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What Is The 5S System?

Learn the what and the history of the 5S concept, and why it should be adopted.

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The 5S concept is one of several lean manufacturing (Lean) tools designed to improve workplace efficiency through facility-wide organization and cleanliness. Each of the 5S guidelines help managers and workers achieve greater organization, standardization and efficiency — all while reducing costs and boosting productivity.

Some core principles of the 5S concept involve creating and maintaining visual order, organization, cleanliness and standardization. With these goals in place, the hope is that workplaces can become more efficient, organized and equipped to carry out daily tasks in a safe manner.

What are the Five S’s?

5S was developed in Japan and stands for the Japanese words seiri (tidiness), seiton (orderliness), seiso (cleanliness), seiketsu (standardization) and shitsuke (discipline). The English translations of these words have been edited to maintain the 5 S’s. They are as follows:

  • Sort: The first step in making things cleaned up and organized. This improves efficiency, helps increase quality, and makes it simpler to spot problems and enhances productivity.
  • Set: Organize, identify and arrange everything in a work area.
  • Shine: Regular cleaning and maintenance.
  • Standardize: Make it easy to maintain — simplify and standardize.
  • Sustain: Maintaining what has been accomplished.

5s and Lean Manufacturing Principles

Lean manufacturing as a whole is a production practice that aims to eliminate waste and create value through facility organization. The 5S concept is designed for integration with other Lean tools, including Kanban, Kaizen and Total Productive Maintenance, to create the most efficient workplace possible.

Why Should I Adopt the 5s System?

5S adoption is different in every facility, depending on the needs, processes and culture of any given workforce. But, no matter how it’s done, businesses large and small can enjoy numerous benefits from adopting the 5S methodology:

  • Improved profitability: Companies can save labor hours, money and other resources
  • More efficient workforce: With standard procedures in place, personnel can focus on what’s important
  • Better service: With a more organized, cleaner, streamlined workplace, employees can spend more time providing outstanding service
  • Safer workplace: Employees are at less risk and can feel safer in clean, organized workspaces

What Types of Businesses Benefit from a 5s Program?

Businesses large and small, and in various industries, have benefited from incorporating 5S methodology into their business strategy. A few real-world examples include:

  • A Michigan automotive company applied Lean principles to their engineering processes. In doing so, the company hopes to eliminate wasted work, define common communication protocols and adopt a common technology platform
  • A recent study concluded that instrument use could be reduced by 70 percent during certain surgical procedures
  • Boeing is using Lean-manufacturing-inspired tools to increase its annual output

What Will 5s Cost?

Implementing the 5S methodology can be done on any budget, but it nevertheless requires resources to become an effective tool.

At minimum, most businesses should take time to train employees, clean and organize their facility and use necessary equipment (such as proper labeling tools) to facilitate the transition.

5s Signs, Supplies, and Products

Proper labeling and use of 5S signage is an important part of 5S. Safe, strategic floor and aisle marking is one way to implement the 5S program in warehouses. Make sure to learn about how 5S floor marking, wayfinding and safety tapes can improve safety and increase efficiency in warehouses of all sizes.

Matt Wastradowski is a copywriter with Graphic Products. Contact him at [email protected].