The 5S methodology is the foundation to Lean Manufacturing and Toyota Production System. It aims at organizing and managing the workplace in order to perform the work efficiently, effectively and safely. It is used in both manufacturing and service sector industries in order to increase the production rate and the profit.

In this article, you are going the learn about the concept of the 5S system. You will also learn about the implementation and benefits of the 5S system.


The 5S methodology is a technique that results in a well-organized workplace integrated with visual controls and order. It is basically an environment that has “a place for everything and everything in its place when you need it”. Many confuse that the 5S system is merely a cleanup campaign. Although, it helps to get the work done more effectively and efficiently once implemented. 

5S Concept

The 5S system comprises 5 steps namely Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. The concept of 5S is similar to the PDCA cycle i.e. continuous improvement. One has to go through all the 5 steps on daily basis in order to develop an Ergonomic and efficient workplace. The steps of the 5S system are explained below.

5S Concept

1. Seiri – Sort

The first step of the 5S system aims at eliminating non-essential workplace items i.e. separating the necessary items from the unnecessary one and then removing the unnecessary items. The ‘Sort’  team either identifies and labels all the unnecessary items over a two week period within the working area using red tags or it only identifies the items that cannot be removed safely using red tags and rest all other items are disposed of immediately. The following jobs are performed under the Seiri step.

a. Reducing Workplace Clutter

The workplace clutter is the useless items present on the shop floor such as broken tools, scraps, outdated materials, redundant equipment etc. These items are removed immediately from the shop floor instead of red tagging them.

b. Red Tagging

Red tags are used to identify broken tools & fixtures, unnecessary tools & materials when the immediate removal is not possible. They are also used to classify the equipment and materials with the frequency of their use. These tags are threaded/pasted to the item at the time of evaluation and the required comments are mentioned for further actions. 

5S red Tag

c. Disposing of unused items

The final step is to dispose all the unnecessary items from the shop floor. The red tag tells you whether the item is to be disposed of, transferred to deep sleep storage or reviewed for reuse. A ‘holding area’ is established to hold the items those are costly or those who are difficult to classify. A certain amount of time is allotted to the 5S team to review the item before disposal of it. 

2. Seiton – Set in Order

The second step of the 5S system aims at creating a comprehensive system of organization. It is accomplished by finding permanent storage locations for every item and creating a visual environment to identify their location. This means that everything should be at a place where it is required and at a time when it is required. Thus, the right item can be picked up by the worker at the right time without any wastage of time. The following jobs are performed under the Seiton step.

a. Establishing Workflow

  • Workflow directions are indicated using different signs.
  • Facility maps or layouts are placed at strategic locations.
  • More and more signs are used to simplify instructions.
  • Marking warehouse floor to show storage boundaries.

Workplace Floor

b. Labeling equipment

  • Labeling electrical equipment for fast recognization.
  • Describing equipment operations using different signs.
  • Using electronic visual and auditory alerts where beneficial.

c. Arranging Inventory and Material

  • Using shadow boards and cabinets to improve the organization of inventory & material.
  • Using flexible storage methods so that changes can be made easily.
  • Identifying new storage locations.
  • Ensuring that hazardous substance is properly marked.
Shadow board
Shadow Board

3. Seiso – Shine

The third step of 5S system aims at creating and maintaining a clean and safe workplace. A poorly kept workplace is a sign of inefficiency. Moreover, machines and workers working in dirty environments do not function at peak performance resulting in losses in production and money. The focus of Seiso is on eliminating garbage, dirt, and dust so that the problems such as leaks & spills can be easily identified. The following jobs are performed under the Seiso step.

  • Cleaning the workplace thoroughly including tools, machines, and materials.
  • Ensuring the participation of all the workers in making basic repairs.
  • Repainting equipment, walls floors, and any visible work area surface.
  • Removing of all the tiny defects as they might lead to bigger problems.
  • Removing all the debris and contaminants that do not belong to a workplace.


