Seiketsu in Lean 5S

Seiketsu is the fourth step of the 5S method. It means "standardized cleanup". It derives from the one-time Seiso step which made the factory "shiny clean" and set the standard for cleanliness. Seiketsu makes it possible and feasible to live up to that standard.

5S cards

This article introduces Seiketsu; the next article will provide more detail on how to do it.


Seiketsu enables and ensures compliance to the new standards of cleanliness. The benefits include:

  • Maintaining the higher morale gained during Seiso
    • Pride in the workplace
    • Relapsing into dirty or messy conditions means that the Seiso effort was wasted
  • Minimal investment in time: the goal is 5 minutes per worker per shift
    • No big clean-up before a visit from customers or executives
  • Less downtime for equipment


What Have We Learned?

One output from the Seiso step was a list describing the cleanup process:

  • Tasks
  • Tools required for each task
  • Sequence of tasks
  • Time required for each task

We also found repair and maintenance issues, and began to ask "Where does the dirt come from"?


How Can We Maintain Cleanliness?

As an overview, four main questions will provide the answer:

  • What sources of dirt can be eliminated?
  • What cleaning should be performed daily?
  • What cleaning should be performed weekly?
  • What cleaning should be performed less frequently, and how do we ensure it happens?

Standardization Beyond Cleanliness

Many 5S consultants suggest that Seiketsu should include standardizing more than just the cleanup tasks. They suggest that both Seiri ("sort") and Seiton ("set in order") need the same discipline.

That is true, but it is also a question of "what is included in Seiketsu"? Deciding which rack should hold a particular tool part of Seiton. If that tool is improperly left on a workbench, is that a violation of "setting in order" or of "cleanliness, including tidiness"? If the tool is stored in the correct rack, but caked with grease and dust – which principle is being violated?

How to Standardize Cleanup

Routines board

The previous article introduced Seiketsu. This article will discuss "how to" standardize cleanup processes to maintain the Seiso standard of cleanliness.

Ready – In the Starting Blocks

From the Seiso step, we have the following information about the cleanup process, or we have begun to list questions that require investigation:

  • Tasks required in each work area
    • Clean surfaces
    • Disassemble, clean, and visually inspect machinery
    • How to clean and where to store the cleaning tools (and consumables, such as detergents)
  • Tools required for each task
  • Sequence of tasks
  • Time required for each task
  • How often should this task be performed?
    • Daily, weekly or less frequently?
  • Where does the dirt come from?
    • Can the source be eliminated or re-directed?


Prevention is the Best Medicine

Let's return to the example of sawdust (or metal filings) produced by a cutting operation. The pile of sawdust was identified as "dirt", to be cleaned daily with a broom.

Could this step be eliminated? Could the sawdust be captured during the cutting operation? Would a vacuum "fume hood" be powerful enough to draw the sawdust directly to a barrel? What about attaching a bag, like one used on lawn mowers to catch grass clippings?

It goes without saying that repairing faulty equipment – such as leaking seals or hoses – is also a way to prevent a mess from starting.


Daily Cleaning Tasks

Each worker should have a set of daily cleanup tasks. These tasks may include:

  • Wipe or clean tools before storing them in their appropriate racks
  • Clean and inspect the machinery used during that shift
  • Clean one's own workbench
    • Dust or wipe down work surfaces
    • Store workbench items properly – put the lids back on jars, for example
  • Sweep a designated area of the floor
  • Turn off or unplug power tools as required
  • Visually check that everything is in place

This set of actions should not add more than about five minutes to each worker's set of routine daily tasks. One key is that this becomes the routine.

For management to enforce the standards, the standards need to be documented. Since managers actively helped in the one-step Seiso process, the photographs of the tidy workplace should be sufficient.


Weekly Cleaning Tasks

Checklist for cleaning tasks

It takes a bit more planning and organizing to ensure that weekly tasks are fully completed. Develop a binder for each work area, with clear instructions explaining these duties. Use a checklist to log who did each cleanup task. Follow up with a visual inspection of the task area, and by checking that the checklist has been signed.


