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:
- Restore normal conditions for safety, quality and productivity,
- Set visual standards, and
- 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:
- Are the 4th and 5th S vital part of a 5S program or are they unnecessary if you have good management?
- What activities or tools during the 4th S phase have you found most useful?
- 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.