4. Seiketsu – Standardize

The fourth step of the 5S system, also known as the backbone of 5S aims at establishing a formal 5S system by performing Seiri, Seiton, and Seiso as a routine or a daily task. It is accomplished by continuously monitoring the levels of organizing and cleaning. The following jobs are performed under the Sieketsu step on a routine basis.

  • Formulating a facility wise 5S standards.
  • Creating a process of how to maintain the standard and defining roles and responsibilities.
  • Involving all the workers and employees.
  • Displaying progress charts and achievements.  
  • Setting up codes such as color codes for inventory.
  • Keeping each area consistent with one another.
  • Making it easy for everyone to identify the state of normal or abnormal conditions by placing photos on the walls and providing a visual reminder.
  • Making abnormalities visible to management.

5. Shitsuke – Sustain

The final step of 5S system aims to sustain the system so that it becomes a part of our daily routine. It helps us to Implement behaviors and habits among the workers and employees in order to maintain the established standards over the long term. It is the toughest step of 5S as many fail to accomplish this. The following jobs are performed under the Shitsuke step.

  • Establishing and maintaining responsibilities.
  • Performing regular audits and reviews.
  • Tracking the progress of each 5S step.
  • Aiming for continuous improvement.
  • Communicating success immediately.
  • Expanding use of 5S in other areas.
  • Posting status report and achievement goals.

Extra S’s

1. 6S – Safety

Many consider an another ‘S’ for safety. It aims at creating a safe place to work. Although, many believe that the safety is a part of the 5S system and need not be considered as an individual ‘S’.

2. 7S – Oversight

There is also one more ‘S’ i.e. Oversight. It aims at doing the right things in the first attempt. The purpose of 7S is to ensure the safety of customers before the delivery of the product.

Implementing 5S

The process of implementing 5S is easy but continuous. It is a never attending approach but a part of daily routine. The implementing of the 5S process involves four things:-

1. PDCA Approach

The PDCA cycle, also known as the cycle of efficiency is a continuous improvement cycle. The 5S system can be implemented using PDCA cycle. It comprises of four parts.

  • P(Plan): It is used to organize a program committee which then sets a program for each 5S step.
  • D(Do): The program is announced publicly to workers and employees. Also, the workers and employees are offered proper education & training before the implementation of the programs.
  • C(Check): After the successful implementation of the program the results are checked and data is recorded.
  • A(Act): In the final part, self-examination is done and Corrective and Preventive action is taken.

2. Team Building

A team is an essential part of the 5S system. It is the team that manages and supports the 5S system from sorting to sustaining. The team comprises of workers, employees, and even managers and its size depend upon the facility size. Once the team is organized a formal 5S plan is drafted. The following operations are performed under team building.

  • Creating an internal committee of 5S team leader.
  • Considering individuals with strong leadership skills.
  • Training and educating employees and workers.
  • Defining the roles of employees and workers.

3. Keeping Detailed Records

It is necessary to keep the detail records of every 5S step for future audits and improvements. Employees and workers collect the data from their routine work area duties to track and correct inefficiencies. Also, photographs of before and after implementation are used to support data.

4. Visual Communication

The final and the most important step of 5S implementation is Visual Communication. It is a key to successful 5S implementation. Visual communication is not only used to bring organization to the system but it also helps to guide the workers through various steps. Moreover, use of effective signage gives the workers a clear and accurate identification of locations procedure hazards, equipment, and tools.

Benefits of 5S

As a matter of fact, implementation of the 5S system is different for every facility, depending on their needs, processes, and workplace culture. However, the benefits remain the same. Several benefits of implementing the 5S system are as  follows: –


  • Makes your organization efficient and ergonomic.
  • Improves safety.
  • Removes waste.
  • Creates enviroment for continuous improvements.
  • Increases the product quality.
  • Makes the workplace neat and tidy.
  • Gives a firm foundation to build other improvement tools such as Kanban & Kaizen.
  • Leads to better communication on the shop floor.
  • Decreases the defects in the products.
  • Increases the morale of the employees.
  • Decreases the production costs.
  • Eliminates underutilized shop floor.
  • Decreases inefficient transportation on the shop floor.
  • Helps in reducing the inventory storage costs.

Best of Luck!

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