The 5S System - An Essential Lean Tool (Part#4 of Big Fat Lean)

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5S is the foundation of lean manufacturing. 5S is a method for organizing the workplace. By implementing 5S system in your workplace and following it, you can perform your task efficiently and effectively. This technique will help improving quality of products. It deals with planning for house-keeping.

What is 5S?


5S is an essential lean tool. 5S is a term formed with the initial letters of 5 Japanese words –

  1. Seiri, 
  2. Seition, 
  3. Seiso, 
  4. Seiketsu and 
  5. Shitsuke 

5S system will be explained here with the implementation guidelines (briefly).


S1: Seiri - Sort


It is about sorting of items, equipment in a workplace.

The thumb rule followed here is red tagging. Red tags are attached to unneeded items during sort phase. Unnecessary stuff piled impedes flow of work and increases hassles. Remember this quote - if in doubt, throw it out

Implementation: You can start sorting by taking photographs of your workplace and shop floor. Collect photographs of the unneeded items and present to higher authorities. Use red tag method and sort all needed and unneeded items. Remove unneeded items from your work area. Thus you can make your workplace spacious and junk-free.

S2: Seiton - Set in order


A place for everything and everything in its place

After sorting, organize what is left along the three dimensions, i.e. along X, Y & Z axis for easy access .The objective of Seiton (set in order) is transparency. Anyone can find necessary items when needed if things are stored/kept in organized way.

Implementation: Give numbers, names, color code, etc. to the items being stored. Define place for each item and mark the place. Place items in order for storing each item depending on frequency of usage. Establish a method of storage with X, and Y alignments (forward/backward movements).

S3: Seiso - Shine (and Inspect)


Team spirit is raised by a clean, well-ordered workplace, where S1 and S2 have already freed floor and shelf space. In other words, do not wait until the work space gets dirty.

Implementation: In the shine stage – You (5S team) decide


  • What to clean? The item/equipment,
  • How to clean? Methods, procedures
  • When to clean? - Frequency of cleaning job to perform. In a garment factory shop floor I observed that operators shine their machines and workplace twice a day for 3 minutes. They get alarm when it is time for cleaning job.
  • Who has to clean? Personnel / Responsibility
  • Where to clean? The area


Finally it decides upon how clean is clean.

S4: Seiketsu - Standardize (rust never sleeps)


It standardizes housekeeping rules. You have to develop standards for how you do your work. Your standards should be develop and applied to measure work. Seiketsu therefore works at developing and applying standards for S1, S2, and S3.

Implementation: Prepare a 5S scorecard for workplaces and standard checking schedule. For example a 5 minute, end of shift 5S .This ensures that employees would handover their work area in a good condition to the next shift. The last 5 minutes of end of shift will result in increased productivity by the following shift as the mess is cleared and no mess is there and higher output.

S5: Shitsuke - Sustain (perseverance is all)


This aims at maintenance of S1, S2 and S3 (Sorting, Set in order and shining workplace and equipment). There is no point in cleaning when we cannot maintain it. Once the standards and methods are set, administration look into it to maintain the same and review it time to time. Or you can build 5S team leader on follow up things.

Implementation: Responsibilities are divided and delegated to area and zonal leaders for monitoring 5S activities. Employees should be given freedom of expression, which could result in improvised methods of doing the work. Prime aim is to maintain the disciplined work environment.

5S naturally leads to Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). TPM is the key to machine stability and effectiveness.

Benefits of 5S

  • Organized workplace
  • Improved employee performance
  • Improved product / service quality
  • Improved visibility of items and equipment
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Related articles:

10 steps for effective implementation of 5S

Major Blocks in Implementing Lean Manufacturing in Garment Industry


Read previous parts of BIG FAT LEAN series

Part#1: What is Lean Manufacturing Technology?
Part#2: Benefits of Lean Manufacturing
Part#3: 8 Wastes of Lean Manufacturing

This is a guest submission by Vijayalaxmi Meharwade.


About Vijayalaxmi Meharwade: Vijayalaxmi is a graduate (B.E.) in Textile and Master is Textile Technology (Garment Technology). She has 14 years of experience in research, and working in industry concerning textile and garment manufacturing. She has also worked as a teaching faculty. 

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Online Clothing Study: The 5S System - An Essential Lean Tool (Part#4 of Big Fat Lean)
The 5S System - An Essential Lean Tool (Part#4 of Big Fat Lean)
5S, the lean tool is explained in this article. 5S is the foundation of lean manufacturing.
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