Sustaining a Better Work Environment with Shitsuke

Hopefully, you have become familiar enough with 5S by now to know the five Japanese terminologies for this process. The fifth step, Shitsuke, means “to sustain” or “sustained discipline. It is a commitment to maintain orderliness and practice the first four steps of 5S as a way of life. 5S is not something you can just start and give up on like a fad diet or learning to play the guitar. If this were the case, your organization’s working practices and work environment would go back to the way it was before implementing the 5S program.

The purpose of this last stage in 5S is to sustain the improvements you have made in your organization and to make 5S a part of your everyday life. Shitsuke is necessary to ensure that your organization does not revert to its old ways and lose all the rewards and benefits from the 5S implementation program.

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To easily understand this terminology, Shitsuke is often applied when teaching children. You may have heard the old expression, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” In Japanese schools, teaching children how to maintain self-control is just as important as learning to read and write. Caring for others, cooperation, and taking turns are behaviors that are constantly reinforced in Japanese children.

Disapproval from their peers punishes children who are selfish and only care about themselves at the expense of others. Schools and social activities include consensus-building, and this is why Japanese people can organize and form a consensus fairly quickly in comparison to Westerners. People in the West are taught first to decide who will become a leader or choose the individual who has the best idea before any action can occur.

Another excellent example of Shitsuke is making a comparison of how the Japanese respond to natural disasters compared to other countries in the world. Typically, when a natural disaster occurs like a hurricane, flood, earthquake, or some other type of calamity or devastation, an accompanying effect may include chaos, lawlessness, killing, or looting.

A few years ago, when the Great East Japan Earthquake happened and was followed by a destructive tsunami, the people in Japan showed great resiliency and social strength because none of the adverse effects that typically accompany a natural disaster happened. Their response to the disaster was to remain calm and continue orderly actions. This example is a perfect illustration of how Shitsuke helps sustain positive cultural values.

Benefits of Shitsuke

If there is no deliberate effort to sustain the discipline of the 5S method, all benefits from the first four steps would be lost. Also, the fifth step helps organizations and individuals because the discipline that is reinforced in this step assist them to tackle further initiatives. It is also easy to slip back and return to previous old bad habits.

Think about celebrities who go into rehab for alcohol or drug abuse and then later make headlines for repeating the same negative habits and behavior they tried to eliminate. This is because there is no sustained discipline and the same principle applies to organizations and individuals in the workplace.

The 5S process is often hindered when management does not reward compliance. This is particularly the case in work environments that include productivity quotas and routine deadlines. If a worker has to come in on the weekend just to get a project completed on time, that person may not be willing to store tools and clean up their work area properly.

When following the 5S method, Shitsuke should be supported by management by taking the correct action. This may include compensating that employee for the extra time worked or at least acknowledging the great effort that person made by coming in on the weekend. There should also be a protocol in place for standardized cleanup even outside of regular working hours. The benefits of the fifth step will be lost if there is no deliberate effort by everyone to sustain the discipline.

The benefits of Shitsuke are enormous.

Here is a detailed list of the benefits this step includes:

Long-term Productivity Improvements

  • Consistency storing tools in the proper place and the most frequently used tools are the closest ones within reach
  • Reduced wear and tear on tools and machinery due to regular visual inspections and improved cleanliness
  • Clear communication using signs that show where all equipment and tools are stored, which routes to take to avoid moving equipment, and safety hazards that workers should avoid
  • Clear communication on bulletin boards and printed materials; out of date ones are stored away or discarded
  • Tools and materials are quicker to locate and move around since all useless clutter has been removed from the work area
  • Proper tools are more efficient than ones that are patched up or improvised
  • More consistency in providing higher quality because the work instructions are very clear

Increased Employee Morale

  • Reverting back to an old, messy workplace would unravel the pride that employees have when their work environment is clean and well-organized
  • If standards slip, the pride of accomplishment and the sense of joint effort would be lost
  • If employees begin to think that management does not follow through on projects, morale will sink
  • Continuous attention is paid to employee suggestions

Improved Safety and Health

  • Tripping over obstacles and electrical hazards are reduced or eliminated in the Seiri step
  • Completed in the Seiri step, electrical hazards and tripping over items were reduced or eliminated
  • Corrected seating and workbench heights were implemented during the Seiri step so that fewer injuries occur due to uncomfortable work positions
  • Problems are addressed promptly to include fixing all equipment and tools, so they are well-maintained, leaking gaskets or seals are identified and replaced, and routine visual inspections identify any beginnings of rust or cracks.

