Ever notice how much better you work when the space you work in is organized? The 5S approach is a Japanese process that’s about promoting an efficient, effective workplace that helps companies eliminate waste.

Benefits of 5S

  • Reduced costs
  • Higher quality
  • Increased productivity
  • Greater employee satisfaction
  • A safer work environment

The 5S Approach to Waste Elimination for Lean Businesses. The steps are:

  1. Sort
  2. Set
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

Often, these steps are represented on a process chart where the first four steps are located around the perimeter of the chart and the fifth step (sustain) is placed inside the process. This is because the first four steps lead into each other, while ”sustain” is something that must be done at every step.

There are five 5S phases. They can be translated from the Japanese as “sort”, “set in order”, “shine”, “standardize”, and “sustain”. Other translations are possible.

  1. Sort (Seiri)

Sort is sorting through all items in a location and removing all unnecessary items from the location.


  • Reduce time loss looking for an item by reducing the number of items.
  • Reduce the chance of distraction by unnecessary items.
  • Simplify inspection.
  • Increase the amount of available, useful space.
  • Increase safety by eliminating obstacles.


  • Check all items in a location and evaluate whether or not their presence at the location is useful or necessary.
  • Remove unnecessary items as soon as possible. Place those that cannot be removed immediately in a ‘red tag area’ so that they are easy to remove later on.
  • Keep the working floor clear of materials except for those that are in use to production.
  1. Set in order (Seiton)

Set is putting all necessary items in the optimal place for fulfilling their function in the workplace.


  • Make the workflow smooth and easy.


  • Arrange work stations in such a way that all tooling / equipment is in close proximity, in an easy to reach spot and in a logical order adapted to the work performed. Place components according to their uses, with the frequently used components being nearest to the workplace.
  • Arrange all necessary items so that they can be easily selected for use. Make it easy to find and pick up necessary items.
  • Assign fixed locations for items. Use clear labels, marks or hints so that items are easy to return to the correct location and so that it is easy to spot missing items.
  1. Shine/Seiso

Shine is sweeping or cleaning and inspecting the workplace, tools and machinery on a regular basis.


  • Prevent deterioration.
  • Keep the workplace safe and easy to work in.
  • Keep the workplace clean and pleasing to work in.
  • When in place, anyone not familiar to the environment must be able to detect any problems within 50 feet in 5 sec.


  • Clean the workplace and equipment on a daily basis, or at another appropriate (high frequency) cleaning interval.
  • Inspect the workplace and equipment while cleaning.
  1. Standardize (Seiketsu)

Standardize is to standardize the processes used to sort, order and clean the workplace.


  • Establish procedures and schedules to ensure the repetition of the first three ‘S’ practices.


  • Develop a work structure that will support the new practices and make it part of the daily routine.
  • Ensure everyone knows their responsibilities of performing the sorting, organizing and cleaning.
  • Use photos and visual controls to help keep everything as it should be.
  • Review the status of 5S implementation regularly using audit checklists.
  1. Sustain/Self-discipline (Shitsuke)

Sustain or sustain the developed processes by self-discipline of the workers. Also translates as “do without being told”.


  • Ensure that the 5S approach is followed.


  • Organize training sessions.
  • Perform regular audits to ensure that all defined standards are being implemented and followed.
  • Implement improvements whenever possible. Worker inputs can be very valuable for identifying improvements.
  • When issues arise, identify their cause and implement the changes necessary to avoid recurrence.

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