Less Frequent Cleaning Tasks

Beyond the weekly horizon, the less frequent tasks require more attention and planning.

Like the weekly task system, this group needs a list of tasks and instructions, plus a checklist or logbook. In addition, it needs a scheduling system to ensure the tasks are accomplished on time.

The scheduling system may be set up on a computer. It could be as simple as a calendar in each work area, to remind workers when the cleaning tasks should be performed.

This also requires delegating a person to ensure the schedule is planned and followed.

Seiketsu standardizes cleanup: several successful repetitions are needed to make a change into a standardized habit. Daily and weekly tasks quickly become routine. Because of the time which elapses between the infrequent cleanup tasks, it will take longer to make them habitual and repeatable. Therefore it is vital to develop a system that works for your organization. Management should make these infrequent cleaning tasks into deliverables and inspect the results until satisfied that the change is habitual. You don't want to open a cabinet or move a machine and find a built-up mess that should have been addressed regularly.

The Benefits of "Standardized Cleanup"

What are the benefits of Seiketsu in the 5S process?

  • Brief (about five minutes!) daily cleanup should:
    • Maintain cleanliness, and therefore avoid periodic large-scale cleanup projects
    • Support the Seiri (sort) and Seiton (set in order) initiatives: regular cleaning ensures that only useful objects are kept, and tools are stored in their proper places
    • Maintains the morale boost from the one-time Seiso (shiny-clean) step: the effort was not wasted; management really is committed; and everyone continues to work toward this common goal
    • Provides a daily visual inspection of equipment and facilities, so preventative maintenance can be performed at the earliest possible time
    • Makes it easier to note that tools and materials are stored properly at the end of each shift
    • Reinforces the culture of tidiness, so workers are less likely to leave a mess that they will just have to clean up later
  • The less frequent cleanups – weekly or even less often – also have benefits:
    • Reinforces the good first impression of cleanliness and tidiness, because the less-used or less-visited areas are also well-maintained; there is no contrast between a showcase work station and a messy storage closet
    • Inspections reinforce the knowledge that management is committed to keeping the factory clean, tidy and organized
    • These also provide visual inspection of machinery
  • The cleaner environment:
    • Reduces environmental health hazards – dust or pools of toxic liquids – for workers
    • Reduces the chances of slips and falls, by cleaning spilled liquids
    • Reduces wear on machinery, by cleaning the equipment and by reducing airborne grit that can get into moving parts
  • Standardization itself:
    • Reduces training time: similar situations are documented in similar ways; basic tasks are performed in each work group; and experience co-workers can explain things to newcomers
    • Reduces or eliminates confusion – each worker knows the tasks and responsibilities
    • Improves morale by reducing the friction between workers with different personal tolerances for neatness, or different ways of storing tools
    • Contributes to consistent quality and productivity


Taking Standardization Beyond Cleanliness

There are good reasons for companies to spend significant time and money on "image": to design a logo, a colour scheme, and the font(s) which are used in advertising and on letterhead. One reason is "brand recognition" – the customer should instantly recognize the brand.

Consider developing standardized labels for tools and tool storage:

  • Use the same font and colour…
    • For all tools, everywhere?
    • For all the tools in one department?
    • For all the metric wrenches, but use a different colour for the imperial wrenches?
  • Always label the tool itself on a side that is displayed when stored on its rack
  • Use the same label on the tool rack (where the tool should be stored) as the label on the tool

The idea is that any worker should be able to recognize a "tool label", even on unfamiliar tools. The label might help indicate where it should be stored (in which department's tool rack), or for what purpose (metric or imperial products).

Use consistent signage – all "exit" signs look the same, but are different from "entry" signs or "washroom" signs – to make the message easy to understand quickly. Some of this has been built into society: the red circle with a slash to indicate "do not go here or do this"; skull and crossbones labels for poisons. Find ways to extend the use of standard colours and images to convey important information quickly and consistently. The main benefit here is increased workplace safety.

By Oskar Olofsson, author of the book "Succeeding with 5S"

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