5S For Improved Efficiencies

5S is the name of a workplace organizational method that uses a list of five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. 5S was developed within the Toyota Production System (TPS) and has become a key element within Lean. Translated into English, the 5Ss refer to:

  1. Sort – separate, simplify

  2. Set in Order– straighten, systematic arrangement, store

  3. Shine – scrub, sweep, systematic cleaning,

  4. Standardize - stabilize

  5. Sustain – self-discipline


These five items describe how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order. The decision-making process usually comes from a dialogue about standardization, which builds understanding among employees of how they should do the work.

5S is not just for production areas, but all work areas. It is important that Product Managers have a well-organized and clean office space. This is not just to show professionalism but also allows for quickly finding needed information for meetings or when requested. This is why using well-organized folders is critical; electronic and hardcopy.

While it is easy enough to apply Sort, Set in order and Shine, it is critical to emphasize Standardization and Sustaining improvements. 5S is a foundational element of process improvement. It is second nature to the way world class organizations operate. The basic premise of 5S is to keep things where they belong. This maximizes worker productivity because less time is wasted looking for things. The use of visual controls such as color coding, signage, and pictures further enhance productivity by allowing the business to “speak” to its workers, thus minimizing the amount of supervision required.

5S is basically a place for everything and everything in its place. Why should you implement 5S?

  • Less waste when work is organized

  • Let’s people share jobs

  • Less borrowing of needed tools, supplies, etc.

  • Customers, potential investors, job seekers all judge your work area

  • Less stress trying to find things & less irritation when things disappear

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Even though 5S was developed for the manufacturing environment, the office environment can gain lots of benefits from implementation. Utilizing visual controls allows all team members to understand the current condition, understand standards, and informs what to accomplish, or what needs to be done.