What is Seiso? Meaning and Characteristics

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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 help in the constant improvement of the quality of companies.

Seiso is considered the third phase of the 5s program, which is a methodology aimed at improving the work environment in a company, having this name because it is composed of 5 phases that begin with the letter "S". The 5 stages 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. Seiso is characterized by the sense of cleanliness, zeal and inspection that companies need to achieve better results with regard to the organizational environment.

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Meaning of Seisou

“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 “Seiso” is inserted, was created in Japan and greatly reflects the way of acting and thinking of the post-war Japanese people, which aimed to achieve perfection in all areas of life, as well as a 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 regard. The seiso is also something Japanese cultural, while cleanliness is, until today, something appreciated by the people, given the frightening cleanliness of the country's streets and avenues and the strict control of garbage collection and recycling. All these factors contribute to a good application of the sinus.

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To give you an idea of how “sharp” they are at cleaning everything, even the eggs sold in supermarkets are inspected in a way that is unparalleled in relation to the rest of the world, so that it is almost impossible to find a thread of hair or some dirt (even minimal) on any of them.

Each unit undergoes extremely strict control to be consumed in perfect condition, which makes Japan one of the countries with the lowest risk of contracting salmonella from egg yolks.

I, in particular, find this habit very positive, as it helps to prevent diseases and keep the premises smelling good.

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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 in companies, as it aims at the maximum and constant improvement of all processes, reducing costs and increasing effectiveness (and productivity).

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

Below, we can see what each of the elements of the 5s methodology means and how “seiso” is inserted in 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 not necessary things;
  • Sixo: 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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