Operations Director - The resource for operations professionals
I can hear you saying, what on earth are the 5S’s and as an Operations Director what
do I need to progress this within my organisation. This article will explain, in
brief, what the 5S’s actually stand for and also how this methodology, in the working
environment, can lead to a better organised and lean environment within your company.
What are the 5S’s
Let's start with trying to explain exactly what the 5S’s actually stands for.
You can well imagine that with a lot of business improvement techniques this particular
quality initiative derives from our friends in Japan. The Japanese, especially through
their car making and manufacturing operations were the catalyst of many quality ideologies.
The first “S” stands for “Seiri” which translated means “Sort”, the second “Seiton”
means “Set in order”, the third is “Seiso” which is Japanese for “Shine”, the fourth
is “Seiketsu” which is “Standardise” and the fifth and final “S” is “Shitsuke” which
The theory behind the 5S concept is to basically manage the work space in an organised
way. As with the lean thinking concept, which is intertwined with this business theory,
the whole aim is to look at the work flow, improve all the inefficiencies within
it, remove all the waste and by keeping the whole working environment neat and tidy,
then a safe working space is maintained thus employees feel that the areas in which
they spend all of their working days are clean, tidy and good to work in. It’s a
way of improving business whilst taking into account the environmental needs of the
In my working environment, we try to keep the working areas clean and bright. In
business operations (the area that I have responsibility for) management and staff
are encouraged to come up with ideas on how we can improve our work by being a slick
organisation. Business has a tendency to put up barriers especially those that will
slow a process down. Our job is to challenge those barriers and move forward as quickly
as possible. Let's quickly look at each of the 5S’s to briefly review what you should
Sort – Look at your working environment. Sort the processes out that are key to your
business forward. Focus on these to drive improvement.
Set in order – Once the key areas are identified set in place processes and procedures.
Every working method has some type of order. Identify and refine it. Use Lean thinking
to make whatever you are doing faster.
Shine – Ensure the working environment is pleasant and encourages better working
practices by staff.
Standardise – Once you have everything in place make it a day to day, hour to hour
Sustain - Only put in place what you believe can be sustained, There is nothing more
demotivating for personnel than to promote and initially implement what is seen to
be a great idea only to find three weeks later you don’t have the time and resources
to keep it going.
You have the ideas, you want to implement the 5S concept. The key is to get management
buy in. Whether you be an Operations Director or Manager, you will actually need
to buy in form probably most departments if you embark on the road of 5S implementation.
Aim to get the board on your side, let them communicate the intentions to the staff
because half the battle will then be won. Ensure management see the benefits of what
you are progressing. Track and monitor all improvements and if you can put some kind
of monetary benefit to the company. This is especially important in the current economic
Once you have the backing of the management team you may wish to engage “quality
professionals” to help you guide your company through the changes that will occur,
at the same time you will probably get great support from the staff especially if
their working conditions are seen to be improving. Maintain a clean working environment,
put in place a number of business improvement initiatives and most importantly do
not dismiss any ideas that may come about from anyone.
The 5S’s lay the foundation for good working practice and working conditions. It’s
the foundation to standardise processes and invoke discipline into the way your business
Nigel Penhearow is professionally qualified sales and operations expert with in-depth
knowledge of many business practices. Many of his articles are based on actual experience
of putting theory into practice. You can find out more about Nigel by visiting his
web site www.operations-director.com or you can link with him at LinkedIn by using
the following link http://uk.linkedin.com/in/penhearow .