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An exploratory study of 5S: a multiple case study of multinational organizations in Mexico

Manuel F. Suárez‐Barraza (EGADE Business School, México, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico)
Juan Ramis‐Pujol (Operations Management and Innovation Department, ESADE – Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain)

Asian Journal on Quality

ISSN: 1598-2688

Article publication date: 15 June 2012



Derived from work conducted on the topics of Lean‐thinking and Lean‐Kaizen some management practices or techniques, such as the 5Ss, have recently become important in this research. The reason for this is that more and more of the companies that apply Lean‐thinking and Lean‐Kaizen are using the 5Ss as an essential step in their implementation. Therefore, this paper aims to explore the implementation of the 5Ss in multinational organisations in Mexico empirically, in order to analyse and compare them against the respective theoretical frameworks. The research question that governs the study is: “How are the 5Ss implemented in an organisational context such as that of a multinational company in Mexico?”


An exploratory multiple case study was conducted. Three multinational companies, which have been established in Mexico for at least 20 years, were selected. Two of these companies were from the automotive sector (suppliers) and the third was a company manufacturing hygiene and cleaning products. Four methods were used to gather data: direct observation, participative observation, documentary analysis, and semi‐structured interviews.


Based on cross analysis findings, a group of reasons was found for applying the 5Ss in the multinational organisations analysed, along with a group of drivers and inhibitors responsible for enhancing or blocking the successful implementation of the 5Ss. Finally, a conceptual framework was also established, based on the results of comparing theory and fieldwork: this provides a glimpse into the relationship of the 5Ss with other improvement programmes, known as Lean‐thinking or Lean‐Kaizen, in the organisations analysed. In particular, the framework show the importance between do (way: philosophy) and jyutsu (techniques) during the implantation process of 5Ss.

Practical implications

Derived to describe three case studies on how to implement the 5Ss within a programme or model for the Lean‐thinking or Lean‐Kaizen approach, it may prove to be of value to practitioners and managers involved in the field. Similarly, a section on managerial implications has also been included.


The study contributes to the limited existing literature on the 5Ss through research that seeks to understand how this technique is implemented in a context of multinational organisations, particularly emphasising the main drivers and inhibitors that enhance or block it during the implementation process. It also includes a theoretical framework that can demonstrate the relationship of the 5Ss with the Lean‐thinking and Lean‐Kaizen programmes in this context: In particular for Latin America and Mexico, where virtually no academic studies of this type have been conducted.



Suárez‐Barraza, M.F. and Ramis‐Pujol, J. (2012), "An exploratory study of 5S: a multiple case study of multinational organizations in Mexico", Asian Journal on Quality, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 77-99.



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