The right visual cues and tools make 5S and Lean methodologies easy to follow to improve efficiency by minimizing waste while maximizing productivity. 5S is a method of Lean manufacturing that relies on five simple steps to create an organized workspace: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. These Japanese words describe the five principles of 5S, and they translate loosely to Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. See how visual cues are simple tools that can help improve 5S and Lean methods in industrial workplaces.

Steps to Successful Lean and 5S Strategy

Lean and 5S manufacturing principles promote an organized workspace as a means for facilities to increase efficiency by reducing unnecessary actions and activities. Proper organization also reveals issues and inefficiencies, providing opportunities for further improvements.

The five steps to creating a lean manufacturing facility in accordance with 5S are:

  1. Seiri (“Sort”) – Organize and classify the tools and equipment in the workspace; clear out and throw away unnecessary items.
  2. Seiton (“Set in Order”) – Arrange the tools in the workspace to simplify operations and result in more efficient work.
  3. Seiso (“Shine”) – Clean and inspect the work area, including all tools in it. 
  4. Seiketsu (“Standardize”) – Create a uniform, easy-to-understand method of organizing tasks and/or tools throughout the facility.
  5. Shitsuke (“Sustain”) – Take steps to maintain the new protocols and keep the facility clean and organized. 

The primary focuses for implementing Lean and 5S principles in your manufacturing facility include clearing clutter, increasing open space, and creating a safer work environment. As a result, workplaces improve efficiency by avoiding unnecessary steps, helping employees locate tools more quickly, and reducing downtime. But what tools can assist in streamlining these processes? Visual cues are one of the best methods.

5S Tools and Tips to Improve Lean Operations

Create a safe, organized workplace by implementing visual cues that reinforce the five steps of 5S. The initial effort to learn 5S methodologies can seem time-consuming, but with training and relevant visual cues installed, sorting, cleaning, and organizing become habits. Follow our tips for how to use rack labels, floor signs and tape, and floor paint and stencils to apply visual reminders that help you meet health and safety objectives in your warehouse.

Peel-and-Stick Floor Signs for Industrial Safety

Visual cues are key to a company’s productivity and efficiency—and bottom line. With the right reminders and instructions, employees can work faster without sacrificing safety. Placing adhesive floor signs around the facility helps communicate warnings, direct workflow, reinforce the use of personal protective equipment, and offer custom messages. Easy peel-and-stick application means your visual cues can be updated without needing to close work areas for installation, and the long-lasting pressure-sensitive adhesive keeps your visual cues in place even through heavy traffic and routine cleaning.

Consider these signage options to keep safety and operational protocols top of mind and help remind staff of 5S steps and standards, so daily operations run smoothly:

  • Use signage to number carts or pallet jacks and mark the corresponding parking locations.
  • Select color-coded floor signs to distinguish storage spaces for safety equipment, tools, and goods and to mark work zones.
  • Reserve storage spaces for hand trucks, ladders, and forklifts to ensure they’re left in out-of-the-way locations.
  • Create custom floor signs to provide instructions for location-specific tasks, safety protocols, or restrictions.

Using Magnetic Labels to Organize Racks and Shelving

Place warehouse labels and rack signs throughout your facility to keep work areas organized and improve warehouse efficiency. When every shelf or bin is marked, out-of-place items are easier to notice and correct. Consistent storage makes putting away supplies and finding tools or equipment faster and reduces unnecessary searching. Labels are also instrumental when executing “sort” in 5S and are important for implementing and maintaining new organizational systems.

  • Label bins with Leave, Relocate, Recycle, Scrap, and TBD, to sort tools and supplies; stick magnetic labels directly to large equipment that cannot be easily moved for sorting.
  • Invite employees to arrange materials in the order they are used and then move the bin and shelf markers to match.
  • Removable magnetic labels are ideal for temporary storage, such as for seasonal production or during short-term changes in warehousing needs.
  • Custom-printed rack signs and floor labels are often preferred for long-term use, especially when paired with label protectors that extend the lifespan of the ID stickers.

Installing Floor Tape to Support 5S Methods

Floor tape is an excellent 5S tool for visual organization for workstations, paths, safety locations, and equipment storage. Choose our high-quality Superior Mark® floor tape for high-traffic areas, which feature patented beveled edges that resist damage from heavy machinery tires, carts, and dragging pallets. This tape is easy to remove and replace to further optimize the layout as your needs evolve, and it holds up to cleaning machines so you can adhere to the 5S step “shine” without worry.

  • Outline pathways with highly visible, uniform lines and add floor marker arrows to make workflows orderly
  • Maintain a consistent color scheme and visual cue strategy in carpeted offices with carpet tape for indoor directional cues.
  • Mark holding locations for scrap, tools, and raw materials using floor tape featuring color coding and custom messages to clearly label reserved spaces.
  • Tape marked Keep Area Clear or Do Not Block reminds employees to put supplies where they belong, rather than in miscellaneous areas, in traffic lanes, or where emergency spaces may be blocked.

Creating Visual Cues with Industrial Stencils

Paint concrete warehouse floors or asphalt surfaces in parking lots to streamline processes and implement Lean and 5S organization principles. Shaped stencils are available as dots, arrows, footprints, and dashed lines to communicate placement, traffic direction, or steps in a process. Select high-quality stencils so they can be reused throughout the facility or when painted messages need touching up.

Our premade designs and custom precision-cut stencil forms create crisp, legible markings that allow you to:

  • Paint corner markers around pallet storage to keep it uniform and neat.
  • Use dashes to designate traffic lanes and improve flow.
  • Show pedestrian routes and safe standing areas with stenciled footprints. 
  • Paint color-coded stenciled symbols to coordinate with assembly lines or processes to guide employees.
  • Stencil pavement markings for traffic management in the parking lot and receiving dock to direct visitors, staff, and couriers.

Help employees follow 5S and Lean processes when you apply floor signs, tape, painted visual cues, and other 5S supplies. These visual cues provide reminders to make these practices habits. And, once you’re up and running, you can expand 5S to include safety to continue to optimize operations and meet company goals. For more tips for workplace organization, visit our Resource Center.