5S Stops the Causes of Errors and Defects that later become Workplace Problems to Fix

Making the smart workplace improvements that 5S requires is not the main reason you do 5S. You make 5S workplace improvements because 5S methods reduce problems and mistakes so that you do great work each time.



Hi Mike,

My management has decided to introduce 5S into our production group. I have been appointed to lead the 5S implementation project. Our production people do not see why we should have 5S and I wonder if you can advise me how I should approach this stumbling block?



Hello Friend,

5S is workplace management where the work area and workplace are organized and ritualized to minimize the loss of time and the use of movement. Originally part of Lean manufacturing philosophy (also known as the Toyota Production System), its principles for eliminating wasted time and unnecessary motion are universally applicable to everyone and every business.

5S is much more than ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’. 5S comprises five principles to make people highly efficient and effective in doing their work.

  1. Sort: Keep near you only what you regularly use
  2. Straighten: Find exactly what you need to use in less than 30 seconds
  3. Shine: Have your workplace and equipment ready for immediate use
  4. Standardize: Everyone does each job in the same way and is challenged to improve it
  5. Sustain: Everyone does their part to foster a safe, efficient and effective workplace

5S has little to do with creating a clean and tidy work area where everything is neat, near-by, and easy and fast to get to. That is indeed what you see when you have a great 5S workplace, but that is not what 5S is for.

5S is to there to help you do masterly work. Its purpose is to help people do perfect work every time.

5S is really about:

  • Preventing mistakes that ruin a job and makes scrap and rework
  • Making sure equipment is reliable and works properly to make a perfect item every time
  • Removing and preventing useless variation in work activities and machine performance
  • Delivering exact quality products and service ever more quickly
  • Keeping people and plant safe from hazards and harm

Actually, that is what every business wants. To achieve those vital performance benefits it just happens that you need to Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain in order to create the right workplace situation that will deliver the competitive performance a business needs.

So do not tell your people that 5S is only about workplace management and cleanliness; rather teach them that through their personal workplace practices they set themselves up to do great work. By doing great work they will build a competitive company and thereby secure their future.

They will help build a world-class operation whose products or service will attract new customers and keep them in jobs. If they use 5S well they will be creating work security for themselves and building a safer, happier work environment where people make a top-quality product every time. 5S is not about being clean, tidy and neat; it is about always doing excellent quality work your customers love. To do that well you need to be clean, tidy and neat!

In order to get that awareness into your people run a small pilot project where 5S is used in the workplace. Let them see that 5S works to turn disorganized, messy work into a highly efficient and effective operation.

Get your people to experience and see the effects of the pilot 5S improvement project in several ways, e.g. show it on graphs and charts on a communication board; get the guys in the 5S pilot trial to do tool box talks to the others about what they have learned, and the problems that they solved; let people go and see what the people in the pilot trial are doing, etc.

It is important for your people to know that working in 5S teams will be positive, where open discussion develops amongst its members and people get friendly and supportive assistance from each other. The pilot team applies 5S by doing it. They and everyone in the operation immediately gets feedback on how well that worked through the measurements, and by seeing the effectiveness of the 5S improvement efforts for themselves. Once your people see that 5S workplace management works, they will want to do 5S too.

I hope that these thoughts are useful to you as you plan your company’s Lean 5S improvement project.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ


P.S. Find out more from our Introducing Lean Six Sigma, 5S and TPM training PowerPoint presentations at the Lean and Quality Management Training Store where you can purchase them online.

P.P.S. If you require advice or input on Lean Business Processes, Lean Manufacturing or Lean Improvement, please feel free to contact me by email at info@lifetime-reliability.com