Are you interested in how to implement 5S in your business? Or how you can increase productivity and decrease waste?

Using 5S methods in your business or facility can be a simple and easy way to get organized and improve efficiency.

A recent survey with 25,000 manufacturing and distribution participants from across the U.S., showed more than 71 percent of those surveyed are using 5S tools and solutions.

Compdata’s 2015 Compensation Data Manufacturing and Distribution survey collected detailed information about the usage of lean workplace organization systems like 5S.

While there are a variety of lean manufacturing organization principles, 5S was the top choice of those surveyed. Some respondents shared that they used a blend of more than one management principle.

In addition to the 71 percent who used 5S practices, results showed:

  • Kaizen is used by 60.2% of employers, up from 56.4%
  • Kanban is used by 38.3% of employers, up from 36.6%
  • Six Sigma is used by 63.3% of employers (the highest rate reported for the past five years)
  • Takt Time Analysis is utilized by 22.7% of employers surveyed, up from 22.5%
  • Value Stream Mapping is used by 46% of employers, up from 42.9%

So, what is 5S exactly?

5S is a process using five steps which leading to better visual organization. 5S is believed to have started as early as the 16th century. Venetian shipbuilders in Venice, Italy, used quality inspection techniques in an assembly line approach to manufacturing ships for the royal navy. Next up, in post-World War II, the Japanese automotive manufacturing industry gave way to the formal birth of 5S as we know it today. 5S became an organizational approach to workplace optimization and a tool for continuous improvement.

The 5S methodology equipped Toyota employees with the mindset that their contribution impacts the overall efficiency and quality of their products. With this implemented, waste was kept at a minimum and productivity maximized. The rest of the world caught up and began using the methodology. We now see this being applied beyond factories, with 5S appearing in offices, financial institutions, and even hospitals.

The key facet of Toyota’s approach was to organize the workplace floor for convenience, speed, and ease. This five-step method is known as 5S. When companies around the world began turning to lean production beginning in the 1980s, 5S became one of the most popular lean production management systems.

The name “5S” comes from five Japanese words that all happen to begin with “s” sound:

  • Seiri – sort or classify
  • Seiton – simplify or straighten
  • Seiso – sweep or clean
  • Seiketsu – standardize or stabilize
  • Shitsuke – self-discipline or practice

Seiri – Sort

Sort is the first step in 5S practices. Sort clutter and waste from the important items in a work area. Remove all items that that do not belong in the working area or contribute to the goal of that particular work station.

Seiton – Straighten

After sorting comes straighten. Arrange tools in an efficient manner. Ensure that every item is placed for optimal utilization.

Seiso – Sweep

Sweep involves cleaning. Employees can take part in a thorough cleaning of the work area, tools, machines and other equipment to ensure that everything is returned to its best possible state. The idea is that anything that is out of place will be easily recognizable because of the bright and clean work area. Once everything is cleaned and swept, you can easily see if there’s a defect in equipment or a flaw in the workflow.

Seiketsu – Standardize

A key feature of 5S that can make or break the long-term success of implementing these protocols in a workplace is to standardize the process. This is the step that ensures that the sorting, straightening and sweeping become the workplace norm and a part of the everyday workflow. Standardizing the 5S practices is the key to making your lean organized workplace really work and increasing productivity.

Shitsuke – Sustain

The last step is all about ensuring the company strives to continue and improve using the previous stages of 5S. This would include housekeeping and maintenance. Another way to sustain is to conduct audits periodically. Check to see if the workflow is at maximum productivity. The 5S practices should become part of the culture of the organization. These tasks should become second nature.

Tools for 5S Implementation

Using floor markings, signs and labels are great tools to use to STRAIGTHEN  and to STANDARDIZE.

Nick Shonsky, Director of Continuous Improvement at The Standard Group in Lancaster and Reading Pa., shared with us the power of some of our smallest products – our Superior Mark™ Label Protectors.

Shonsky told us he’s interested in using Lean and 5S solutions in his company’s warehouse. He’s been implementing pieces of the 5S organizational theory in small doses as his budget allows.

The Standard Group helps marketers and advertisers simplify their print management and marketing logistics solutions through printing and packaging; personalized 1:1 communication; and integrated direct mail, marketing management portals, fulfillment and promotional products. Nick has been driving their Continuous Improvement / LEAN initiative. He oncentrates on keeping the facility workflow efficient and at optimal productivity.

“We recently redesigned our digital press department for greater efficiency,” Shonsky said. “When the area was completed, we had stacks of different paper and  wanted to mark the floor with item numbers so that people can easily identify what belongs in the certain spots. I recalled a sample of the clear label protector that Stop-Painting sent to me  when I reached out for a sample kit. I tried the samples out in that area.”

Shonsky said the Superior Mark™ Label Protectors proved to be a great solution. The labels were successful SORT tools for the warehouse’s visual organization needs. After seeing the label protector samples hold up so well, Nick placed an order for more and is using them throughout his warehouse.

Other tools that offer solutions for 5S Implementation plans include:

Pallet markers

Keep your pallets organized and in place with floor markers. This ensures better equipment and employee pathways.


Tool Labels/Floor Markers

These labels and floor signs make sure everyone knows where to find a tool — and where to store it.

Visual Cues at Hunt Country Components in Thomasville, NC

Floor Tape/Pathways

Just as labels indicate where tools go, pathway floor markers indicate where people should be — or not be.


5S is Simple And Effective

The 5S concept is all about organization. 5S organizes the workplace so tools are convenient, easy to find and have a clearly marked home. The goal is to make it easier for employees to safely and efficiently get their work done. Companies around the world have turned to lean production in the last 20 years Why? Because Lean and 5S have a proven track record to increase productivity.