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The 5S Philosophy

The 5S Philosophy focuses on effective workplace organization and standardized work procedures. It is based on five Japanese words that begin with S.


Sort, the first S, focuses on eliminating unnecessary items from the workplace. An effective visual method to identify these unneeded items is called red tagging. Red tag all items which are not required to complete your job, then move those items to a central holding area. Once this is complete, evaluate the red tag items. You may move the items you use to a more organized storage location outside of the work area, while unneeded items can be discarded. Sorting is an excellent way to free up valuable floor space in your work area.


Set in Order, the second S, focuses on efficient and effective storage methods. In order to set in order, you must determine what you need to do the job, where the item should be located, and what quantity of the item is really needed. Strategies for effective “Set In Order” are: striping floors, outlining work areas and locations, and installing modular shelving and cabinets. Signs and labels are essential for direction and identification. If each item has its place and each place is properly labeled, less time is wasted on finding the needed object.


Shine, the third S, 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 will begin to more promptly notice changes in equipment and the facility. Equipment leaks, squeaks and vibrations can easily be detected, but if left unattended, could lead to equipment failure and loss of production. This adds up to impact your company’s bottom line.


Standardize, the fourth S, concentrates on standardizing the best practice in your work area. Allow your employees to participate in the development of such standards. They are a valuable but often over-looked source of information regarding their work. Keep employees informed by making the standards apparent with customized signs and floor labels.


Sustain, the fifth S, is by far the most difficult S to implement and achieve. Human nature is to resist change and more than a few organizations have found themselves with a dirty, cluttered shop within a few months of implementing 5S. It is easy to return to the comfort zone of the “old way” of doing things. “Sustain” focuses on defining a new standard of work place organization. Again, signs and labels will help to reinforce the standards which have been set and help to sustain them into the future.