Companies are always looking for ways to be more efficient, eliminate waste, and be more productive to build better products for their customers. A Japanese Toyota executive named Taiichi Ohno developed the concept of Lean Manufacturing and was able to put this idea into practice shortly after World War II. Lean Manufacturing identified eight types of waste, which includes excessive inventory, unused employee talent, and wasteful conveyance practices. Lean Manufacturing employs the 5S philosophy to eliminate waste in the manufacturing process. The 5S is an effective process, and an organization that uses 5S from the start will be more successful over the long term.




5S is five pairs of Japanese and English words that begin with the letter ‘S’ and represents different stages in eliminating waste in the manufacturing process. The first set of words is Seiri-Sort. In this stage, a company will red-tag all unnecessary tools, supplies, materials, and equipment. These items will be placed in storage or discarded. This helps to create a more effective use of space.


Seiton-Set In Order


This stage looks at the placement, storage, and usefulness of tools and equipment in the workplace environment. A company’s focus at this stage is workplace organization and accessibility to equipment. Storage is also important at this stage. Everyone should be able to easily find the equipment they need to do their job.




The focus at this stage is keeping the work area clean every day. All equipment and storage areas must be cleaned and checked for any damage or wear-and-tear. Desks are cleaned and organized as well. This stage is important as it helps to maintain the improvements that began under Seiri-Sort and Seiton-Set in order.




This stage establishes workplace standards and best practices that were established in the first three stages. Oversight and enforcement are important at this stage to make these new workplace standards habitual. Everyone will need constant reminders and periodic training to help reinforce these new standards.




This stage is about having the discipline of maintaining the changes that were made in the first three steps. Communication is important to help employees conform to the first three stages of the 5S process.


The 5S process is easy to understand, but it can be difficult to implement and maintain. It is easier for newer companies to implement this system than it is for older companies where employees may be set on doing things the old way. Having a safer and more productive workspace should be an incentive to make the transition to the 5S system easier.

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