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Applying 5 S Methodology, the cornerstone of Japanese lean manufacturing strength in our daily lives – Part 1

Tuesday June 10th, 2008 by fathersez

An organaized work place - A Teppanyaki chef at work

Jeff at the Supercharged Life said it best….A better life requires continual commitment.  A commitment to relentless series of small and incremental improvements in all facets of our life. Occasionally we may hit a dramatic leap forward, but the cornerstone has to be our ability and commitment to improve slowly and steadily. 

Jeff also mentioned Kaizen, the Japanese art of continuous improvement. The Japanese, in their wisdom, have created a methodology which if learned and applied will help us achieve this continual improvement. The whole concept of Kaizen may be a little complicated, but there is one aspect of Japanese manufacturing methods which can be quite easily understood and applied.  

The 5 S Methodologies. This will help form a strong foundation for our journey into continuous incremental improvements in our workplace, homes and lives.  

SiliconFarEast.com, a comprehensive online resource for semiconductor manufacturing has this to say about 5 S. As their write up is simple and easily understood, I’ll quote them here. 


The 5S Process, or simply “5S”, is a structured program to systematically achieve total organization, cleanliness, and standardization in the workplace.  

A well-organized workplace results in a safer, more efficient, and more productive operation.  It boosts the morale of the workers, promoting a sense of pride in their work and ownership of their responsibilities.      

“5S” stands for five (5) Japanese words that start with the letter ‘S’: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke.   


The first step of the “5S” process, Seiri, refers to the act of throwing away all unwanted, unnecessary, and unrelated materials in the workplace.  People involved in Seiri must not feel sorry about having to throw away things. The idea is to ensure that everything left in the workplace is related to work. Even the number of necessary items in the workplace must be kept to its absolute minimum.

Because of Seiri, simplification of tasks, effective use of space, and careful purchase of items follow.                                                                                                                                                                                                          Unquote  

This is the process of no mercy decluttering. Anything that is not needed is kept or thrown away. This frees the worker from having to spend time on unnecessary actions or steps in sieving through tools etc. to find the one needed.  


Can this workplace be more organized. Perhaps, perhaps not. 

This process can be done for the home or on ourselves. Much has been written about the advantages of decluttering our homes. Blog posts with tips on decluttering as well as the joys of a decluttered environment are many. You can have a look at:- 

- The Closet Entrepreneur’s 4 part series on this. (Some of the parts are still on the way.) 

- Tipnut’s 10 tips on mastering a messy home. 

Blunt Money’s one in – three out theory that works for him. 

- Clutter is alleged to breed negativity and low self esteem. 

On a personal level, we can also practice SEIRI. 

 I am sure; we have seen people or even personally experienced looking for something or another by checking each of the 20 or so pockets all over our pants and shirts. Not only is this time wasting but irritates the people who are all standing in line behind us. For example at immigration or ticketing counters. It’s all a function of having too many pockets.  

I cringe when I see people carrying 2 cell phones and answering the wrong one. Or too many credit cards, or too many store cards or handbags full of all kind of things including forks and spoons. Or two handbags!  

There are also many blog posts on how decluttering can help us at the personal level.  

- Read how decluttering even helps in promoting our career. 

In following posts, we shall look at the remaining four of the five “S”.

Though I have yet to sit down and formally talk about 5 S to my children, I have yelled 5 S, 5 S often enough while they are looking for something or another. My kids already know that 5 S is some system or method. I now have to take steps to make this a formal internal system in our household.    

Images Credit: From Google

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