What is seiso? Meaning and Characteristics

Do you know what "Seiso" means? In this article, we will explain the meaning of this Japanese word and show the importance of this concept for the organizational context, so that it works effectively to assist in the constant improvement of the quality of companies.

Seiso is considered as the third phase of the 5s program, which is a methodology aimed at improving the working environment within a company, having this name because it is composed of 5 phases that start with the letter “S”. The 5 steps of the program are: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke. Contrary to what many think, the 5s methodology can be applied in the most diverse contexts and even in personal life.

The “Seiso” stage is the third stage of the 5s program. It is characterized by sense of cleanliness, zeal and inspection that companies need to have to achieve better results with regard to the organizational environment.

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Meaning of the word

“Seiso” 清掃 (せいそう; seisou) is a Japanese word meaning "Cleaning". The first kanji, 清, has an idea of something pure, clean, purified and/or pulverized. The second kanji, 掃, carries with it the meaning of sweeping, cleaning and/or sweeping. Therefore, in general terms, we can define the term as “cleaning sweep” or, simply, “cleaning”, since cleaning and purifying are very similar concepts.

The 5S methodology, in which the “Seiso” is inserted, was created in Japan and reflects a lot of the Japanese people's way of acting and thinking of post-war, which aimed to achieve perfection in all areas of life, as well as greater productive success that could leverage Japanese capitalist and industrial society in that period. With the success of the methodology, western companies began to pay attention to the model and today it is applied very frequently in the most diverse enterprises.

However, unlike Japan, Brazil is still a culturally undisciplined country, which has created problems for the ideas proposed by such a methodology to be correctly applied. Japanese perfectionism contrasts with the carelessness of many Brazilians.

Japanese perfectionism and extreme cleanliness

As we have been saying, Japanese perfectionism is a very evident and impactful influence in this aspect. The seiso is also a cultural thing for the Japanese, insofar as cleanliness is, to this day, something appreciated by the people, given the frightening cleanliness of the country's streets and avenues and the strict control of the garbage collection and recycling. All these factors contribute to a good application of the sinus.

I suggest you read articles that deal with the cleaning phenomenon in Japan. Click here to read our article on why there are not so many dumps in the country, despite thethe perfection of streets, avenues and intersections.

To get an idea of how they are “metered” with the cleaning of all things, even the eggs sold in supermarkets are inspected in a way that is unique to the rest of the world, so that it is almost impossible to find a hair or any dirt (however minimal) on any of them. Each unit undergoes extremely strict controls so that they are consumed in perfect condition, which makes Japan one of the countries with the least risk of contracting salmonella from egg yolks.

I, in particular, find this habit very positive, as it helps to prevent diseases and maintain a pleasant smell in the premises.

- what is seisus? Meaning and characteristics

Seiso, Kaizen and 5S Methodology

It is interesting to note that Seiso, along with the other steps of the 5S methodology (seiri, seiton, seiketsu and shitsuke), derives from the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement, better known as Kaizen. This philosophy of life can be applied both in personal life and at work within companies, as it aims at maximum and constant improvement of all processes, reducing costs and increasing effectiveness (and productivity). To read our article that talks specifically about Kaizen, click here.

Therefore, we have that the sense of cleanliness is a very important factor both for the physical structure of a given place and for the people who frequent it, because a clean environment is a harmonious and happy environment. In a society that values so much harmony environmental and social, Seiso is something increasingly essential.

Below, we can see what each of the elements of the 5s methodology means and how “seiso” is inserted within a set of steps:

  • Seiton: sense of organization of the material necessary for the production of something;
  • Shitsuke: refers to discipline, determination, honor and uprightness of character;
  • Seiri: concept that implies the distinction between necessary and unnecessary things;
  • Seiso: is connected with cleaning;
  • Seiketsu: concept related to hygiene;
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Note that principles such as organization, discipline, honor and uprightness of conduct are also quite prominent.

Cleaning Vocabulary

  • 清掃 (せいそう, seisou) = Cleanliness, Seiso.
  • 掃除する (そうじする, soji suru) = Clean.
  • 清潔 (せいけつ, seiketsu) = Hygiene, Hygienic.
  • 綺麗 (きれい, kirei) = Clean, Beautiful.
  • ざっと掃除 (ざっとそうじ, zatto soji) = Superficial cleaning.
  • 石鹼 (せっけん, sekken) = Soap.
  • 布巾 (ふきん, fukin) = Cloth.
  • 掃く (はく, haku) = Sweep.
  • ほうき = Broom.
  • 霧吹き (きりふき, kirifuki) = Sprayer.
  • 洗剤 (せんざい, senzai) = Cleaning product, Detergent.
  • 洗濯 (せんたく, sedeku) = Laundry, Dirty laundry.
  • 水 (みず, mizu) = Water.
  • 泡 (あわ, awa) = Soap bubble, Foam.

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