What is 5S?

Overview of 5S Methodology

By Andy Pritchard | November 9, 2022 | 2 minute read.

The 5S System is a lean manufacturing tool designed to improve efficiency and productivity in your plant by making it more organized and efficient. It removes clutter, cuts down on time your staff look for tools and materials while working, and ensures workplaces are consciously free of hazards.

The focus on Lean manufacturing is to increase the productivity and profitability of a plant by making small incremental improvements that add up to large benefits to a company's bottom-line over time. For example, a 5% improvement in production output would not have a drastic impact on a company's bottom-line. However combined with simultaneous 5% reductions in energy usage, raw materials used, employee injuries, etc etc these small changes would be very impactful over the course of a few quarters or years. 

5S is a specific set of actions that a company can use to start to realize these Lean Manufacturing gains. It's often the first step companies take in moving towards a Lean or continuous improvement focused culture because 5S is simple to organize, execute, and impactful. As a process, 5S is designed so that each step builds on the successes of the previous ones, and the last two steps of 5S ensure the benefits of 5S are maintained over the long term. 

The term 5S comes from the five steps of the process, which are named with words that begin with the letter S in the original Japanese. In English you could also call them sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain.


What do the 5 S's stand for?

Remove unnecessary or useless items from the work area.

Set in Order/
Arrange necessary tools and materials for quick storage and retrieval

Ensure the tools and equipment in your workspace are clean & well maintained.

Document your new best practices by writing them down

Make 5S an ongoing “work in progress” and commit to regular improvement

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Why is 5S important?

5S is often one of the first lean manufacturing processes companies implement on their continuous improvement journey.

The Benefits of 5S

Aside from the cultural shift towards lean manufacturing that quick 5S wins can bring for your teams, there are over 50 years of well documented benefits worth discussing.

Step-by-Step Facility-wide Implementation Roadmap

The phases of implementation including the objectives, step-by-step execution strategies, resource necessities, and timeline estimations for each phase.

Practical Guide to 5S Sorting

How to effectively identify and remove unnecessary items from workstations to radically enhance productivity.

How to Sustain with 5S Auditing

Practical guide to sustaining 5S and continuously improving workstation productivity.

How to Standardize in 5S

Ensure processes, procedures, and practices adhere to a defined standard, facilitating consistency and predictability in manufacturing.

How to Shine in 5S

A Practical Guide to Ensuring Workstations are Clean and Standardized for Success.

How to execute the 5S Set in Order Step

Practical guide for enhancing workstation orderliness to increase productivity, efficiency and employee engagement.

How to create a 5S Audit Checklist

The phases of implementation including the objectives, step-by-step execution strategies, resource necessities, and timeline estimations for each phase.

How does 5S work?

The 5S methodology is built on 5 easy to remember steps that have a natural flow to them as each step builds upon the success of the last.