What is the goal with 5S?

I usually ask a question to people who tell me they have already ”done 5S.”

“If a very important visitor was to come – would you then have to clean a bit extra?

If the answer is: “Well, we might have to tidy up, yes.” then I do not consider your work with 5S to be “done”. You have tried it but not been successful in turning it into a real and standing change. Maybe you have just cleared stuff out and labeled your files but you have not taken your time and been thorough enough. Instead, you have rushed other concepts like Lean or Total Productive Maintenance that seem cooler and more effective.

For me the ultimate goal with 5S is to:

1. Have a clean, safe and effective workplace, every day.

2. Learn what is required to take care of our workplace.

3. Train management in an attentive leadership

What is needed to reach these goals?

Firstly we need to agree on a standard. Everyone must know and accept what should be done.

We need clear routines for what we are going to do, by whom and when so that everybody knows what is expected of them.

We need a planning system that helps us remember our duties and where eventual deviations will show clearly.

We need leadership that will notice deviations and initiate correcting and improving measures.

We need a system for following up on different levels to keep the standard we wish for, but also to give an incentive to the improvement work.

The point is that 5S offers a systematic way to obtain all of this in five clear steps, but only if you go all the way and see 5S as a way to renew your way of thinking throughout the whole organization. Properly implemented, 5S is a great shortcut to Lean and Total Productive Maintenance, since it has laid the foundation for new ways of thinking where we work more standardized and use deviations for improvement.

From the leaders’ side, you have proved that you are serious about actually striving for some real change that can be a driving force in the work for improvement. All of your colleagues get the joy of working in a workplace that is something to be proud of. Together you are more than prepared to take on the next step towards even higher efficiency.

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

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