Seiton: Set In Order

Let’s face it, being organized and focusing on a workplace that is more efficient and effective is not an easy task for anyone. This is the reason why Seiton, also known as Set in Order, was created as an implementation program and highly efficient lean manufacturing tool to create standard working practices and improve housecleaning and working areas for any workspace. Originating in Japan as a practice for improving the work environment, 5S means to sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain.

Maybe you have misplaced something like a tool, and you had to tear the entire place apart just to find it. Most of the time, the item that you are looking for was left exactly where you placed it. However, we as humans naturally forget, and the time and energy you expended and wasted looking for that item could have been used to do 1 million other things that are more beneficial and productive. This is why 5S was invented.


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There are many definitions for 5S, but the ones below are described in a simple way to help you understand a little more about it in layman’s terms.

Sort: Figure out what is necessary or appropriate and throw away everything that is not.

Set in Order: Arrange and organize items appropriately so that you can reach them easily, use them, and return them to their proper place in a convenient manner.

Shine: Always maintain cleanliness in your work area for inspection, maintenance, and safety.

Standardize: To create a standardized work area, you must routinely apply the first three steps.

Sustain: To ensure the continuation of correct practices, put procedures in place that are strictly followed.

Why Set in Order?

The reason why Set in Order is used because it helps workplaces create efficient and effective storage systems. It is always nice to find everything you need within your reach without wasting time looking for it. Imagine a workplace where everyone can find the tools, supplies, and materials they need without wasting any time looking for them. The same people can return those tools, supplies, and materials to their proper storage locations so that they are readily available to be used again by yourself or someone else.

Set in Order is also designed so that tools you use most commonly are readily available. If you look around your workplace, you will probably notice items that you rarely use but it is right within your reach. When following the Set in Order principle, items that are not frequently used should be kept out of the way and stored in a location that is far away from other tools that should be readily available.

This principle is also popular because it applies to any workplace. Set in Order also includes a labeling system which helps you identify shelves, cabinets, and storage areas with signs and labels that are clearly marked. Frequently used tools should be stored and hung on shadow boards using color-coded labels that match and shape the size of the tool. It is easy to put any tool back in its proper place.

Cleanliness is also a factor when implementing Set in Order because anything is more identifiable when the area around it is clean. This principle also uses floor marking tape which outlines areas on the floor so that work areas, storage areas, finished product areas, and movement lanes are easy to see and navigate. Machines, tools, and equipment should be kept as clean as possible and free from clutter. This is important so that you can spot part failures, defects, and other problems such as a frayed wire or oil leak so that the problem can be identified and fixed quickly.

Making sure that equipment and work areas are always clean also help improve safety. Cleanliness eliminates the potential for accidents such as slips and falls. Since all clutter is removed, any mechanical, electrical, or chemical hazards that were hidden before will be quickly revealed. Since the ergonomic positioning of equipment will reduce travel and movement, the potential for injury is also reduced. When employees follow Seiton correctly, their eyes will always be open for spotting potential safety hazards, and they will also be more aware of their surroundings.

Benefits of Seiton

When you implement Set in Order into your workplace, there are an unlimited amount of benefits both you and your organization will receive.

Here are some of the key benefits

  • Reduced space that is used for storage
  • Less Waste
  • Improved Efficiency
  • Employees work better and they are more committed
  • Increased Safety Standards
  • Improved Maintenance
  • Higher Quality

One of the fundamental principles with Set in Order is to throw away items that are not used and organize things that you regularly need so that they are easier to find. There is no reason to be ashamed if you have a workplace that is full of clutter, unused supplies, scrap materials lying around everywhere, and a bunch of tools that you do not need or never use.

Some people even argue that they prefer a disorganized type of workplace. However, implementing Seiton principles allow you to become more organized by labeling and placing tools and materials that are close at hand in the proper place so that you can use them on a regular basis. By following these principles, you will be able to spend more time doing productive tasks and spending less time running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to find tools and materials.

