The Japanese 5S and How You Can Apply It to Your Business

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Japan is known for a lot of wonderful things. From Mount Fuji to the infinite flavors of KitKat, you will surely never run out of things to be fascinated about. When it comes to business, Japanese people also have this one methodology you may want to integrate into your own operations: the 5S.

Simply put, the 5S is a philosophy that encourages people to develop and improve an existing system. It can be applied to workplaces, such as factories and offices. However, you can also apply it to your home and other aspects of your life.

If you want to know more about 5S and what each S stands for, read the following pointers below:


Seiri means sorting. In the context of the workplace, it means keeping only what is important. If you want to apply this to your workplace, materials, equipment, and tools that are not always used should be stored in a separate area. And items that are not used for a long time should be thrown away or sold. When there are fewer items in your shed, you will find it much easier to find what you need.


Once the non-essentials are discarded, the next step would be to organize in the work area. Seiton basically means to systematize. When you systematize the storage of the items, retrieval will be easy. For proper and systematic storage, you need to put labels and tags in cabinets and shelves. You can designate different areas for different purposes. Sorting may also mean categorizing frequently used items and things that are not utilized often.

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In English, seiso may mean to purify. After sorting and systematizing the items, you need to commit to keeping the look of the workplace that way. In the factory setting, it may translate to maintenance activities, such as regular cleaning and thorough inspection. If you are working in the office, using the best cleaning rags or hiring a cleaning company may be one of the steps that you should take into account.


Just like in any other type of work, you need to have quality assurance. And this can be done through standardization, which is essentially the meaning of seiketsu. In this phase, what you are supposed to do is make sure that the first three steps are held to a certain level of standards. The practices should be turned into habits.


Shitsuke means self-discipline. This should be designed to encapsulate the first four steps. As the leader of the business, you will be building an overall system or tradition that will be built on discipline and commitment to pursue the first four steps faithfully.

The Sixth S: Start It Now!

There are only 5S in the Japanese tradition, but you can also include this sixth S: start now. Procrastinating will only delay the progress that you are supposed to have. To promote this throughout your whole company, you need to involve your stakeholders, such as your leaders, decision-makers, and employees. Doing so can make implementing it more effective.

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