The 5s

It has Japan origins and the words Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, Shitsuke are what in English translate to Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.  It traces its roots to the manufacturing industry but has evolved and proved itself in other industries as well, such as healthcare, kitchen and government institutions and has been able to achieve rapid continuous improvement where it has been employed. It got its name because it has 5 principles that all begin with the letter S. They include:

  1. Sort

Keep regularly used items at close range. The employees help in the decision making to help determine what should be kept in the workplace and what can be disposed. The less cluttered a workplace the safer it becomes. They also determine how the arrangement should be done in terms of frequency of use of item, purpose, importance and who uses it. All employees should participate in 5s. Clutter is thrown away or recycled.

  1. Straighten

Helps workers by ensuring a friendly workplace, as they know where various items are kept and can have access to them in less than 30 seconds. Improves efficiency and reduces time wasting. The following can be put into consideration: frequency of items used, who uses them, should items be grouped by type, are storage containers necessary and if they need to be placed in a particular area or space where everyone can access them.

  1. Shine

Make the work area and tools easily accessible for immediate use. Clean the work area and also regularly maintain the equipment. Shine includes everyone and not just the clean staff to participate in cleaning and this helps the workers to take ownership of the place thus less clutter and dirt. Cleaning should be a daily activity.

  1. Standardize

The same methodology is applied in each work and the employees are given the opportunity to be creative and come with new ideas on how best to improve a product. It is also helpful in maintaining routines of the above processes so that they do not lapse. It may do so by assigning tasks.

  1. Sustain

Every employee is responsible for the safety, effectiveness and efficiency of their work place because they own it as a team. The procedures must be maintained and updated regularly to ensure that the first four steps do not lapse to the chaos experienced at the beginning of the process.


  • Helps in cost reduction
  • Reduces injuries to a minimum
  • Saves on time as every tool is easily available, when needed
  • Increases productivity
  • Ensures that an employee is motivated as they are allowed to voice their opinions on product improvement
  • The work place becomes a happy place to work in because it is properly arranged
  • The product quality is greatly improved
  • New products may emerge as a result of brainstorming ideas by employees
  • 5s is not expensive to implement.


  • Can be time consuming at the start of implementation
  • In an organization that already exists, it may mean an increase in the work load.
  • Interest may go away with time making it harder and harder to implement
  • The company might need to completely change tactics which will require a lot of attention and may result in some loss of business.



Six sigma is a business strategy that aims at creating products with the best possible quality, cost and delivery, it attempts at near perfection. It emphasizes on the DMAIC approach: define, measure, analyze, improve and control. The statistical representation of Six Sigma describes quantitatively how a process is performing. To achieve Six Sigma, a process must not produce more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. (Isixsigma, 2017)

DMAIC: This method is used primarily for improving existing business processes. The letters stand for:

  • Define the problem and the project goals
  • Measure in detail the various aspects of the current process
  • Analyze data to, among other things,  find the root defects in a process
  • Improve the process
  • Control how the process is done in the future.

Six sigma also has a second strategy DMADV.

DMADV: This method is typically used to create new processes and new products or services. The letters stand for:

  • Define the project goals
  • Measure critical components of the process and the product capabilities
  • Analyze the data and develop various designs for the process, eventually picking the best one
  • Design and test details of the process
  • Verify the design by running simulations and a pilot program, and then handing over the process to the client (Graves, 2017)

Six sigma utilizes tools such as the five whys; CTQ Tree and Root cause Analysis among others.

Advantages of Six Sigma

  • Decisions are made based on evidence, therefore heavily relies on data.
  • The method has already been tried and tested by large organizations such as Toyota and Motorola so it is bound to improve small organizations as well
  • DMADV aims at creating new products.
  • DMAIC improves the existing processes.
  • It is customer driven and aims at customer satisfaction
  • It considers the entire process before product unveiling rather than attempting to improve the final product.

Disadvantages of Six Sigma

  • I t is not time conscious as it does not encourage quick fixes
  • Employees need to undertake extensive training unlike the 5s which does not really require training.
  • Although it can work for both small and large corporations, it is essentially employed by large corporations who can afford the time and resources involved.
  • It requires skilled man power


A Gemba walk is a Japanese word meaning the real place. A Gemba walk is all about observing, engaging and improving. It involves mainly the top management getting out of their offices and interacting with their employees who are in the frontline of production every day. This is done by the leaders asking questions, the leaders can also engage their employees to understand the improvements they are making in their daily activities. It also provides an opportunity for leaders to appreciate the creativity in its work force because they are able to see firsthand what they have achieved and the innovations they have made to improve their skills and work space.

One needs to consider the 4 W’s before setting out to any Gemba walk.

  1. Where

This is the central place where all your business flows from; it is the very heart of the organization that is where the Gemba walk should be focused.


  1. Who and When?

The top management should schedule the Gemba in such a way that the Gemba is performed regularly. They can use the top-down approach where they will have someone do the Gemba quarterly, monthly and then daily. This is more effective as implementations will be easier to carry out.

  1. What?

What should the person performing the Gemba look out for?

-Rate of production

-Monitor and evaluate the flow of production


  1. How?

The Gemba can be performed by an evaluation sheet where recordings of observations can be done.

Advantages of Gemba

  • Unlike Management by Walking around (MBWA), Gemba is more effective as it engages the employees.
  • It can be an effective tool in driving processes faster, cheaper and better.
  • The managerial staff gets to see the problems faced by the floor team and act on it.
  • It has psychological benefits as the manager’s interest shows employees that they are an important part of the organization.
  • Motivation is achieved by engaging the workers and asking their input in decision making.

