5S and Improvement

(Ref Id: 1392678098)

Before we continue discussing generalized patterns in LIMS design/construction and the progression of patterns from raw/organic concepts to normalized ones we have to take a quick detour into process improvement.

5S is an improvement philosophy that hails from Japan. It found wide use in Toyota and has been in use for some years.
It consists of the following parts (translated into English): sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. These parts make up what we will refer to as an oblique pattern (more on that after the explanation of the 5S parts).


This consists mainly of classifying what you have and putting the parts into groups. Distinctions like 'old' versus 'new' or 'working' versus 'broken' would arise here.

Set in Order

In 5S this has to do with arranging things in an order that facilitates retrieval. If you cannot think of anything to do here then it might be good to arrange things as being either internal or external. Elements that are internal to your process can be flagged as separate from those that are essentially external. For instance, you might want to differentiate between internal data storage versus external files that originate from a third party system.


In 5S this essentially means to 'clean' the area. It also involves eliminating things that are not relevant to the process in the first place.


This is where shared learning and methodologies for reacting to problems that have happened in the past or are reasonably expected to occur in the future are documented/archived.


This has to do with monitoring and reacting to changing conditions and problems with standardized activities. Of course this means if you skipped the standardization step you will have little to work on here.

The Hawthorne Effect

Although not strictly a part of 5S ignorance of the effect of the Hawthorne Effect can be so debilitating to a 5S initiative it should be included right away. Essentially it can be summarized to mean that individual/group behavior changes when the participants know they are being observed. Therefore success benchmarks derived from observed groups must be considered suspect if gathered too early.

All Together

The 5S methodology can be applied to improve software projects. It is referred to as an oblique pattern because its aim is to affect other patterns themselves. If you say that you are applying 5S in a pattern-based environment then you are really saying that you a) have identified existing patterns (including organically-generated ones) and b) that you are applying the individual parts of 5S on those patterns.


Let's try this out. Take a look at the following graphic (click to enlarge it):

On one side the graphic has the familiar 5S pattern. On the other side you will find six common pillars of software development: specifications, coding, configuration, the release system, documentation, and support. Applying 5S to all of these could be the subject of several articles, so let's concentrate on the release system.

The release system for software consists of removing or exporting code from the code repositories and configuration management systems that were used during development. A common pattern that occurs at PharmaCorp X (not a real company) is that the code is released from a source code management system onto a test server (called TEST). Then QA personnel update their test scripts and execute some form of software validation. Developers, eager to assist in the validation process, frequently change code to satisfy last-minute needs.

5S Flow:

Your ability to recognize, implement, and redirect patterns using 5S (or something equivalent) will determine your success in managing LIMS (even DIY ones). 5S can be used for any of the software development pillars as well as help conquer problems that arise during those processes. This is why a clear understanding of some kind of oblique pattern like 5S must go hand-in-hand with pattern-based development. Some patterns will be developed in-house while others will come from outside (standards are actually patterns but patterns are not standards -- a lengthy discussion on this will have to come later). Your proficiency herein will allow you to modify patterns appropriately to achieve the best results.

Go Back

Citation: 5S and Improvement. (2014). Retrieved Thu Mar 23 00:17:58 2017, from http://www.limsexpert.com/cgi-bin/bixchange/bixchange.cgi?pom=limsexpert3;iid=readMore;go=1392678098