions for safety, quality and productivity,
  2. Set visual standards, and
  3. Find abnormalities through routine S activity.

In some ways, the above is the definition of management itself. We can achieve these three steps with only the first 3S. The 4th and 5th S are really there to keep up this cycle.
What we call 5S today (or 6S or 7S) started out as 2S “seiri seiton” (sort and straighten) and evolved. Toyota calls it 4S and some other companies doing a serious job of 5S call it 3S. So we might start out with a reflection and do “5S of 5S”. Ask “Do we really need all five S?” and then “Which S do we need first?” rather than blindly following the sequence set out in books. The first 3S are “action” or behavior words while the last two are more “foundation” or mindset words – setting and maintaining good conditions. Use them as appropriate to your situation.
So I would like to pose three questions:

  1. Are the 4th and 5th S vital part of a 5S program or are they unnecessary if you have good management?
  2. What activities or tools during the 4th S phase have you found most useful?
  3. What activities or tools during the 5th S phase have you found most useful?

The next online training modules we will add to our Transforming Your Value Stream course at Gemba Academy will be on 5S. One of our aims at Gemba Academy is to have the content development driven by you, the customer, both in terms of what we develop and what goes into the modules. This is your first chance to contribute your ideas on what should go in the modules on the 4th and 5th S.

  1. Bryan

    March 20, 2009 - 1:31 pm

    Unfortunately, something has been lost in translation with North American 5S. Standardize is actually not the act of creating cleaning and straightening checklists. It is rather the act of having a questioning attitude: “Do we have waste-free standardization in the workplace?” For example, we can paint lines and label everything, and arbitrarily throw things out. But did we teach anybody anything they don’t already know from the annual spring cleaning? What we really need is to ask questions about the wastes in the genba – and when we standardize them – we do do it in a waste free fashion. My understanding of the 5th S is that it actually means to teach, or to gain self-discipline through teaching. Are we teaching other people about waste free standardization? Or are we “auditing” in order to “sustain” (i.e., maintain cleanliness)
    5S is so much more than just spring cleaning and sweeping and then creating checklists for our workers to “standardize” and “sustain” it. If 5S is the foundation of lean, is cleaning the foundation of lean? This can’t be!

  2. Mark Graban

    March 20, 2009 - 2:14 pm

    1. Are the 4th and 5th S vital part of a 5S program or are they unnecessary if you have good management?
    I believe the 4th and 5th S’s are necessary because most organizations starting on their lean journey do NOT have good management. When teaching 5S, I use the Standardize and Sustain concepts to help emphasize that this is NOT just a one-time cleanup activity. It’s an ongoing, never-ending process.
    2. What activities or tools during the 4th S phase have you found most useful?
    I’ve found that building “5S time” into someone’s standardized work (their daily routine) is helpful. Maybe 5 minutes at the end of the shift or 15 minutes a week.
    3. What activities or tools during the 5th S phase have you found most useful?
    This is really the key — if you can’t manage and sustain 5S, then you might as well give up on Lean. Regular management audits are key — walking the gemba daily in a structured way to make sure 5S organization is being followed and maintained. Front line supervisors should check each shift and higher level managers should also check at the gemba, but less frequently.
    Another good practice is to have a regular 5S revisiting, either monthly or quarterly. Are there, once again, items that are no longer needed, do the locations of items need updating? Ideally, this should happen continuously every day. But early in the Lean process, managers should stop and take a time out to reconsider their 5S status and reinforce the message to employees.

  3. Jon Miller

    March 20, 2009 - 2:24 pm

    Speaking of things being lost in translation, I should point out that the 4th S in the original Japanese is “seiketsu” which means “cleanliness” or “sanitary” which always seemed redundant to me, although the value of keeping something in a highly hygienic condition can’t be argued with.

