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Clean India Movement & 5S

If there is a ranking of countries in respect of observance of STANDARDS of sanitation and hygiene, one can be sure that India would figure close to the bottom. Some time ago, a British MP, Lucy Ivimy, was reported to have said that Indians did not know how to dispose of their rubbish and are congenital litterbugs.

From time to time, in their unguarded moments, highly placed persons in advanced industrial countries have burst out against Indians for being filthy and dirty in their ways of life. A majority of visitors to India from those countries complain of “Delhi belly” within a few hours of arrival, and some fall seriously ill.

There is no point in getting infuriated or defensive about this. The general lack of cleanliness and hygiene hits the eye wherever one goes in India — hotels, hospitals, households, workplaces, railway stations, trains, airplanes and, yes, temples. Indians think nothing of spitting whenever they like and wherever they choose, and living in surroundings which they themselves make unlivable by their dirty habits. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

“5S” is a reference to five words starting with letter S, for the basic elements of this system. Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set in Order), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu (Standardize) and Shitsuke (Self-discipline). One can also term these are 5 pillars of self organization or an effective workplace. We term it pillar because it supports the improvement structure. 5S is the starting point for any Continuous Improvement initiative. It is the DNA.

The 5S approach is universal and simple. The principle is same whether you apply this in a Foundry or in a Hospital. Without practising 5S, one cannot do quick changeovers, cannot maintain Just-in-time inventory system, or cannot practice Autonomous Maintenance.

The general myth pertaining to 5S is that 5S is practised only to give a cosmetic up-lift to the workplace. 5S is more than a good looking place. With changing demands of customers, one is forced to find new ways to ensure survival. To do this, a change in the mind-set or shift in paradigm is essential. A change in mind-set is influenced by the change in the physical environment. Thus, 5S facilitates the shift in the paradigms and paves way for improvement. 5S also creates an awareness of Non-value adding activities present in the processes.

Another myth is 5S is a step-by-step methodology. But, this is not! All the 5 pillars are to be practised together and not in isolation. One can observe that the first 3 pillars are Gemba oriented. However, without Standardization and Self-discipline, no Continuous Improvement Initiative would sustain.