5S – Spark the Improvement Cycle – Part II

Did you know that there is a difference between tidy-up and cleaning?

Tidy up is to SORT what is necessary from what is NOT necessary and to SET IN ORDER all the remaining necessary items. These are the first 2S’s in the 5S approach to workplace organisation and I discussed them in my first article here.

5S corresponds to 5 Japanese words that start with the S sound. The 5S’s in English, are as follows (other translations are possible!).

Sort (Seiri)  Set In Order (Seiton) Shine (Seiso)  Standardize (Seiketsu) Sustain (Shitsuke)

In this article I will introduce the 3rd S, SHINE, which covers the subject of cleaning.


Keeping a habit of daily, weekly and monthly cleaning cannot be overstated in production environments and, especially, in biomedical devices, my industry. Floors, work surfaces and equipment all require cleaning protocols to prevent use of materials that have come in contact with contaminated surfaces, or cross-contamination.

Here’s the new perspective: Think of a situation where you are cleaning the garage floor and you discover a few drips of oil near where you park. Would you be concerned?   What would your next step be?

Here’s another example: Let’s say you’re finishing up your shift and you’re tasked with cleaning the jigs for your process. You pick one them up and find your hand is now covered in some black gooey substance.  Is this normal? Where did that come from? Did it come from the jig? What will your next step be?

Our current understanding of cleaning is that it is necessary to protect the customer from surfaces that are already contaminated. However, when you look at cleaning from this new perspective, it becomes more than just compliance to your protocols.

When we clean we ask ourselves is this contamination abnormal, or not? If not, what caused the contamination to appear? With this new perspective, cleaning becomes an opportunity to detect and prevent future risk of contamination, or other abnormal conditions. This could mean early detection of a machine breakdown or detection of a process that could be a source for contamination.

If SHINE is about inspection it implies that when cleaning you have to pay attention, be present, focused and alert! The practice of cleaning is now a conscious and intentional process.

With this new perspective, cleaning becomes an opportunity to detect and prevent future risk of contamination, or other abnormal conditions.


Here’s another perspective on SHINE. If you’ve ever been at a Winners you’ve probably witnessed a scene sort of like this:  when you walk in you see fairly organized store, with items of the same category, generally grouped together. Candles for example, all grouped up but often, completely different styles: large, small, odd shapes, and mostly one of a kind. That’s ok because, at Winner’s, that’s the point, each item has own character, one of a kind.

But, then, as you walk through other aisles and sections, if you pay attention, you will see products strewn about in completely unrelated places. This happens when buyers take items, then change their minds, and leave them in a new place. You’ll see this happening everywhere: as if the place was a big party for all things material.

As a family man, I am obliged to enter such shopping places, more often than I desire. The last time I was there, I noticed something very, very interesting. The floor was really clean. And not just clean-ish with a few scuff marks: it shined. Next time you’re there, have a look. Waxed, shining, no dust bunnies, and there were no obvious scuff marks.

To retailers the production floor is the shop floor. Their process is working if the customer actually makes a purchase before leaving. If the shopping experience is good, and they come back, and repeat the process, it’s really effective. These days, of course, shopping is done independently, without a seller to help you. Now, imagine the independent buyer walking around jam spills, or on sticky, dirtied floors with scuff marks and dust bunnies. What do you think that person will be thinking? How does that reflect on the products being sold there? There is probably a study out there on the influence of a clean floor on buying, but I’m sure Sam Walton would agree: a clean floor is just good for business.

With SHINE we see that cleaning is a preventive process and that SHINE process should be executed professionally. Now how effective would this process be if the tools were disorganized, damaged, missing or unsuitable for the cleaning process? Success of SHINE requires that your cleaning tools are the right ones for the job and that they are organized, accessible and well maintained.


If cleaning tools are right for the job, organized, accessible and well maintained the process of SHINE is enhanced. This image shows black shadow material to encourage the tool is returned to a specific location.

A successful lean implementation means that all employees understand why we do the first 3S’s: the team is more likely to see wasteful activities, question them, and fix the problems.

By performing the 3S’s daily you will spark suggestions, raise your company’s standards and sustain the Continuous Improvement cycle. In my next article I talk more about how employees are empowered to create new standards from applying the 3S.

About the author:

Shamir Doshi

Shamir Doshi is the current Arrangements Chair for the Ottawa Chapter of the American Society of Quality (ASQ) and is a Lean Engineer for a leading biomedical company in Ottawa. He can be reached using our contact form.

Other article(s) from the author
5S – Spark the Improvement Cycle – Part III
(published on February 3, 2018)
5S – Spark the Improvement Cycle – Part I
(published on December 1, 2016)

Copyright information: The article has been published with permission from the author. Title picture is not associated with the original writing.


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