The 5S method

The 5S methodology is a Japanese improvement tool developed by Toyota in the 1960s, who popularized it – initially within the automobile sector – but has proven to be a methodology suitable for any company and sector with good results.

It was designed to increase productivity by improving working environments. This approach, focused on people and conditions in the workplace, is part of the essence of the TPS (Toyota Production System), the origin of the Lean methodology that incorporates this method.


The 5S are thus known by the name of their five stages, all of them with the letter S (in Japanese), Seiri (classify), Seiton (order), Seiso (clean), Seiketsu (standardize), Shitsuke (maintain).

SEIRI (classify): The objective of this stage is to identify the elements necessary to develop the activity in the workplace. It is necessary to separate the necessary elements from the unnecessary ones in order to eliminate them. During separation it is important to identify the frequency of use of the required elements as well as the correct quantity. Once the necessary elements identified by frequency are available, they must be classified to group those with similar frequencies of use. It should be noted that the initially separate elements as unnecessary may be necessary for another work center.
The results of this stage are observed with the decrease in stocks, obsolete stocks, a greater useful space and the improvement of productivity among other benefits.


SEITON (order): The objective of this stage is to design a new workspace with the classified elements. You must decide which location is the most appropriate for each thing so that each item has an assigned location, i. e. a place for each thing and that everything is in its place. In order to choose the location of each element, the classification by frequency of use carried out in the previous phase must be taken into account. This way, we will keep those elements with a greater frequency of use as close as possible to the workstation and we will move away from it as the frequency of use decreases.
Once the places have been assigned, it is necessary to organize and arrange all these elements in their space in such a way that they can be easily used. The identification of these spaces helps to keep the elements in place and reinforces the visual character of the methodology, for example by using labels, colours, etc.
At the end of this stage, productivity increases and an improvement in the working environment conditions can be observed, considerably reducing the visual’ stress’ of the worker.


SEISO (cleaning): the objective of this stage is to achieve a clean and safe working environment. A clean working environment facilitates visual inspection and the identification of possible deviations or incidents that previously could go unnoticed, helping to prevent them from entering the value chain causing quality problems. Not only must the cleaning of the work pieces and the environment be carried out, but also the sources of dirt must be identified in order to eliminate or minimise them. During cleaning, it is time to check the entire working environment by eliminating unnecessary elements and placing elements that have been left out of place, thus reinforcing the previous stages.
The improvement of conditions in the workplace and safety for the worker as well as the prevention of incidents in the value chain are the most relevant benefits of this stage.
SEIKETSU (standardization): the objective of this stage is to consolidate the results of the previous stages by incorporating these dynamics into the daily work. Updating of working procedures and instructions is necessary to incorporate the improvements defined in the previous stages. Standardizing the new work dynamics requires updating these procedures, as well as the creation of new documentation that includes the new situations and decisions taken. The new labour standards must be agreed with all the workers involved in order to consolidate the system and facilitate consolidation. Visual management at this stage is more relevant than in previous stages, because managers can identify improvement opportunities more easily.
This stage consolidates and reinforces the previous stages and is necessary in order not to return to the starting point.

SHITSUKE (discipline): the objective of this stage is to maintain the results of the previous stages by incorporating this system into the habits of all workers, creating a culture based on continuous improvement. To this end, the discipline and commitment of all employees is essential to ensure the success in maintaining these results over time. The human factor is key at this stage, which requires individual responsibility, the adoption of new habits, the monitoring of agreements, the participation of all people and constant support from management.
It is advisable to establish at this stage a simple and brief checklist that gives us the level of maintenance of the improvements adopted, not so much with the aim of obtaining a numerical result but so that the person responsible for your application can identify deviations that can be corrected at the same time.


The key to this methodology has been to have an order and sequence in activities that are usually carried out in any company to obtain a correct working environment but that can be carried out in a disorganized and/or incomplete way. The apparent simplicity of this methodology is also its greatest complexity, due to an over-confidence and relaxation once the first results have been obtained, so it is critical to ensure the final Shitsuke stage (discipline).

Lafotografica 016After years devoted to architecture, in 2011 José María López struck out on a new career path when he enrolled in the Master’s programme in Corporate Quality Management at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. There he found his true calling, so he gave up his personal endeavour at Arch and dove headlong into quality consultancy, first at The Flow Factory and later at Comtec. José María is also certified as an EFQM accredited assessor and an internal auditor of ISO 9001 quality management systems. His main area of specialisation is business process management.

