Vietnam offices, hospitals adopt Japanese model for optimal efficiency

Under the 5S model, an emergency trolley now serves as an all-inclusive cart

A nurse at Hoan My Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City poses with a 5S model- adopting emergency cart. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A number of hospitals and companies in major Vietnamese cities have adopted a Japanese workplace organization method for optimum orderliness, safety and efficiency in recent times.

The 5S mode was developed in Japan and identified as one of the techniques that enabled Just in Time manufacturing, a methodology aimed primarily at reducing flow time within production systems as well as response time from suppliers and to customers and practiced in Japan largely in the 1960s and 1970s.

The approach centers around the Japanese words, Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke, which can be translated as ‘sort,’ ‘set in order,’ ‘shine,’ ‘standardize,’ and ‘sustain.’

The practice is designed to lead to improved processes and ultimately reduced set-up and cycle times, increased floor space, lowered safety incident/accident rates, less wasted labor and improved equipment reliability, according to qualitytrainingportal.com.

Application in Vietnam

The 5S model has been put into practice at a number of hospitals and enterprises in Vietnam over recent years.

“Infirmaries in Japan boast a neater, luxury look despite our hospital being on a par with them regarding facilities and equipment. The difference is put down to the 5S approach,” Vo Thi Lan Ket, deputy head of the nursing department at Hoan My Hospital in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City, said.

Shortly after Ket’s introduction of the 5S model to the private clinic in 2014, it soon proved to be a cost-effective method which has enhanced the infirmary’s cleanliness and orderliness while improving its treatment quality and ensuring utmost safety.

She revealed her hospital’s 5S system began with the emergency trolley, an indispensable item at all infirmaries.

The trolley the size of a small refrigerator is now a standard configuration equipped with basic accessories, including emergency drugs, syringes, and airway clearing devices that all make it an emergency cart.

Steps were made to ensure the cart, which had five numbered drawers with four labels, was invariably in its designated place.

Among them, the photo label featured the contents of each drawer, allowing doctors and nurses to open the right one with just a quick look from the outside.

Each drawer was divided into smaller compartments in which medication and tools were stored at a fixed position and had clear labeling.

“Orderliness helps save time and prevents mix-ups, which is of the essence to emergency procedures,” Ket noted.

Hoan My Hospital’s 5S system has applied to up to 85 items in 11 different departments and areas, with many of them being standardized to ensure seamless operation.

“One minute for 5S saves one hour of rummaging for files” is one of the slogans on the benefits that the method brings to the Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City.   

The institution opted for its chemical engineering faculty’s laboratory quarter to start with. 

The four-floor building houses up to 1,700 experimenting instruments and a stockroom where hundreds of chemicals are stored, according to Nguyen Thi To Minh, the laboratory quarter overseer.

Staff and students in the Ho Chi Minh City University of Industry's chemistry department strictly abide by 5S regulations in the chemical storage room to ensure safety and efficiency. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Staff and students in the Ho Chi Minh City University of Industry's chemistry department strictly abide by 5S regulations in the chemical storage room to ensure safety and efficiency. Photo: Tuoi Tre

“The 5S model helps us arrange our space and tools properly and minimize unused, expired substances, thereby ensuring greater safety for both lecturers and students,” Dr. Nguyen Van Cuong, head of the chemical engineering faculty, observed.

“Having students strictly abide by the exacting rules will also help foster their sense of self-discipline and benefit them later upon their graduation,” he added.

The system has also been applied to the school’s administrative procedures including lecturers’ dossiers, exam papers and transcripts.

Inspired by the successful application, infirmaries in Ho Chi Minh City and from other provinces have sent their staff to Hoan My Hospital to study its 5S model.

A number of enterprises and banks have also incorporated the approach into their entire system.

The 5S method does not require hefty costs, but the hurdle lies in how to maintain the system, according to Ket. 

“The coordinator will devise the overall principles, and allow individuals to freely work out their own ways to put them into practice, which will keep them motivated to maintain the system,” she added.

Individuals should be paired up so that they can remind each other to keep up the 5S work.

Five to 10 minutes is spent at the end of each working day to rearrange the workspace that individuals are in charge of.

A board has been set up at Hoan My Hospital to monitor the execution and hold regular training sessions.

The implementation of the 5S approach, however, proved more challenging at the Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City considering the recruitment of new students and fresh training each year. 

Military-like discipline

The 5S approach has taken a strong foothold in Japan since its initiation in 1986, followed by Singapore’s application among its numerous enterprises and organizations.

According to Dao Quoc Cuong, administrative director of Juki Vietnam, a Japanese producer in industrial sewing machines based in Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, most Japanese companies in Vietnam practice 5S rigorously with numerous rules on labor safety and the deployment and operation of machinery. 

More local companies, particularly joint ventures in supporting industries with foreign groups, have adopted the 5S mode as well.

“Many, however, have employed the method perfunctorily without real efficiency,” Cuong stressed.

In order to secure a well-paid job at Japanese firms in Vietnam or Japan, many Vietnamese laborers have undergone rigorous recruitment and training programs as required by their employers.

Le Y Nhi, 23, who currently works at a sushi and sashimi producer in Osaka, Japan, revealed she had received 5S training during her internship at a Japanese textile company in Hue City, the heart of central Vietnam’s Thua Thien-Hue Province. 

Staff face dismissal for placing goods on the wrong shelves and penalties for failing to align footwear at the workplace.

“Everyone conformed to the rules in a military-like spirit, which placed me under considerable pressure in my early days,” Nhi recalled.

Her current company also requires its staff to strictly abide by 5S procedures.  

One of the regulations maintains that employees wash their hands properly before having them examined by a device for any remaining bacteria, and repeat the procedure until their hands are free of germs.

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