5S Methodology

Your work areas must adapt to changes in the processes taking place. Over time an organization will implement changes and innovations, such as new tools, materials, and procedures. All of this must be kept organized, as clutter and confusion will detract from efficiency and quality. Poor organization can lead to stacks of unused materials taking up space, old tools, and ineffective procedures causing errors and defects.

The 5S methodology is a system for quality initiatives that streamline workflow through a better environment, creates smoother processes, and more opportunity for focus and engagement. The 5S method comes from Japanese industry and the attributes defining a clean workspace. Here we will describe the 5 Ss and how these attributes can improve the quality of results for your company.

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The 5S's

The 5S System

The 5S System

The 5S Methodology comes from the English spelling of the following Japanese terms:

Seiri (Sort)

Seiton (Straighten)

Seiso (Shine)

Seiketsu (Standardize)

Shitsuke (Sustain)

While you could find other English synonyms for these words, five English S-words preserve a catchy idea well. You will most likely find it easier to remember the English meanings.

Sort (Seiri)

Seiri essentially means sorting the good (that which provide process value) from the bad (whatever subtracts from efficient operation).



  • Eliminate obstacles to make workflow easier.
  • Reduce items that could cause distractions.
  • Prevent accumulation of excess items.
  • Select necessary items having the greatest impact on savings, speed, and quality.
  • Remove any equipment or materials that are not relevant to the tasks at hand.
  • Define a red-tag space for temporarily staging items that require rework or entail hazards requiring special disposal practices.
  • Include a trained person for establishing quality checks during the workflow.
  • Store needed items at or close to workstations.
  • Provide for waste removals, such as movable dumpsters or bins.

Seiri: To Sort Things Out

Set In Order (Seiton)

Seiton is also to be interpreted as Straighten or Systemize, this is about staging required production components so they can be utilized most efficiently.

5S - Seiton

5S - Seiton

  • Store and arrange needed items so that they are readily available when needed at a particular location or point in the process.
  • Prevent wasting time through excess movement by organizing the workspace so that all items and materials are staged where they are needed.
  • Make it easy to identify and track the location of essential items.
  • Ensure that work is handled on a first-in, first-out basis.
  • Make workflows as linear and straightforward as possible; i.e., avoid unwanted movement of bulky items or repetition of simple tasks.
  • Establish and communicate both safety and quality checks.
  • The most frequently utilized components should be placed in the closest proximity and the greatest quantity.
  • Provide sufficient help so that there is no unnecessary travel or redistribution of labor.
  • Arrange everything - stations, workers, tools, equipment, documentation, computers, and instructions - to be as close in proximity as possible without obstructing the physical flow of items.

In practice, 5S Lean Manufacturing follows the principles of improving efficiency through elimination of wasteful practices or wasted time.

A Helpful Guide on ​Seiton for Any Organization

Shine (Seiso) or Sweep

Seiso is about cleanliness and visual simplicity not only make the assessment of every situation easier but instill a sense of professionalism and eventually even a NEED for order.

5S - Seiso

5S - Seiso

How to get started with the "Shiny Clean" step
  • Adhere to a regular schedule for cleaning up the workspace, preferably each day or shift to ensure things are organized in an expected manner for the next worker.
  • Inspect areas at the end of the day or shift to ensure they've been suitably cleaned.
  • Allow regular intervals for tool and equipment maintenance, including thorough cleaning, lubrication, or replacement of worn parts.
  • Keep traffic and work areas clear of debris, spills, or unused items.
  • Allow employees some reasonable leeway to add a personal touch to make their workspaces more enjoyable.
  • Areas should be clean and orderly enough so that anyone familiar with the area will spot disorder immediately. Potential hazards or restrictions should be clearly identified for visitors.

A Helpful Guide on Seiso

Standardize (Seiketsu)

5S - Seiketsu

5S - Seiketsu

Seiketsu requires definition and communication of terms so that they can become standard procedures and force of habit.

  • Define and communicate best practices for safety and quality within the workflow.
  • Maintain standards for workspace organization of tools and materials.
  • Maintain cleanliness and established physical order. Everything should be kept in its designated place.
  • Establish reasonable standards and means of the measure of time frames, productivity, and quality for each task in the workflow.
  • Ensure that uniform procedures for setup and processes are established and followed.
  • Promote flexibility and reporting in a resolution of common issues.

Clean Up Your Workplace By Following 5S Seiketsu

Sustain (Shitsuke)

5S - Shitsuke

5S - Shitsuke

The gains from 5S Lean Manufacturing methods will mean little if procedures are allowed to backslide to a less efficient state.

