What is the 5S Technique?

5S is a technique that results in a well-organized workplace complete with visual controls and order. It’s an environment that has “a place for everything and everything in its place, when you need it”. 

5S produces a workplace that’s clean, uncluttered, safe and organized. People become empowered, engaged and spirited. As the workplace begins to “speak”, by linking people and processes, product begins to flow at the drumbeat of the Customer.

The 5S’s stand for 5 Japanese words that constitute good housekeeping. Roughly translated they are;

  • Sort (Seiri)
  • Set in order (Seiton)
  • Shine (Seiso)
  • Standardize (Seiketsu)
  • Sustain (Shitsuke)

“Visual order is the foundation of excellence in manufacturing. When it is in its place on the production floor, work gets done efficiently and effectively. When it is not in place, work still gets done – but at a level of cost that is hard to justify”.

Visual Systems
Gwendolyn D. Galsworth

5S is not just a clean-up campaign, it’s a system that allows individuals to work more efficiently. It requires;

  • Perseverance and determination
  • The ability to see what’s important
  • Attention to detail
5S is the key first step in workplace improvement. 

Remove from the workplace all items that are not needed for current production (or office) operation.
· Sorting means leaving only the bare necessities
· When in doubt, throw it away

“Set in Order”

Arranging needed items so that they are readily accessible and labelled so that anyone can find them or put them away.


Sweep and clean the work area. The key purpose is to keep everything in top condition so that when someone needs to use something, it is ready to be used. Cleaning a work area produces and opportunity to visually inspect equipment, tooling, materials and work conditions.


Define what the “normal” condition of the work area. Define how to correct “abnormal” conditions. The standard should be easily understood and easy to communicate (i.e. visual controls).


Implementing solutions to address the root causes of work area organization issues. All employees must be properly trained and use visual management techniques.

©  2003 Lean Innovations