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Lean 5’s Explained

May 22, 2008
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Getting Started

5S is a process to ensure work areas are systematically kept clean and organized, ensuring employee safety and providing the foundation on which to build the Lean Office. 5S is an improvement process to ensure everything has a place, and there is a place for everything.

The five steps in the process are:

1. 1S – Sort through and sort out. When in doubt, move it out!
2. 2S – Set things in order and set limits. To ensure everything has a place and everything is in its place.
3. 3S – Shine and inspect through cleaning. To be Lean, you must be clean!
4. 4S – Create and set standards. Standardize to improve.
5. 5S – Educate and communicate. Sustain for success!

Provides a structured approach and easy-to-understand methodology (steps) for workplace organization, order, and cleanliness. This is accomplished by:

* Placing a team of workers in control of their own workplace.
* Assisting a team and company focus on the causes of waste and its subsequent elimination.
* Establishing standards for basic housekeeping and orderliness.
* Demonstrating to customers and co-workers that a clean office environment is a foundation for good work flow.
* Improving employee morale by ensuring the office area is safe, clean, and something to be proud of.

Making Progress

A cross-functional team is assembled and a target area is chosen. Workers from the area are key in making this project a success. Get involvement and buy-in from the departmental upper management for the project – and make sure to mention the potential savings in worker’s time and any other office efficiencies that will benefit the organization.

1st S

Sort through and sort out.
When in doubt, move it out!

This is a weeding out of items in the target area that haven’t been used for a period of time or are not expected to be used. The team and/or worker would follow these steps:

1. Define the staging area for unnecessary items.
2. Create guidelines for items not essential to the area (it is recommended that if an item has not been touched in 3 months, remove it from of the area).
3. Identify items not necessary in the area and red tag them.
4. Locate tagged items to a staging area.
5. Managers/Team Leaders determine disposition of tagged items. This may include: return to area, create common area, dispose of, or donate to charity.
6. Post 5S visual circle in common area and place seal on the first S.

2nd S

Set things in order and set limits.
To ensure everything has a place and everything is in its place.

This S establishes the locations where items belong, by either labeling or visual markings. The team and/or worker would accomplish this by:

1. Marking off common areas, labeling drawers and identifying everything within the area.
2. Create a standard for the target area, something to refer to if an item is out of place or not returned. It should be obvious something is missing and each item should be labeled to identify where it belongs.
3. Monitoring of the area to ensure this S is being completed.
4. After 1-2 weeks of monitoring this S, the seal should be placed on the 5S visual circle.

3rd S

Shine and inspect through cleaning.
To be Lean, you must be clean!

This is basic cleaning of the area and establishing the sequence in which the area is kept up on a regular basis. This is from cleaning the keyboard to having the floor mats shampooed every month. The team should do the ‘spring cleaning’ then create a Cleaning Plan. The team and/or worker would accomplish this by:

1. Setting time aside for the ‘spring-cleaning’ activity.
2. Create the 5S Cleaning Plan for the area, which may be daily, weekly, etc.
3. Place the seal on the third part of the 5S visual circle.

The 5S is a team process, but it also involves the individual worker to commit to the process for his/her own area. The important point is to identify what needs to be cleaned, how it should be kept clean and by whom, and a visual chart to ensure the process is followed.

4th S

Create and set standards for cleanliness.
Standardize to improve.

Standardize involves creating guidelines for keeping an area organized, orderly, and clean. This also includes making those standards visual and obvious. It is accomplished in six steps:

1. Identify the target area.
2. Decide what the specific tasks are and where they should happen (location). List them on a sheet of paper.
3. Decide who will perform the tasks. List in column.
4. Decide frequency and supplies required. List in column.
5. Post in target area.
6. Place the seal on the fourth part of the 5S visual circle.

You may wish to rotate cleaning assignments weekly or monthly.

5th S

Educate and communicate to ensure everyone uses the 5S standards over time.
Sustain for success!

The essence of Sustain is found in the saying, “Sustain all gains through self-discipline.” This S will allow for all employees to be trained in the 5S methodology. A learning environment must be created supportive to participants attending the training where the information is linked to issues they have to deal with in their jobs.

The following are the critical steps to perform in this S.

1. Create the 5S Training Matrix.

2. Regularly conduct the 5S Office Audit.

Once an area has accomplished the 5th seal placement, brainstorm with the team to continue the 5S with additional visual, rewards, office competitions, showcases, etc., to maintain the momentum.

5S Office Audit

Name ______

5 or more problems, enter 0.
3 or 4 problems, enter 1.
2 problems, enter 2.
1 problem, enter 3.
0 problems, enter 4.

Work Area ______







  1. Unneeded books, supplies, etc.

  1. Unneeded reference materials, etc.

  1. Items present in aisles, hallways, etc.

  1. Safey concerns.

Set In Order

  1. Correct places for items.

  1. Items are not put away.

  1. Work areas properly defined.

  1. Office equipment locations defined.


  1. Desk surfaces, cabinents free of dust.

  1. Computer terminal screens clean.

  1. Cleaning materials easily accessible.

  1. Common areas looking clean.

  1. Labels, signs, etc. are clear to see.


  1. Work information is visible.

  1. 5S Standards are posted.

  1. Everyone trained to standards.

  1. Checklists exist for all areas.

  1. Items in areas can be located quickly.


  1. An audit sheet has been created.

  1. Audits are conducted regularly.

  1. Improvement ideas for 5S are used.

Achieving Goal

  • 5S must become part of everyone’s daily work.

  • Make sure the first S ‘sort’ is done well, as it will set the stage for the other S’s.

  • Ensure before and after photos are taken and displayed.

  • Obtain testimonials from workers during the process and submit to company newsletter.

  • Be creative and adaptive to the changing office environments.

  • Make reward and recognition part of the process.

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