Disadvantages of the Gemba

  • The Gemba walk alone is not effective in improving productivity.
  • If the manager offers critism in public, this can demotivate the worker.


It is a strategy where everyone in the organization is striving towards the same goal. Everyone is involved and not just the top management. It aims at engaging the whole organization on the way forward as a team and the team goals are worked on by everyone.

It can be summarized in seven steps;

  • The management develops a strong overall vision
  • The management develops a mission statement and major objectives
  • The general objectives are broken down to annual goals
  • Each employee receives the annual goals
  • The employees begin to work towards the goals
  • Monthly reviews are done to ensure the plan does not fail
  • An annual review at the end of the year is done to determine if the desired end result has been achieved.


Advantages of Hoshin Kanri

  • It has measurable objectives making it easier to see progress.
  • It improves the organizations alignment.
  • It makes employees to own the project as well.
  • Decision making is made easier as anyone can pitch ideas.
  • It is effective for finding solutions to problems.


Also known as the Deming cycle and it includes:

  1. Plan

The plan should include individuals working in the organization and those that will be impacted by it. It should have implementation time lines and a good communication plan.

  1. Do

The step involves a lot of experimentation, observation and data collection to determine what is working and what is not in the progress pattern.

  1. Study

The results of the experimentation are weighed against the hypothesis and evaluate if any effects have been caused by the changes. Comparisons are made with the initial plan to see if improvement has been made. The study basically looks at what was discovered in the process of experimenting.

  1. Adjust

Decides what actions should be taken and future adjustments are done based on the initial for continued improvement.

Advantages of PDSA cycle

  • It builds corporate relationships.
  • It encourages team work
  • It is essential in the planning of the institution direction.

                        Limitations of the PDSA cycle

  • It may compete with other activities in the organization if all the effort is focused in one direction resulting in loses.


It is customer oriented and works on eliminating non-essential customer services and improving those that a customer is enthralled by. The customer is of utmost importance. The following steps are implemented:

  • Get a sponsor and define expectations.
  • Put together a team.
  • Choose the process that needs mapping and the problem that needs solving.
  • Create the current state map
  • Evaluate the current state
  • Create the future state map
  • Plan and act
  • Measure

Advantages of Value Stream Mapping

  • Improves productivity.
  • It gives the company a look into what their customer preferences are.
  • It points out waste and its sources.

Limitations of Value Stream Mapping

  • Applied incorrectly, misinterpretations are common leading to problems during implementations.
  • Some processes of VSM are complex, hence wasting time.



It is a combination of the best practice in a particular process. To establish standard work, you create, clarifying and sharing information about the most efficient procedure. It uses safety and best means often tried elsewhere to accomplish task. Standard work should:

  • Detail each process carefully
  • For each step use the best method.
  • Highlight key points essential to performance.
  • Explain why things should be done a specific way
  • Serve as a baseline for improvement.

Standard Work has several implementation steps:

  • Identifying the most efficient practices.
  • The best practice is documented in both text and images.
  • The document should be easily accessed
  • The employees are trained on how best to carry out the work.

Benefits of Standard Work

  1. Increased efficiency and higher value employees.
  2. Problem solving is made easier.
  3. Reduces stress for the employees.
  4. It ensures rapid effective communication between employees.
  5. Highlights employee needs and the management easily deals with them.
  6. Ensures work is made easier
  7. Product price is easy to pick.

              Limitations of Standard Work

  1. It may be time consuming.


It works by the power of visual information, by using sticky notes on a whiteboard to create a “picture” of your work. It enables one to see the work flow within the team, communicate with the team and receive feedback as well as send it. Kanban works the way the brain loves. A brain processes visual information faster than words. Kanban does you the favour of converting words to visuals and information if processed faster thus increased work flow. Imagine not having to read files upon files of work because a tool like Kanban processes the information for you to enjoy just the way you like it.

There are various types of Kanban that can flow within an organization as a communication tool for product development up until the supplier level.

  1. Withdrawal Kanban

They are used to move a specific number of parts from one production system to another. Once they have finished working on the parts, the same card is send back to signal the first group that they need to send the same exact number of parts for working on.

  1. Production Kanban

It is a list of everything the part requires for production to begin and be completed. It explains that production must begin and gives instructions on exactly what must be produced.

  1. Express Kanban

They are also known as signal cards and alert manufacturing about the shortage of a particular part so that it can be purchased.

  1. Emergency Kanban

Used as a signal to replace defective parts or to make the conditions of production to change.

  1. Through Kanban

They are used to save time by processing both withdrawal and production kanbans especially if the two workplaces occur side by side.

  1. Supplier Kanban

It goes directly to the supplier and represents the manufacturer or the client.

Advantages of Kanban

  • It reduces the need for storage space as products only arrive when needed.
  • If an upgrade is introduced, it can be made effective as soon as possible.
  • The amount of waste is reduced.
  • Saves on storage costs as raw materials only arrive when needed.
  • Ensures production is flexible and can be increased when demand is high and reduced when demand is slow without any disturbances.
  • It makes problem identification fast as production will stop at the point where the problem is being experienced.
  • It reduces time wasting by making supplies more accessible.
  • It greatly improves flow of materials from one section to another.
  • Machines are utilized better.

Disadvantages of Kanban

  • It is less effective where resources are shared.
  • It is less suitable in factories where volumes keep fluctuating.
  • It does not eliminate variables and a downtime could adversely affect it.
  • It is not suitable for short production runs or for companies with numerous product types and poor quality products.
  • A breakdown can lead to the entire line shutting down.



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