Toyota’s Quality Tool: 5S

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

5S is one of Toyota Production System’s (TPS) many renowned philosophies, which aims to keep things in order, make problems more visible and in turn, quicker to solve. Ultimately, the 5S system should be integrated into the company by way of making it a natural habit in the work culture.

5S consists of 5 steps:

1. Seiri, pronounced “Say-Ree”, means “sort”. Sort through all items at a workstation and separate what is needed on a daily basis from what is not. Items that are unnecessary are removed.

2. Seiton, pronounced “Say-Ton”, means “straighten” or “set in order”. This step involves painting marks around each tool or piece of equipment. That way, every time a tool is taken from its place, it is indicated that it is missing. At the end of the day, workers know which tools need to be put back. This simple step can lead to great time-saving in the long run.

3. Seiso, pronounced “Say-So”, means “shine”.  Once everything has been “set in order”, workers take on a thorough cleaning process which they will practice daily. Keeping all work areas clean leads to faster problem-spotting, such as leaking, and even safer working conditions, such as preventing tripping.

4. Seiketsu, pronounced “Say-Ket-Soo”, means “standardize.”  After setting things in order and cleaning, it’s time to reflect on the three previous steps and now implement them effectively. To do so, establish rules and standards to ensure these steps are achieved regularly. Written instructions, visual aids and other methods make it useful and easy for employees to follow.

5. Shitsuke, pronounced “Shi-Tsu-Kay”, means “sustain”. The aim is to turn each of the four previous steps into a habit. Employees start seeking misplaced items instinctively, spotting excess or unnecessary items in their work place and clean up anything they see, the moment they see it. Achieved is a continuous effort among all employees to recognize waste and take action across all workstations accordingly.

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