What Is 5S?

By Matt Wastradowski

hardware organized with lean 5S system

What Is the 5S System?

The 5S system is a lean manufacturing tool that improves workplace efficiency and eliminates waste. Managers and workers achieve greater organization, standardization, and efficiency—all while reducing costs and boosting productivity. The core principles of 5S involve creating and maintaining:

  • Visual order
  • Organization
  • Cleanliness
  • Standardization

With these goals in place, the workplace becomes organized, work is done efficiently and safely, and problems are quickly found and eliminated. 

What Are the Five Ss?

5S stands for the Japanese words seiri (tidiness), seiton (orderliness), seiso (cleanliness), seiketsu (standardization), and shitsuke (discipline). These translations have been changed from Japanese to English as follows to maintain the 5Ss:

Sort the 1st step in a 5S Program



The first step is making things clean and organized. This improves efficiency, helps improve quality, and makes it easier to spot and address problems.

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Set in Order the 2nd step in a 5S Program

Set In Order


Organize, identify, and arrange everything to reduce motion and improve productivity.

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Shine the 3rd step in a 5S Program



Regular cleaning and maintenance.

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Standardize the 4th step in a 5S Program



Make it easy to maintain – simplify and standardize.

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Sustain the 5th step in a 5S Program



Maintain what has been accomplished.

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5S and Lean Manufacturing Principles

Lean manufacturing is a system that aims to eliminate waste, improve quality, and increase profits by creating value based on customer needs. Businesses gain the greatest benefit from 5S when it is used with other lean tools:

  • Total Productive Maintenance – Discover how you can improve production time, eliminate errors, and reduce downtime through preventive maintenance and autonomous maintenance.
  • Kaizen – Learn how small changes lead to major improvements in quality, safety, and profit.
  • Kanban – Streamline your supply chain, reduce work-in-progress, and eliminate errors with this powerful lean tool.

Why Should I Adopt the 5S System?

Starting 5S is different for every facility, depending on the needs, processes, and workplace culture. But, no matter how it’s done, you can enjoy many benefits from 5S:

  • Improved profits: Reduce costs, streamline labor costs, and improve quality.
  • More efficient workforce: Make work easier with standard procedures. What needs to happen, happens.
  • Safer workplace: Improve safety by keeping your workplace clean and organized.
  • Fewer defects: Reduce errors and defects by making it easier to identify and solve problems.
  • Better communication: Ensure your workforce has the information it needs to operate efficiently by creating a visual 5S factory.

What Types of Businesses Benefit from a 5S Program?

5S provides benefits to nearly every industry, including schools and hospitals.

  • Schools: The University of Georgia started a lean program in 2009. Using 5S, they reduced the travel distance for processing supplies by 83%, saving $7,000 to $10,000 in labor each year. 
    (Source: http://www.busfin.uga.edu/)
  • Hospitals: A recent study shows how 5S improved safety, increased efficiency, and reduced costs. The hospital reduced set up time by 37%, and reduced the number of tools needed for some procedures by 70%. On the financial side, the hospital realized savings of about 2.8 million dollars a year.
    (Source: Journal for Healthcare Quality. September/October 2015. Volume 37, Issue 5)
  • Manufacturers: Boeing is using 5S-inspired tools to increase its annual output.

When 5S is practiced each day, it will improve efficiency and quality. These, in turn, lead to lower costs and increased profits.

What Will 5S Cost?

While 5S can be done on any budget, the 5S system requires some resources to become an effective tool. At minimum, there will be some costs related to:

  • Training employees
  • Cleaning and organizing the workplace
  • Getting tools and supplies to support 5S (labeling, floor marking, shelving, and so on)

5S Resources

Guide to the 5S SystemThe 5S System requires proper labeling and signage to help workers find tools and supplies, ensure standards are followed, and communicate changes in workflow and procedures. DuraLabel industrial label and sign printers by Graphic Products, as well as high-performance DuraLabel printer supplies, can help develop custom signs and labels suited your workplace.

Kickstart your 5S program, increase efficiency, and improve profits with the 5S System Guide by Graphic Products. The free guide helps minimize downtime and defects by explaining the basics of 5S, showing how the system works, and offering tips for how to apply 5S to your workplace.

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