What is 5S?

Glyn OwenUncategorized0 Comments

Welcome to Lean Productivity Solutions  second blog posting. I hope that you found the first blog titled ‘What is Productivity?’ of interest. If you missed it you can catch up by clicking here. Today’s blog discusses What 5S is and  a brief guide what effects it can have when implementing it into your business.

5S is a great starting point to begin your Lean journey. Without 5S your business won’t have the right foundations to build any form of Lean culture. I am always a bit nervous though when I hear people talking about 5S and how excited they are about starting the Lean journey within their business. You may think that’s a negative thought on my part, but I have seen many businesses stumble at the first block due to poor implementation. On a positive note I have also seen the majority succeed. The beauty of this tool is that you can use it in any environment you wish, maybe it’s a manufacturing plant or your garden shed.

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What is 5S

5S is a tried and tested approach to improving workplace organisation and housekeeping. It also encourages ownership of work areas and self-discipline to sustain and further develop working practices within your business. I am guessing you have a very brief understanding of what 5S actual means, if you don’t here it goes. There are five phases of 5S: which translated from Japanese mean “sort”, “set in order”, “shine”, “standardise”, and “sustain”. With Health & Safety now having a major role in business, businesses are even referring to 5S as 6S by using ”safety” as the 6th S.

The effects of 5S for Lean are significantly beneficial, it is suggested that productivity gains of up to 30%. Within my experience of many 5S implementation programmes these levels of success have always been achieved.

Below is a list and a brief description of each step of the 5S journey.


Once all of the unnecessary items in your work area removed during the first stage of 5S you will remove many instances of waste. This means as items are easier to find and you do not have to get around unnecessary clutter.


The second stage of 5S results in making sure that your items are located in the most efficient and a safer position. Doing this eliminates many of the seven wastes of manufacturing. This now brings your hard work from the first step into play as employees don’t have to search for things as the use of shadow boards and clear visual identification make it more effective during the manufacturing process. This is extremely important as it ensures that things are immediately to hand. These items are located as close to where they are needed and at the correct most ergonomic height and orientation to minimise handling.


The third stage of 5S ensures that the work place remains clean and free from untidiness. This does mean more than just pushing a brush around a work area whenever your supervisor reminds you, though! It involves a regular daily cleaning routine. The work area should be returned to the condition of what it was in when your shift started. It is also important that materials are replenished to which will result in unnecessary downtime if standards slip.


The fourth stage of 5S journey and most important step is standardisation. This ensures that everyone uses the most efficient work method and that targets are met. This does mean though all shifts working together which is not always the easiest thing to do. With standards established everyone knows what, how and when things needs to be done. In other words, standards produce new habits that result in 5S being effectively and efficiently implemented.


This is probably out of all the 5 stages the most difficult of the 5S journey. Sustain ensures that your journey continues on an ongoing basis and that it remains everyone’s responsibility. People from time to time may need to be reminded about the requirements of the established standards. When there are changes that will affect your programme, such as new equipment, new products, new work rules make the needed changes in the standards to accommodate those changes, and provide training on the new standards. In addition to these benefits, you will have a visually more pleasing environment that will serve as a significant marketing tool from which to be able to sell your company and be a step above your competitors.

If you are thinking about starting your 5S journey and would like support or are currently having productivity issues within your business please make contact with Lean Productivity Solutions Limited to see how we can help.

Next week’s mini blog will be briefly covering ‘The Seven Wastes of Lean’.


Regards, Glyn

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