How to Implement a 5S Program

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Lean manufacturing is a business process improvement methodology that dictates the elimination of any unnecessary or wasted resources. "5S" is a subset of Lean Manufacturing that seeks to organize work areas in both office and manufacturing settings by eliminating waste and creating a visually simple environment. Implementing a new 5S program in your organization requires focused effort.


Identify the desired outcome from the implementation of a 5S program using a top-down approach to project planning. This means having company management decide what they want to achieve by spending the time and money for this program.

Choose one small area of your organization to launch and test a pilot program.

Train and educate all employees in the chosen area about what 5S means, what the benefits are and how it will affect them.

Choose a core team of employees from the pilot program. These people should be experts in the area or process that you are working on.

Develop measurable success criteria to evaluate the results of your pilot implementation. Showing success early is important to gain momentum in other areas of your organization.

Schedule the first day of the 5S pilot launch on a Monday to signify a new beginning of work methods and behaviors.


Sort out the pilot area by identifying anything that is not required in the area. This is the organization phase.

Set all required work material and equipment in order. Arrange everything neatly in convenient locations with labels. Mark the locations of the materials on work benches, desks and even the floor.

Shine the entire area by thoroughly cleaning everything. Maintaining cleanliness fosters efficiency and makes people feel good.

Standardize the process used to "Sort," "Set in Order" and "Shine." Write a formal document that both lists the activities and allows the work to be evaluated quantitatively.

Sustain the work in the pilot area. Encourage daily upkeep and continual tracking of the success criteria using formal documentation, also known as evaluation metrics.


  • Use the core team members from your 5S pilot implementation to branch out in other areas of your organization to facilitate new 5S programs. This is referred to as "project leveraging and duplication," since it repeats the 5S steps.


  • 5S implementation requires support from all levels of the organization and must be continually evaluated.