What is it and how can you apply it?

5S is a Lean tool to organize and eliminate waste in the workplace. It provides overview, peace of mind and structure.
The 5 letters stand for Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

This tool sets the following goals:

  • Only those materials and machines that are really needed, are present in the workplace
  • The workplace is clean and safe
  • All materials have a fixed place
  • It is immediately visible when materials are missing

Origin of 5S

What is 5S? - 5S-model

5S comes from Japan, where the S’s stand for Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set in order), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu (Standardize) and Shitsuke (Sustain).

Why 5S?

Negligence can result in accidents and unnecessary activities. It may create safety hazards such as tripping over scattered equipment or the risk of slipping on water or grease stains. Furthermore, employees in the workplace frequently find themselves searching for materials or information, which represents a form of waste.

How do you 5S?

It’s fairly simple: you carry out the step-by-step plan with your staff in the workplace.

S1: Sorting

Say goodbye to products you don’t need in the workplace. Broken or damaged items, items that have not been used for a long time or are unsafe, are all removed from the workplace. A general rule of thumb is: If you don’t use it on a weekly basis, remove it or place it elsewhere.

S2: Set in order

Rearrange the space and think carefully about a correct, fixed location of materials.

Need something often? Then put it as close by the operator as possible and make it easily accessible.

Put all items needed for one operation together. Put heavy items not too high, but not too low either.

S3: Shining

A clean and tidy environment invites you to maintain it. During cleaning, check that equipment is still functioning properly. Cleaning is also about eliminating causes of malfunctions and incidents, eliminating pollution sources, establishing cleaning methods, setting standards and responsibilities, establishing rules and standards.

Shining increases safety and reduces the risk of wasteful activities.

S4: Standardize

Standardizing gives sustainability to the first three steps. Standardizing means that everyone works the same way. This can be done by visualizing the best way of working so that all employees can follow this way. Minimize the chances of them deviating from it by adding visual controls.

Standardizing leads to fixed routines and habits. In order for standardizing to work, the instructions need to be short, simple and, if possible, visual and colorful. Standardized procedures minimize unexpected issues.

S5: Sustain

This is the most difficult S. It involves continuous attention to improvement. Secure the new standard to avoid falling back into old behavior.

Key aspects are:

  • Encouraging and enforcing discipline
  • Training new workers and experienced staff
  • Establishing the desired situation
  • Planning and implementing the repetition of S1 to S4
  • Conducting regular audits

Advantages of 5S

Applying the 5S methodology has many advantages, including:

  1. Clean, safe and orderly workplace
  2. Less waste
  3. Less space required
  4. Improving self-discipline
  5. Higher employee satisfaction
  6. Higher security

The main challenge of the 5S method is that employees need to be disciplined and need time to practice and maintain their workplace.