#7 – 5 Reasons for 5S

Carte 5S

Image via Wikipedia courtesy Yves Guillou

John, a young production manager, makes his way onto the production floor to see how an important changeover is progressing.  He wanted to make sure everything is moving along as planned because orders are heavy this week and his team needed to be running the next product ASAP.  In fact the scheduler wanted it yesterday and the trucks are already at the docks.  John is disappointed to learn that the change over is running much longer than scheduled because the team cannot find some of the change parts for the filler….. “maybe now is the time to implement this 5S I have been hearing about.”

5S is named for its 5 steps:  Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain and is more than window dressing.  5S will bring several benefits to John’s plant and your workplace.  Let’s look at the benefits to John’s team as they implement 5S.

  1. Housekeeping and OrganizationWhen John’s team has Sorted out the unneeded parts and supplies (1st S), they de-clutter their workplace.  This enables them to Set Locations and Limits (2nd S).  At this point, the team has a place for everything and everything in its place.  John’s team will not be wasting valuable line time looking for change parts during the next changeover since they have a defined location for the change parts.
  2. Losses & Waste are Visible The team will find abnormalities as they clean with a purpose.  They find defects while cleaning to inspect as they Shine and Sweep (3rd S). 
  3. Continuous ImprovementStandardizing (4th S) enables everyone to follow these best practices.  You should not expect consistent results when the practices are not standardized and you cannot consistently improve without standardization.
  4. Structure and Discipline John’s team gains structure and develops self-discipline as they build systems to Sustain (5th S) their 5S initiative.  Sustaining 5S can be the most difficult step and it will not be successful without structure and discipline. 
  5. Pride & OwnershipJohn’s team finds that they have increased ownership since they have more invested in their work environment and they find gratification because they can make a difference.

John and his team discover for themselves that 5S is not just a housekeeping project and is more than window dressing.  They find and eliminate defects, they reduce waste, and they are always looking for ways to improve.  More importantly, they develop the structure, discipline, and ownership needed as a foundation for a Lean Manufacturing journey.


This post is the first in a series of articles on 5S implementation. You may want to read the next article: 7 Steps to 5S.  I originally wrote this as a guest blog for A Lean Journey.  Tim McMahon has a great Lean Blog there.  Thanks to Tim for allowing me the pleasure to guest blog there.  This article was posted on Lean Leadership where it subsequently had enough traffic to be one of this blog’s top 10 for 2011.

Please leave a comment below if you liked this article. You can also connect on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, subscribe, retweet, digg, or stumble this article. You can check out my Facebook page and continue the discussion there as well. Your feedback is appreciated.

About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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