Set in Order principles also provide other benefits to include reduced fatigue and quicker access to tools, machines, materials, and equipment since they are all positioned in ergonomic locations. If you have tools scattered all over the floor in random places, you are going to spend a lot of energy bending over to pick them up and then setting them down again after you finish using them. Let’s not forget that you might set the tool in a different location the next time you use it and then the process of wasting time starts all over again as you have a hard time remembering where that tool went. You can also imagine the relief on your back, legs, and feet as you always have access to tools and materials that are well placed in ergonomic locations.

Another benefit of Seiton is standardization. With standardization, you will only identify and use the most efficient work practices. In addition, your workplace benefits by eliminating wasteful work practices, unused materials, and any unnecessary tools.

How to Get Started with Seiton

A 5S map should be drawn as a diagram or floor plan to show exactly what needs to be done to implement every step in order to get started with Seiton. This map will show an overview of a workstation, work area, office, department, or a process. The map may also include a picture that shows where tools, machines, work in progress, or storage areas are located. It will also identify where both workers and supplies can be found. Short descriptions that are done in each area should also be included.

5S - Seiton

5S - Seiton

When it comes to what the map should identify, these key points must be included:

  • Where machines and equipment are located
  • Where work will be completed
  • How storage areas should be arranged
  • Where storage areas are needed
  • Navigation plan to move in, out, and around a work area

Lastly, the map will serve as a visual aid to find ways to position equipment and machines as well as help identify logical storage areas. These visual identifiers will make it much easier for you to access needed materials and tools.

In conjunction with creating a map, you should also consider three factors that will be included in your plan:

1. Where something should be stored

2. How it should be stored

3. Making sure everyone follows the rules

When it comes where something should be stored, the first thing you have to consider is determining how often it is used. Whatever is handled most frequently should be the closest to you. The next thing you should ask yourself is if the item is easy to reach. Remember, you do not want to spend any time or energy bending, twisting, or stretching just to reach an item you need. You should also not have to move other items out of the way to reach the item or materials that you are looking for.

Lastly, your plan will never work unless you have a committed effort by everyone to follow the rules. If you are following Seiton by the numbers but your coworkers have workspaces that look like disaster areas, this plan will never work. It is crucial that everyone in your organization or office focuses on this plan to improve efficiency and bring order to your workplace.

Changing Culture with Seiton

You probably know the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Hopefully, everyone in your office or factory likes the idea of implementing Set in Order principles for an improved workplace. These programs are common in many industries; even for operations that are unique from other industries. The elements of Seiton have been proven to be an excellent tool for powerful and positive cultural change in a wide variety of industries.

These elements of cultural change include:

  • A common sense approach
  • Creation of common purpose
  • Employee driven changes
  • Simplicity of concept
  • Principle-based ideas
  • Focused events
  • Structured continuous improvement
  • Structure for sustaining

This list is by no means exhaustive and positive cultural changes that occur when implementing Seiton principles are unique for every organization.

Managers must also take a leadership role when building a culture. It is one thing to set up storage areas, make plans, draw maps, and enforce rules on people that may have been accustomed to doing things for a very long time. Enforcing Seiton principles is also a matter of course and something that managers and employees take pride in doing. This is quite easy to remember on a daily basis as long as you always follow the rules, store items where they belong, and keep work areas clean and tidy.

Improve Your Workplace with Seiton

Seiton is one of the most cost-effective principles to improve your organization and it will definitely lead to a multitude of benefits for both workers and the organization. If you work in a factory, office, or workspace where people often misplace tools or never clean up their work area, it is time to initiate a Seiton campaign.

The benefits of Seiton are tremendous and now that you know how to get started, you can quickly start implementing its principles by creating a plan. Changing a work culture is not easy and may be difficult to implement at first, but you will definitely recognize that you have a better organization that is more productive and efficient when you decide to improve your workplace with Seiton.

The next 5S method is called Seiso which means to Shine.

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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