  4. Harish

    March 20, 2009 - 6:04 pm

    I think the 4th and 5th S gained all the attention due to the difference in cultures (East and West).
    If you think, you cannot sort and straighten with out shining as well. You do not want to do the first three every day (rest of the 2 S’s). People do not associate waste finding with 5S and that is a shame.
    Great post, Jon…

  5. Iulian

    March 22, 2009 - 2:12 am

    It depends were you are in dealing with lean and how much variance you have in you production/processing mix.
    I would say the 4th and the 5th Ss are related to the management of the first 3 Ss. You need to standardize and to disseminate the Work Station (WS) configuration. To do this, a documented prescription is needed. This serves to training, to get enough flexibility to operators and supervisors when moving from one WS to another or to regularly replace an item into a WS using a predefined WS Configuration. This is part the 4th S and part of the 5th S as well. To sustain an already settled 3Ss WS configuration you have to have all the inventory management system in place to either replace an item or to quickly re-arrange in a standardized way the involved WSs when the products’ mix is changed…..
    Note: it looks like applicable to manufacturing only, but I mean it for any business process too with the correct emphasis to the complexity of the processes.
    To conclude: Implement 5Ss and focus the Visual Management of the 3Ss.

  6. Forrest Andrews

    March 23, 2009 - 7:23 am

    Without the 4th and 5th S, the 5S process could simply be called “Spring Cleaning”. If one does not Standardize and Sustain during the 5S process, they will find themselves right back at the beginning down the road with nothing to show for their efforts. Lean manufacturing is not about short term improvements, it is about continuous improvements that have long term benefit. We can all clean up an area; it is maintaining that area that is difficult. Remember, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it”.

  7. Sean Jordan

    March 23, 2009 - 1:26 pm

    I would like to say that every S is important for many of the reasons already suggested. But I think many organizations looking to adopt lean tools believe they can just check off the 5S and move onto the next tool.
    For the past three years I have let my 5S JBS and JI skills guide project teams (and their management) through 5S. The standardized process of implementing 5S actually has 11 Important Steps (according to me). Those important steps following a problem solving process. If the team can’t understand why they are doing 5S, then we don’t do 5S until the team is ready. I like to prepare the worker and share the problem solving process. Typically individuals who don’t know the value of 5S, were volunteered for the event. And managers jumping on the 5S bandwagon don’t really understand the commitment required to properly sustain the investment.
    Giving ‘newbies’ a thorough standardized process gives them confidence and the increased ability to acheive/replicate their success. It also builds strength in the organization because they are establishing standard work.
    Finally, my 5S standardized work creates sustainment because it requires check and act elements in the final important steps.

  8. Gilbert Page

    March 31, 2009 - 2:55 pm

    At our business we have found 5S to be a very important tool in developing the 4th and 5th S in a business that did not really have those disciplines previously. As a group activity we set standards by creating simple visual display by taking photos of the areas and its owner following 3S and posting them with the question “Do I look like this?”. These simple standards are a good team exercise. Once the standard is posted both the area owner and his visitors get in on the 5th S when the area begins to not look so much like the photo people comment and you see a team effort develop to sustain and identify future opportunities.

  9. Wal Kazarin

    April 21, 2009 - 1:39 am

    At first, sorry for my very bad English.
    I live in Russia and here we have a some cultural tradition, that break off your efforts if you make only first 3S.
    I try to explain.
    Many people sad that Russians is lazy. Yes, may be, but this is base for inventiveness (resourcefulness, i don’t know, what translation in English is best).
    We don’t like to follow standards.
    We say: German like standards (ordnung), we – don’t.
    If you walk in russian plant, best – old plant, that built in Soviet Union age, if you try to set a standard here – tomorrow situation return to the past.
    When we introduce 5S, people said – we haven’t interest for this.
    Ok. we say: let’s make first 3S and workspace would be good.
    Ok. People agried. We make together best workplace, next day worker look at this and think: hm, i don’t like this, what a hell…
    Workers think about working around standard. And workers win this game because they smart for it.
    Mindset? Possible.
    In Soviet Union age here was created system of Science Organization of working – (sorry for bad translation). I know some of this used for TPS development. But this Soviet Union system is dead in time.
    When we speaking about 5S, old guys think: Nothing new, it is Soviet Union Science organization of working, this system is dead and 5S would be next. Let’s look at this death.
    And when we speak about standard, these guys think: standard – it is something to live forever.
    They remember Soviet Union GOST – system of standards without mobility, that not changed long long years.
    It is mindset of many our russian workers.
    And we use 4th to change mindset. Standards – not forever. Standards – first thing for change. But without standard we don’t know what we need to change.
    As well 5th S to change mindset. Management’s mindset. Implementing 5th S is part of CONTINUOUS improvement, not kaizen EVENTS. If you like kaizen events 5th S is kind of waste.

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