  • Ensure that employees are sufficiently trained through a mentorship program so that they don't need frequent direction or instruction.
  • Encourage feedback on training and orientation programs for new hires.
  • Ensure that equipment is maintained with safety in mind, such as ensuring that safety rails are in place and electrical components don't present a shock hazard.
  • Teach workers on acceptable behavior, resources, and appropriate chain of command.
  • Conduct regular audits to ensure that 5S workspace standards and policies are being observed.
  • Ensure that any deviations from the procedure are approved and documented.
  • Encourage an environment of teamwork, self-discipline, and dedication.

Sustaining a Better Work Environment with Shitsuke

The Origins of 5S

5S is one of the methods that led to just-in-time manufacturing, which was developed by Toyota and became the precursor of today's Lean Manufacturing concept. Different versions of 5S were used in Japan, Russia, and the US, with final approaches being developed by the Hirano company in Japan before adoption and development by Toyota.

While the theory in Lean Manufacturing is the reduction of waste to increase production, 5S presents a more visual interpretation. Dirty, disorderly, and cluttered surroundings tend to provide distractions. People spend time needlessly trying to make sense of clutter, such as moments wasted selecting the right tool from among a collection of unnecessary ones. Old equipment and materials can hide new supplies, which forces workers to search for what they need.

Greater efficiency is achieved by organizing workspaces and tools. Employee dialogues about standardization and cleanliness help them understand how workspace management affects quality and effectiveness. For some organizations, stress on workplace safety has led to the inclusion of that concept as the final component in "6S".


In order to develop sustainability, there needs to be a commitment from the business owners and top executives. There also needs to training programs for employees that outline the purposes and benefits of 5S Lean Manufacturing methods. You must also establish procedures to implement the five components. This may require new employee policies, visual aids, operating instructions, checklists, production forms, and more.

Standardizing all workstations involved in similar processes makes things easier to learn and manage, increases efficiency, and makes workers and their roles more interchangeable to provide greater flexibility. Sustaining procedures will be easier if employees understand what these changes are and how it affects them.


One of the hottest topics in quality control is 5S Lean Manufacturing. Lean techniques can help you in identifying and reducing the wasted time and errors in your business' manufacturing processes. You can consider waste to be anything done in the process that doesn't directly add value. This reduces cost, time, and effort to boost margins. It can also help to reduce prices and provide more opportunity for implementing quality measures.

Many different processes within a company can be wasteful of time and materials, from managing supply chains to shipping product. This often results in lower quality in goods and services, and a lower rate of satisfaction with customers. The customer experience should be a primary concern for all companies. Lean production emphasizes cost reduction and the elimination of wasteful practices that create inefficient operations compounding errors. Every step in a process, every employee "touch" of product, tools, and materials can be seen as a chance for mistakes.

Eliminating wasteful steps with 5S Lean Manufacturing means less opportunity for mistakes to be introduced. Better organization of workspaces and more efficient workflows create opportunities for more employee engagement and attention to detail. Making quality checks part of the process, and streamlining them for reduction of wasted time, can help to improve the quality of output.

Benefits of 5S

This methodology determines what should be kept in the process, where it should be stored, and how work should be organized in alignment with workspace policies. When 5S techniques are adequately implemented, supported by consensus, they represent guidelines that give employees ownership of their workspaces and greater productivity. This creates a better sense of confidence, pride, and self-worth that creates a lower turnover and more sustainability.

Streamlining workspaces for reduction of waste also means better ROI from reduced costs. The techniques of 5S are not a one-time fix but a continuous process of refinement and lead to even better returns and faster cycle times. Products get to the customer more quickly. Even "rush" orders become more feasible with shorter time frames and open more possibilities for revenue. Shorter cycles to faster delivery help to create not just customer satisfaction, but customer delight and a boost to your company's marketing and branding.

Integrating 5S Lean Manufacturing creates greater efficiency, safety, and quality that benefits all types of industry. The five principles of visual control of the workspace - Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain - ensure that workspaces and equipment are kept in optimal condition.

The 5S method's focus on visual order, cleanliness, and standardization help to promote quality through fewer oversights and random choices that can create defects in assembly or workmanship. A well-organized workspace and elimination of uncertainty and idleness motivates worker dedication and reduces the chances of error.

Author: Eric Raio

Eric Raio is one of the founders of Factory Solutions. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome software. He likes to geek out about flying drones and technology.

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