Responsibility at work


We say “I have to go to work”, “I have to go to the five”, “I have to go get the children to school when you leave work,” “I have to finish a report”. Always “have to”. It is obligatory or we choose it? It is not so obvious as it seems. Language is never innocent. I am convinced that language creates reality, and whenever our mind and our mouths out one “have that” are laminated a few grams of our self-esteem.

idea-1026394_1920I’m amazed inside whenever I hear that someone at work tells me that “it has not been able” to finish a task for lack of time, or that it has gone very overwhelmed and “is it has not” look yet that report. I think: “what you did today at 5 in the morning?”. I gave that not you looked it you, directly, either you have descent looking at you it, but you do not show as a victim of the system saying that you could not, because in the end you just believing that you are a prisoner of circumstances, and it is not true.

Whenever we respond with a “is that…”, with a “can’t”, or a “have to”, we are making “small” mentally and physically. If we want to grow in self-esteem, responsibility, personal and professional freedom, let’s talk accordingly, because if not, we will not act accordingly.

decision-1013712_1920We are where we want to (always), and we do what we do in every moment, because we want it. The era of slavery already ended long ago. If you are now reading this blog is because you want to, and if not you are reading it, also. Let us excuses. There are two ways to approach any situation: as a victim or as responsible. Each choose and acts accordingly, and obtains the results consistent with its approach. The resentment to forgiveness. The complaint, to the claim. The “let”, to the “do so do it?”. The resignation, serene ambition. Action, reaction. The problem, to the challenge. Tolerance, acceptance (frankly it is told that the couple “to tolerate” that you “accept”). Fancy, to the request for feedback. Of passivity, to proactivity. From the outside, inside. Of the others, yourself. Follow the flock, to take the road less travelled… Victim, person in charge.

Stephen Covey says that in any circumstance of life in which we participate, we are surrounded by two concentric circles and we are in its central point: the circle of influence (CI) and the circle of concern (CP). That depends on me and what not. The circle of influence, which is the us closer and which initially are, includes any actions or decisions that matter to us and which depend exclusively on us: what will we do in the next minute, that we will say at the meeting this afternoon, as we face the visit in the morning to house the customer, etc. Sometimes it is a small circle, but it is never absent.

environment-1019748_1920The circle of concern includes all actions or decisions that also important to us but not dependent completely from us. CP is usually much larger and we placed many of our thoughts and desires our attention basic: customers buying decisions, the evolution of the market, the general economic situation, the opinion of our col•laboradors, etc. is what percentage of our daily thoughts in each of the circles? The responsibility is focusing solely on the possibilities that depend on one’s own: is to live mentally in the CI. The big secret is that, when one devotes its efforts at CI, this will expand how by magic, and increasingly is larger and can match the CP. It would be the same analogy as “address” or “pre – deal”. Depends on us, and never better. Train yourself to identify if every thought we have belongs to the circle of influence or the circle of concern.

question-mark-1026531_1920If things sometimes don’t go you well, either in the middle of a meeting, or in our relationship with co-workers or our superior and we are really committed to remedying this situation, it is not useful to worry about what they do or do not make the others: do it, even if it is a small step, which may seem insignificant or not very useful , but do it. After the first ten seconds, we apply the rule in the ten seconds following, and so on. We give the most of ourselves in the following immediate thing we do, without thinking about the apparent little effect that may have on the final outcome. This is said to be in the circle of influence. This is concentration. This is responsibility. Responsibility is the virtue of the virtues, the most powerful tool that we can use, the master key that opens all doors.

“Fate removes the cards, but we play them”                                                                                   Arthur Schopenhauer

Written by Jordi Besora

Jordi Besora is the team’s most veteran member after Pau Negre. After earning graduate degrees in Pharmacy and Food Science and Technology, he rounded out his education with an MBA in Food Industry Business Management from the University of Barcelona and a Master’s degree in Corporate Quality Management from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. He also works as a professional coach and is certified by the International Coach Federation. Jordi tackles every project with his characteristic passion and intensity, whether it involves ISO 9001, the EFQM Model, healthcare accreditation, business process management, OHSAS 18001, strategic plans or benchmarking.