Creating a Lean 5S Checklist

By Matt Wastradowski

work area organzied with 5S checklist

The 5S System has revolutionized workplaces around the world with its focused approach to efficiency, safety, and organization through effective visual communication. By following five steps, businesses can boost profits by conserving resources, develop an efficient workplace that runs on standardized procedures, and improve productivity through cleanliness and organization.

The steps might appear simple, but the amount of work involved in developing and carrying out a project using 5S can feel overwhelming. To that end, checklists help employers break down the tasks into manageable duties, organize the workflow, and keep workers connected at all steps in the process.

What is the 5S System?

The 5S concept, one of several lean manufacturing tools, is a series of five sequential steps designed to improve workplace organization and create a sustaining culture of cleanliness. This is done, in part, through clear visual communication, such as shadow boards for tools, storage area labeling, and markings for equipment and tools.

The 5Ss were developed in Japan, and stand for the Japanese words Seiri (tidiness), Seiton (orderliness), Seiso (cleanliness), Seiketsu (standardization), and Shitsuke (discipline).

The English translations of these words are usually presented as the following:

  • Sort identifies the tools, supplies, and resources pertaining to work performed in a particular area, and removes the unnecessary equipment and items.
  • Set organizes what’s left in a work area to ensure workers find what they need, when they need it.
  • Shine promotes regular cleaning, inspection, and maintenance; this makes it simpler to spot potential problems.
  • Standardize records any improvements so they can be sustained going forward, and shared with other teams or departments.
  • Sustain seeks to maintain what’s been accomplished through regular assessment, open communication, and continuing training — and by repeating the 5S cycle, as necessary.

Read our detailed breakdown of the 5S System »

Benefits of a Checklist

checklists for 5SA 5S checklist plays a key role and provides numerous benefits in developing a safer, more efficient workplace. Here’s how a 5S checklist can help your facility:

  • Organize the workflow: Checklists outline what must be done, and when those tasks must be carried out. This provides a clear workflow and list of duties for all involved employees.
  • Outline necessary steps: A 5S checklist helps employees determine the specific, actionable tasks that must be performed to accomplish the larger goal.
  • Keep employees informed: Employees can review a 5S checklist to see what’s been accomplished, who’s working on particular duties, and where they can assist.
  • Create thorough processes: Checklists should include all relevant tasks, no matter how mundane or repetitive, so that employees don’t skip easily-forgotten or oft-overlooked duties.
  • Focus on important work: When employees don’t have to wonder whether they forgot something or overlooked a key part of the process, they are freer to work on high-level duties and important tasks that contribute to larger goals.

What Does a 5S Checklist Look Like?

At a glance, a 5S checklist looks pretty similar to most checklists—what tasks are part of the larger process, have they been accomplished, and who performed the tasks?—but a few key differences emerge upon closer inspection. Here are a few guidelines for creating a successful 5S checklist.

  • Organize by the 5S steps: Each task should be assigned to one of the steps in the 5S process. Doing so helps you break down the work by when it should be accomplished, and what else must be done before certain tasks can be started.
  • Create specific tasks: Every specific task should be accounted for in the checklist. Rather than something vague—“Sort work area” isn’t very helpful, for instance—consider trackable, more specific tasks, including “Create a Red Tag area for unnecessary items,” “classify tools as ‘needed’ or ‘unneeded,’” and “Remove unnecessary tools from work area.”
  • Include team members: Including a list of all 5S team members helps all involved workers coordinate, collaborate, and communicate with each other.

Solutions for Implementing 5S in Your Facility

Graphic Products provides several resources for implementing the 5S System in your facility.

  • Implementing 5S In Your Workplace WebinarWatch our webinar, Implementing 5S In Your Workplace. The free, 30-minute webinar, covers 5S basics, offer tips for improving efficiency, and more.
  • Grab our guide to the 5S System for improving safety, quality, productivity and efficiency throughout your workplace. The free guide outlines each of the steps and provides a path for implementing the system through new processes and effective signage.
  • Safe, strategic floor and aisle marking is a common method for implementing 5S in warehouses and other large facilities. PathFinder floor marking, wayfinding, and safety tape by Graphic Products can help improve safety and increase efficiency in warehouses of all sizes.
  • Visual communication throughout the workplace is a key component of the 5S System. DuraLabel industrial label & sign printers by Graphic Products can help employers create a more organized jobsite. DuraLabel printers can be used with more than 50 supplies suited to unique facility environments where 5S might be used, like Ultra-Aggressive Vinyl for labeling uneven or irregular surfaces, Reflective or Phosphorescent material for low-light areas, and Oily Surface Supply for greasy environments.

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