Lean and 5S methodologies aim to create clean, ordered facilities and improve function using clear communication tools and consistent processes, which boosts safety. Industrial locations often combine tools from 5S and Lean processes for a tailor-made communication strategy. Explore these benefits of a combined 5S/Lean implementation and explore some quick tips and basic steps to introduce these key methods in your warehouse, production floor, or other industrial facility.

Are Lean and 5S the Same?

While connected, Lean and 5S are not the same: The 5S Methodology measures the progress of implemented Lean manufacturing techniques and provides key information necessary for continuous improvement.

What Is Lean?

Lean, a production method, aims to reduce wasted effort, time, or supplies through streamlined processes that focus on maximizing productivity. It looks to implement systems and procedures meant to improve efficiency and aims to improve product quality, overall.

What Is 5S?

The 5S Methodology focuses on improving or creating organization through visual cues—including floor marking tape, signage, color-coding, and labels—which help improve efficiency and safety. This method focuses on five steps: Sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. A sixth S, “safety,” is often included throughout the planning process, but isn’t attributed to a single step.

Do Lean and 5S Work Together?

Both Lean and 5S aim for safety improvement and waste reduction, and while they can be implemented separately, they’re designed to work together. Both processes begin with audits—looking at production steps and accident reports to pinpoint any waste, safety concerns, or process deficiencies—then determining what new steps can help streamline and improve safety.

Top Benefits of Combined 5S/Lean Methods

Lean and 5S methods complement each other and work separately or together to improve safety and reduce dangerous situations. They’re designed as collaborative methods that can be implemented in a variety of industrial or non-industrial facilities.

For example, streamlining and removing waste via Lean is improved when floor marking tape and signage are implemented, providing clear, precise communication via visual cues—and these applied visual cues can be evaluated via 5S audits which look for outdated methods or new concerns. Visual communication is another tool that helps eliminate clutter, improve organization, and seriously reduce hazards in the workplace, making it an easy companion to Lean. When implementing these methods, consider feedback from employees, visitors, and third-party audits to ensure you can meet a variety of needs.

Implementing 5S/Lean in Industrial Facilities

Certain implementation strategies must be followed for Lean and 5S methods to be most beneficial. These requirements ensure the methods are tailored to your facility’s needs, and regular evaluations determine whether the implemented processes and visuals are beneficial. If they’re determined to be lacking, updates can be made and tested to produce methods that provide the most benefit to the location.

Depending on facility needs, using a 5S Methodology to implement Lean may look something like this:

  • Sort: A pre-implementation audit is used for planning, both for creating processes and deciding upon supplemental visual cues. Third-party inspections, self-audits, reviewing accident reports, and employee feedback are used in this process.
  • Set in Order: Small-scale testing of planned processes and related floor markings or signage ensures the messaging is clear, any steps in the new processes work, and that the updates eliminate waste, improve safety, or both.
  • Shine: After changes are implemented, the shine step ensures everything is in order—a key step for ensuring safety. This may include auditing the implemented changes, soliciting feedback from employees regarding the updated processes or signage, and checking that new concerns haven’t been created with the changes.
  • Standardize: When it is clear that the new processes and signage work, expanded implementation—first to another department, then facility-wide (if required)—brings common standards and methods to the whole facility for consistency.
  • Sustain: Site-wide standardization isn’t the end of the process. Regular evaluation and audits are necessary to support continuous improvement—a key part of the 5S Model. Production lines, warehouses, heavily trafficked areas, and other industrial locations must be able to adjust as needs require—for example, if new processes may cut time spent or physical waste to support Lean—and the fifth S, Sustain, is the part in the process that allows a facility to adjust as needed.

Every facility has different needs, which is why Lean Manufacturing and the 5S Methodology are ideal for improving processes, creating organization, and reducing hazards within industrial facilities and even beyond, such as in offices or schools. These approaches work together, reducing waste and creating a safer space for employees and visitors. For more information on how to implement Lean/5S in your facility, explore our Resource Center.