5S Organisation Tool

The 5S is a Lean Manufacturing tool used to ensure a clean and organized work place. The 5S Organisation Tool is based on the English translations of five Japanese words that begin with 'S'. The 5S tool focuses on organization, cleanliness and standardization to remove waste and improve profitability, efficiency, service and safety. This system is not complicated and is based on common sense. The pillars of 5S are defined as:

  • Rule 1: Sort
  • Rule 2: Set
  • Rule 3: Shine
  • Rule 4: Standardize
  • Rule 5: Sustain

Sort through all items and remove unneeded items. Clean out the work area, keeping what is necessary in the work area and relocating or discarding what is not.

Set in order remaining items, set limits, create temporary location indicators, and arrange needed items so they are easy to find, use and return, to streamline production and eliminate time searching for them. Try asking yourself:

  • What do I need to do my job?
  • Where should I locate this item?
  • How many of this item do I really need?

Some strategies for achieving effective 'Set' in order, may be painting floors, outlining work areas and locations, shadow boards, and modular shelving and cabinets for needed items such as garbage bins, brooms, mop and buckets. It is best remembered by the old saying "A place for everything and everything in its place." This also applies to the office or your home office.

Shine or clean everything and use cleaning as inspection.  Once you have eliminated the clutter and junk that has been clogging your work areas and identified and located the necessary items, the next step is to thoroughly clean the work area. Daily follow-up cleaning is necessary in order to sustain this improvement. Workers take pride in a clean and clutter-free work area and the Shine step will help create ownership in the equipment and facility. Workers will also begin to notice changes and problems that if left unattended, could lead to equipment failure and loss of production.  Both add up to impact your company's bottom line.

Standardize the first 3 of the 5S's by implementing visual displays and controls, and once they have been implemented, you should concentrate on standardising best practice in your work area. Allow your employees to participate in the development of such standards. They are a valuable but often overlooked source of information regarding their work. Make all work areas similar so procedures are obvious and instinctual and defects stand out.

Sustain. Make these 'rules' natural and instinctual. Once they are habits, the total benefits of 5S will be gained. Achieve these gains through self-discipline, training, communication and total employee involvement. This is by far the most difficult of the 5S's to implement and achieve. Human nature is to resist change.

Once fully implemented, the 5S process can increase morale, create positive impressions on customers, and increase efficiency and organisation. Not only will employees feel better about where they work, the effect on continuous improvement can lead to less waste, better quality and faster lead times. Any of which will make your organisation more profitable and competitive in the market place.

On reading this article you may conclude that it is based on a factory environment. True however we would say it is even more applicable to your work or home offices.

Could your office do with a treatment of the 5’S?  Be honest!!!

Have a go and see the impact.

Note Rule 5, Sustain in others words once you have your work area fully organized

For more information on this or any other article please contact

Philip Coombs on (0419) 834 -678 or