5S explained

How to create a more efficient and safer workspace

24Flows explains 


A brief introduction

As always, we like to explain things easy and glass clear. So: what is 5S actually? Well, 5S is a way of working. It is a framework for workspace organization based on the idea that a better work environment results in better operations, which leads to better products.



A successful 5S implementation consists of three phases: analysis, implementation and aftercare and delivers a tight, efficient, and safe workplace. 5S can be applied on every shop floor and in every sector. From a waste incinerator to a hospital and everything in between. Looking for a way to help yourself and your staff be more productive? Look no further than these five steps.

5S, how to implement

Step 1: Analyze

How well is your business doing? Ask yourself the following questions, If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may find 5S useful and effective:

  • Do people in your workplace struggle to locate documents or files in physical or digital format?
  • Are there loose, sagging electrical cables in the workplace?
  • Are there files, drawers, and cabinets that are unlabeled, or do they contain unmarked content that is hard to identify?
  • Do useless items take up valuable space?
  • Are there papers in your workplace that are not used and are gathering dust?
  • Does everybody know how to keep the workplace organized and is fully aware of their roles and responsibilities?


Step 2: let’s get started

5S focuses on keeping everything in its place to maintain efficiency in the work environment. You can start implementing 5S by providing training to your staff to understand the system. This may be followed up with one-day sessions with each employee or team to ensure they are on the same page as far as implementation is concerned.

  • Sort: retain what is needed.
  • Set in order: organize and straighten things out so that you can find them quickly.
  • Shine: keep things clean.
  • Standardize: found an efficient way of working? Stick to it.
  • Sustain: Persist, with willpower and dedication.

Step 3: Aftercare

Many organizations set up peer audits to check how the 5S principles are being met and to ensure the plan is moving forward. Work together to define ways to standardize the improvements over time: organize cleaning schedules, define roles and responsibilities, and prepare written procedures or diagrams to help everyone remember what to do.

How can 5S help reduce waste

5S operates on the principle that reducing waste in production processes can add value to the products. The Toyota Production System (TPS) defines the 8 forms of waste as:

  • Defects: When a product is not fit for use it must be scrapped or reworked, adding cost to the production process without adding value.
  • Waiting time: Unevenness in the work environment can lead to people waiting on material or equipment, or machines idling and can result in overproduction or excess inventory.
  • Extra motion: Unnecessary movement can place strain on personnel and not add additional value to the customer.
  • Excess inventory: Excess inventory can cause inefficiencies and cause delays in the detection of problems. Problems can accumulate, and with more inventory, problems take longer to solve.
  • Overproduction: Producing too much before it is required obstructs a smooth flow of work, raises the costs of production and storage, hides defects inside work-in-progress, and increases lead time.
  • Extra processing: Excess activity as a result of poor tool or product design.
  • Unnecessary transportation: Moving items that are not necessary for the process.
  • Unutilized talents: Under-utilizing skills or assigning tasks to employees with insufficient training. 5S provides a methodology that reduces these wastes by maintaining a systematically organized workspace in which problems immediately become apparent and are easily detected and fixed.

5S benefits summed up

5S can be applied very quickly and simply. It is also strongly prevalent in administrative processes, office environments, and archives. Other key benefits are:

  • Increased Productivity Every organization works towards achieving increased productivity, after all, productivity increases the overall return on investment. The complete removal of unnecessary items along with efficient workplace maximization is sufficient to help develop improved productivity with minimal wastage of time.
  • Safety Improved safety is yet another benefit of 5S implementation. A clean workplace environment, especially in a manufacturing unit, can result in a significant reduction in the number of injuries sustained by workers.
  • Waste reduction Implementing 5S will also yield a fair reduction in lost and damaged items in the workplace. A clear and organized workplace with proper labeling provides workers the flexibility to replace damaged items in the designated places, thereby minimizing the total number of misplaced and lost tools and equipment. Further, the appropriate management of equipment also minimizes damages that are generally caused to various parts of the products during the production process.
  • Worker Commitment Achieving worker commitment is one of the major goals of implementing 5S lean manufacturing training. This is because the workers would be largely responsible for using it on the ground. 5S emphasizes on worker participation by streamlining their work and allowing them to provide inputs to make productive changes in the overall design of the workplace and also to carry out its maintenance tasks. This encourages worker involvement for long-term workplace sustainability which in turn enhances their commitment towards work. This improvement also provides ancillary benefits of lower absenteeism in the workplace.

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