Lean Tools – What Is 5S?

5S is one of many Lean tools out there. Often misinterpreted as “just housekeeping” it is one of the foundations of Lean. The overall aim of 5S is to reduce waste, optimise productivity and increase profitability.

5S Lean Tool | WLP

Do you work in an area that is used by more than just yourself? How frustrated do you get when you want a tool or item of equipment and it’s not where you think it belongs?

My partner, Sarah, cannot put something down in the same place twice. So when I want to get the sugar, guess what – it’s moved! If I’m busy I get frustrated because it is a waste of my time whilst I go looking for its new location.

5S is a 5 step process to improve the organisation of a workplace. It significantly reduces wasted time spent looking for items that have moved or been “borrowed”, as well as preventing you from having to move around far more than is necessary to complete the task in hand.

Why 5S?

There are five Japanese words (in brackets) which are loosely translated into five English words:

  • Sort (Seiri)
    Sort out what you need to keep and what is just not required, or is being kept for the rainy day that is unlikely to occur.
  • Straighten (Seiton)
    Make visible what remains using notice boards, shadow boards, labelled racks etc.. The idea being that everything has a place and there is a place for everything.
  • Shine (Seiso)
    Clean and keep it clean. The area should look as good as new. Make it so that problems are visible.
  • Standardise (Seiketsu)
    Standards are set. Photographs are taken. An audit programme is put in place. The aim being that people maintain the look of the area. At the end of the day, when the work is done, the area looks the same.
  • Sustain (Shitsuke)
    Stick to it! Keep the auditing going. If improvements come to light, implement them!

The best of it though is that anyone who gets involved tends to find it a motivating experience.


If you are intrigued by 5S and would like more information, please contact Steve on enquiry@w-l-p.co.uk.