Five related terms beginning with an S sound that describe workplace activities related to being visually in control and Lean production. The five - Japanese - terms read: 

  1. Seiri (Separate): Separate the items you need from items you don't - tools, parts, materials, paperwork - and get rid of everything you don't need.
  2. Seiton (SCHIKKEN): Order the remaining neatly - a place for everything, and everything in its place.
  3. Seiso (CLEAN): clean and inspect.
  4. Seiketsu (STANDARDIZING): Cleanliness resulting from regular practice of the first three S's.
  5. Shitsuke (STANDING): Discipline, to perform the first four S's.


The 5S are often translated in English as Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain; in Dutch they are translated as Separate, Arrange, Clean, Standardize and Maintain. Some Lean practitioners add a sixth S of Safety: establish safety procedures and introduce them in the workplace and office. 

Toyota, however, has traditionally worked with only 4S: 

1. Sifting (Seiri): Go through everything in the workplace, separating and eliminating what is not needed. 

2. Sort (Seiton): Arrange the items needed in a neat and user-friendly way. 

3. Clean Sweep (Seiso): Clean and inspect the work area, equipment and tools. 

4. Spic and span (Seiketsu): The order and cleanliness that result from disciplined execution of the first three S's. 

The last S - Shitsuke (Sustain) - is omitted because it becomes redundant within Toyota's system of daily, weekly and monthly audits to check standardized work. Whether 4, 5 or 6 S are used, the main point is that efforts are systematic and essential for Lean production. 5S is not a stand-alone program that can be pulled out separately. 

Lean Lexicon

Explanation of key Lean terms online
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