Should there be a 6th S or is it naturally part of 5s?

I meet many folks at Lean conferences that walk by our 5S Store booth and suggest we change our name to The 6S Store to include Safety as their company has done. My take has always been that a solid 5S program will naturally improve safety. I'm a traditionalist and prefer to keep the original 5S format. Moreover, I think Safety is so ultimately important that it should be on it's own. What are your thoughts?

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Comment by Robert Leonardo on November 16, 2011 at 12:36pm

Five is enough.  In my experience, you do lean 5S well and the safety is evolves and improves naturally.  Along with a proper safety committee and program the two work well together. While I understand the safety element/argument, I just don't see the need to add more to a solution system such as 5S

I have even seen models that are 8S, 9S and 12S!  These I feel are simply marketing gimmicks.  

As 5S improves in a workplace and sets the tone for more improvement in some basic quality, process, work standards and moral and more.  But we don't add those the the "S formula". Well, those folks flogging "12S" do!  

I think companies need to be cautious on adding too many branches to what are to be simple programs and tools. They all integrate anyway, if there is an overall enterprising focus.

All that said... on my custom 5S audit sheets, I do have a section that is for safety, but it is more of a summary notes area.  Areas/processes are minuses 3 points for each safety non-conformance.  It is vary rare we use this section if the first 3S's are good.

In a company I helped in 2008, there we more than 20+ Ministry of Labour safety non-conformances.  Our response was largely 5S along with a JH&SC that dealt with other resolution and training elements. 5S attacks the roots and exposes the deficiencies... if done correctly. 


In my current workplace, one of our mottos is, "If you can't do 5S, you can't do anything else properly".  This includes safety.


At the end of  the day, I don't think 6S 'breaks' anything and is not a deal breaker to be hung up on. It is about a companies execution method getting things orderly to accommodate vision/goals.  While there are standard best practices, lean and any of its tools are intended to be pliable to each company and industry. 

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