How to Sustain 5S

It is in human nature to resist change. It is going to be pretty hard to sustain 5S if you have employees that are saying things like, “It’s my mess, and I like it that way.” or “Why is management trying to reinvent the wheel? We already have a process that works.” You are probably not surprised to know that many organizations who have tried to implement 5S sometimes find themselves with the same dirty, cluttered work area just a few weeks or months after implementing 5S. There will always be a tendency to return to the way things used to be because everyone wants to be in their old comfort zone.

A powerful tool for sustaining 5S is to use a checklist. A checklist provides physical evidence that management is serious about tasks that must be completed and it serves proof that the work has been done. A good example is a checklist you may find in restrooms at malls and fast food restaurants. Both customers and managers can look at the checklist to see when the restroom was last serviced. This checklist plays a major role in ensuring that public restrooms do not turn into smelly, disgusting disaster areas. The same principle applies to organizations when they follow checklists to sustain 5S.

Ongoing communication is also an important factor when sustaining 5S. If a message is not clear and well understood, chaos and disorganization will occur. Communication is only effective when everyone has a clear understanding, and this should be done quickly and easily to have the best communication in an organization. With 5S, signs and color schemes must be clearly understood where the message will always be clear.

Sustaining 5S also involves tying together the first three steps of Seiri, Seiton, and Seiketsu. This involves sustaining ongoing discipline to:

Seiri - Vigilantly remove outdated items

Example: For every announcement that is posted on a bulletin board, add a “Remove by” date, just like you see on products in a supermarket.

Seiton - Ensure that tools and equipment are stored properly

Example: Use color-coded tape to outline where every tool should be placed or hung on the tool rack.

Seiketsu - Make a continuous effort to do standardized cleanup and live up to the Seiso standard. Follow Seiketsu by always striving to make improvements.

Example: Do inspections in areas where dirt is hard to remove, figure out where the dirt is coming from, and make efforts to eliminate the dirt source completely.

Once Shitsuke is achieved, employees will voluntarily observe orderliness and cleanliness at all times and will not have to be reminded by management. This is when you will have achieved full sustainment of 5S.

Changing the Culture with Shitsuke

Once implemented, you will witness a tremendous change in work culture as you use the fifth step to create a program for continuous improvement and focusing on defining a new status quo and standard for workplace organization. You can also expect to see an increase in morale, more positive impressions on customers, and increased efficiency and organization. Employees will feel better about where they work, and the effect on continuous improvement will lead to better quality, faster lead times, and less waste. As your organization's culture changes with the fifth step, it will also become more competitive and profitable in the marketplace.

Changing the culture with Shitsuke also involves leading by example. The management of your organization must also follow the principles of the fifth step in their areas. Managers who sit in the office all day behind a computer and never taking a look outside to see what is going on are not following the principles of 5S. Every once in a while, they should be on the lookout for things that are out of place or asking questions about tools or equipment that is missing. They should also be enforcing the principles of 5S by identifying untidy areas and tools or equipment that require maintenance and cleaning.

The work culture changes when employees are given time and trained to continually improve using the fifth step because they have a say in the destiny of the company and feel that they truly own their work areas. As a company, the most powerful tool you have at your disposal is a motivated and loyal workforce that continually implements Shitsuke to improve the organization.

Work culture is also enhanced with the 5S storyboard that displays before-and-after photographs and any other information that is relevant to the implementation of the 5S method. You can laugh about the old days when Bob’s workstation used to look like a scrap metal junkyard, but now it is one of the tidiest and cleanest workstations in the entire company. This is when you know that the implementation of Shitsuke has changed the work culture of the organization.

Sustain Improvement with the Fifth Step

Shitsuke is the fifth step of the 5S method and also the final step. This step is just as important as the previous four because sinking back into old bad habits will undo any pride you have created by having well-organized, clean work areas. By following the 5S method consistently using Shitsuke, your organization will work more smoothly and everyone will enjoy an improved work environment.

Author: Eric Raio

Eric Raio is one of the founders of Factory Solutions. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome software. He likes to geek out about flying drones and technology.

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