5S in the Japanese Workplace (4)
The 5S practices–Seiri (clearing up), Seiton (organizing), Seiso (cleaning), Seiketsu (sanitizing) and Shitsuke (training), is a system for reducing waste and increasing productivity by maintaining an orderly work environment. It was first developed in Japan and perfected by companies such as Toyota, who implemented it their production facilities. Later many companies adopted its methodology and techniques. It has truly become a world productivity system. In the previous article, we explored the Japanese roots of seiri, seiton and seiso. This time we turn to seiketsu. The word has been translated and interpreted as “sanitizing.” How does that work? Let’s take a closer look.
This is how the Japanese write seiketsu. The first character, 清 means “purify” or “cleanse.” It is the same character as the first character in 5S step 3 seiso (cleaning). The second character潔 when
used on its own is pronounced“isagiyoi” and means “undefiled, clean, gracious and courageous.”The two characters together mean “clean and sanitary.” Seiketsu is not simply a momentary state of cleanliness. It is an attitude of cleanliness and consistent habits for keeping things clean. Not just clean, but actively clean. The clean and unclean are separated. Unclean things should not be introduced to clean areas. Periodic checks are made to find and remove unclean things.
Separation of Clean and Unclean
The Japanese home is a clean space. Efforts are made to prevent dirt from the outside from entering a house. To avoid tracking dirt into the house, people take off their shoes, without exception, before entering. Sometimes ambulance personnel slip off their shoes before entering a house to save lives. A Japanese home is supposed to be a haven of comfort and cleanliness to those returning from outside. Also, public areas in Japan, such as toilets in railway stations, are relatively clean. Of course railway stations that millions pass through each day are not usually seiketsu though.
Importance of Process
From an early age, Japanese learn and internalize specific steps, procedures and standards for many everyday activities that Americans feel free to do. Kindergarten already know when to take off their shoes and where to place them correctly before entering a house or school (left and right shoes are placed together, toes and heels aligned, touching, toes facing outward). This happens to be the logical and efficient way, since it allows the wearer to slip easily into the shoes when leaving the building. You may have noticed that Japanese people’s English handwriting is very consistent from person to person. They have learned a specific process and standard for writing alphabet characters and numbers as well. There is not any forgiveness of messy handwriting, when it is written for others to read.
Developing Standardized Routines
In a 5S workplace, seiketsu seeks to find optimal processes for each particular task, situation and purpose. After the initial 5S steps–seiri, seiton and seiso, seiketsu develops a consistent approach for tasks and procedures. How often do they need to be performed? And by whom? How thoroughly? Seiketsu is a system for maintaining and supporting ongoing and consistent seiri, seiton and seiso activities.