Shitsuke ("Sustain") in 5S

Shitsuke is the fifth and final step of the Lean 5S method. It means "sustain" or "sustained discipline". It is a Japanese word that carries a wealth of cultural meaning:
  • Discipline and training imposed upon a person:
    • Children are taught by their parents to brush their teeth after every meal
  • Self-discipline:
    • Children grow into adults who brush their teeth after every meal
  • Shared cultural self-discipline:
    • Everyone is expected to brush their teeth after every meal
  • Personal discipline to continually practice and improve:
    • Golfers practice putts and drives – they do not simply play a round on the weekend without practicing in between
    • Implementation board

The responsibility for Shitsuke is shared between management and the workforce.

Managers should remind the employees of the 5S principles, and reinforce them through consistent messages and behaviors. For example:

  • Introduce and support audit and certification programs, to formally ensure that the new standards are supported and implemented
  • Develop Seiketsu (standardized cleanup) procedures and review the standards from time to time
  • Conduct inspections to ensure the standards are met
  • Devote time and resources to the less-frequent cleanups
  • Provide training, storage space, cleaning supplies, replacement parts and other resources as required to enable the standards to be met
  • Train new employees in the 5S methods, as well as explaining the principles
  • Communicate the 5S principles to the workers on a regular basis – perhaps by installing and updating posters that emphasize one or another aspect of the 5S program

Employees may remind each other when a task is missed. It should be obvious if a tool is left on a workbench rather than stored on a rack, or if someone does not tidy their workstation.

In addition to giving tours to customers, consider arranging for regular family days. This will reinforce the employees' pride in having a clean and efficient workplace.

On the other hand, what appears to be laziness or indifference to the standards might be a time-saving innovation. If a tool is only used at one workstation, why store it on the department's rack? The Seiton step may not have recognized this exception.

Sustain the whole principle of 5S – to promote a safe and efficient work environment – in addition to sustaining the details.

The next two articles discuss "how to" sustain 5S, and the benefits of sustaining 5S.

Later articles will deal with certification and audit, which are also part of sustaining 5S.

How to Sustain in Lean 5S

The previous article introduced Shitsuke. This article will discuss "how to" sustain the 5S efforts made so far.

The responsibility for Shitsuke is shared between management and the workforce. However, management must take responsibility for continuing to communicate the 5S message, and for regular inspections to enforce the standards.

Employees should be held accountable for doing the work and creating the results.

  • Management:
    • Set standards and processes (including task lists and schedules) based on the prior 5S stages (Seiso and Seiketsu), if this was not already accomplished
    • Introduce an audit process
    • Introduce a certification program
    • Inspect and enforce while the workforce is becoming accustomed to the new procedures, paying extra attention to the less-frequent cleanup tasks
    • Train new employees to follow the procedures; and also provide the reasons for 5S
    • Provide resources – tool racks, cleaning supplies, repairs, signage, storage areas, and the time required for weekly and infrequent cleaning
    • Continue communicating the 5S message in person and using appropriate media such as posters or newsletters, as well as posting the photographs from the one-time Seiso clean-up
    • Encourage continuous improvement by accepting suggestions on topics such as: better places to store tools; more efficient sequences of tasks; how to avoid creating dirt in the first place
    • Hold regular "family visit" days, to reinforce the employees' pride in making their workplace efficient, safe and tidy
  • Employees:
    • The 5S process should be a boost for morale and mutual respect: common tools are cleaned and stored properly; work benches and machines are tidy at the end of a shift; and everyone shares the responsibility and the achievement
    • Make suggestions to improve the processes
    • Help each other by visually inspecting each others' work areas


Notes on Sustaining 5S

A checklist is a powerful tool. It is a task list, it provides evidence that the tasks have been completed, but it also is physical evidence that management is serious about the tasks. This helps the company "walk the talk" that 5S is important.

Ongoing communication is also important. Communication is only effective if the message is clear and well understood. The best communication will also be easily and quickly understood. For safety, standardize signs that point out hazards. (The "red circle with a diagonal slash" is commonly used for "don't do this"; alternating yellow and black lines use a wasp's color scheme to indicate a hazard).  Use consistent signs where the messages are similar.

The Shitsuke step ties together the previous ongoing steps of (Seiri), (Seiton) and (Seiketsu). Sustain the ongoing discipline to:

  • Sort: vigilantly remove outdated items (Seiri):
    • Consider putting a "remove by" date on every announcement pinned to a bulletin board
  • Set in order: ensure that tools and materials are stored properly (Seiton):
    • When you invest in a new tool, take the time to make its place in the tool rack
  • Standardized Cleanup: continue living up to the Seiso standard, and try to improve (Seiketsu):
    • Where did this dirt come from?
    • Could we eliminate the source?

The next article discusses the benefits of the Shitsuke step; these benefits may provoke more ideas on how to go about it.

The Benefits of 5S Shitsuke

Briefly: all the benefits from the first four steps would be lost without a deliberate effort to sustain the discipline of the 5S method.  In addition, the discipline in Shitsuke helps individuals and organizations when they tackle further initiatives.

In general, it takes time and repetition to form any new routine. People are likely to slip back into their previous habits. Regarding the 5S process, this means falling back into being messy or disorganized.

Routine deadlines and productivity quotas can also hinder the 5S processes, especially if management does not reward compliance. A worker who needs to stay just a bit late to complete a production assignment may not voluntarily store tools and clean up. Should that person be compensated for the extra time? Is every employee required to follow the Seiketsu (standardized cleanup) as part of regular work?

A more detailed list of the benefits of Shitsuke includes:

  • Maintaining employee morale by:
    • The sense of joint effort and pride of accomplishment would be lost if standards slip
    • Morale would sink if employees begin to believe that management does not follow through on projects
    • Sinking back into a messy workplace would undo the pride that comes with having a clean and well-organized environment
    • Continuing to pay attention to employee suggestions
  • Long-term productivity improvements due to:
    • Reduced wear and tear on machinery, due to greater cleanliness and regular visual inspections
    • Consistently storing tools in the proper places: the most frequently-used are nearest to hand; no need to play "hunt the hammer" since it is stored correctly
    • Clear communication, especially on signs that show where tools are stored; what hazards to avoid; or what routes to take to avoid moving equipment
    • Clear communication on bulletin boards and in libraries, since out-of-date materials are discarded or filed away
    • Quicker to find needed tools or materials, since there is no useless clutter in the storage area
    • Quicker to move materials around the shop, since there is no useless clutter on the shop floor
    • The proper tools are more efficient than patched or improvised ones
    • Higher quality with greater consistency because of clear work instructions
  • Improved health and safety:
    • Lower concentrations of airborne contaminants (dust)
    • Tripping and electrical hazards were reduced or eliminated in the Seiri step
    • Well-maintained equipment: guards in place; leaking seals or gaskets are noticed and replaced; visual inspections spot the beginnings of cracks or rust, and these problems are addressed promptly
    • Fewer injuries due to repeated awkward motions, because Seiri reduced bending and twisting to retrieve low items
    • Fewer injuries due to uncomfortable work positions, because Seiri adjusted seating and workbench heights

Without Shitsuke – sustained discipline – at the "end" of the 5S process, any benefits from the first four steps will gradually evaporate.

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

Next step: PowerPoint - Five Steps to a Better Workplace

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