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Cultivation of Positive Work Attitudes through 5S

by Kevin Chan

5S an acronym for the 5 Japanese workplace improvement practices, namely Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke, is also commonly known as ‘Good Housekeeping Practices’. The origin of this technique can be traced back to heavy steel industries in Japan more than 30 years ago. At that time, Seiri and Seiton were widely practiced to improve safety of the workplace and to save lives. Over the years, the automobile and other industries have adopted this technique too.


Meaning of 5S
Table: The meaning of 5S
Source: Teian Consulting International, Singapore

5S is now a structured technique with the first 3 ‘S’s meaning ‘Sort’, ‘Arrange’ and ‘Clean’ respectively. It forms the basis for daily practice of the technique. The 4th ‘S’ represents ‘to improve, standardize and maintain the standard of current housekeeping practices’. Eventually, people at the workplace will develop ‘self-discipline’ in carrying out and maintaining the ‘right’ activities at the workplace. Through these practices, positive work attitudes will eventually be cultivated among employees and that will help to bring about a high performance workplace.

In many instances, 5S had provided the foundation for the implementation and sustenance of many popular productivity programs like Total Quality Management (TQM), Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and Just-in-Time Production Systems (JIT). Besides, a well-implemented 5S program in Companies will involve every employee in tackling common issues related to Good Housekeeping Practices. This can help bring about continuous improvement (Kaizen) at the workplace.

Benefits of Implementing 5S
Table: Benefits of implementing 5S
Source: Teian Consulting International, Singapore

It is known that good 5S practices can help to reduce the ‘7 Wastes’ in operations, thereby improving the productivity of the workplace. For example, after learning 5S, an electrical contractor changed their company’s purchasing policy to buying raw materials for their project site in smaller lots. This forced the workers to consume each bundle of raw materials completely before new materials are being delivered to the site. With this new policy, the company saved on having to handle at least 4 truckloads full of unnecessary leftover materials that have to be brought back to the store at the end of the project. In addition, it is also known that 5S can help in improving equipment performance, safety and quality at the workplace.

Successful 5S implementation in companies needs to be structured and are commonly organized into 4 phases: Preparation, Training, Launching and Sustaining. Although it may seem that good housekeeping is simple, the experiences of many organizations have shown that these simple activities are often hard to sustain as people are often distracted by other modern sophisticated improvement techniques available in the market. As such, effective leadership and commitment by the top management is important for the success of the program in organizations.

This article have been written by our Principal Consultant, Mr. Kelvin Chan for the Asian Productivity Organization for their APO News published in April 2009 under the category of Productivity Methodologies, Tools and Techniques. The PDF version of the Newsletter is available for downloading from the Asian Productivity Organization website at this link.

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