5S / Visual Management

5S is considered to be one of the foundational elements of a Lean workplace. It’s equally applicable to an office or factory floor environment and it’s a great place to start when embarking on a Lean transformation.


"5S" refers to the five Japanese words that begin with the letter S that explain the workplace cleanliness and organization system of the Toyota Production System. 5S is more than just a random or spontaneous act of organizing and cleaning. 5S instills the discipline to have "a place for everything, and everything in its place", and it encourages process thinking:

  • Sort (Seiri): Go through the workplace and remove anything that’s not needed for regular workflows. Move excess inventory as well as items you are unsure of to a red tag area for later evaluation. Throw away garbage.
  • Set in order (Seiton): Move tools and materials close to point of use and make things easy to find and access. Use indicators, such as shadow boards, tape outlines, and min-max inventory levels to make missing items obvious.
  • Shine (Seiso):  Clean the area, repair damaged equipment, and generally clean the workplace. This provides a different mindset and helps avoid "broken window syndrome".
  • Standardize (Seiketsu): Implement daily checklists to maintain 5S. Create owners and rules to maintain the first three Ss as part of daily work.
  • Sustain (Shitsuke): Put audit scores and before & after photos where they can be seen near the area. Track scores over time to show improvement. Encourage management to walk by the area and ask the team about its 5S efforts.

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