5S Methodology Implementation | A step by step Guide
5S Methodology Implementation

5S Methodology Implementation | A step by step Guide

Last updated on 12th Jul 2020, Blog, General

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5S is a methodology that helps to define the first rules to eliminate waste and maintain a work environment that is efficient, safe and clean. It was first popularized by Taiichi Ohno, who designed the Toyota Production System and Shigeo Shingo, who also put forward the concept of poka-yoke.

The good news is that 5S is easy for everyone to start using, as it doesn’t require technical analysis, and can be implemented in all sorts of companies, from manufacturing plants to offices, from small to multinational business, from private to public sectors, all around the globe. It’s so simple, practical, and visual that well implemented it can engage the operators as well as the directors, and surprise the customers as well. It’s the perfect tool to identify the first improvement projects in your company in order to eliminate waste.  It may be seen just as a housekeeping technique, but actually, it is an innovative management system that helps people to start thinking keanwise.

How does your business do today?

Let’s do a test first. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may find 5S really useful:

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  1. Do people in your workplace struggle to locate documents or files, both in physical and digital format?
  2. Are there loose hanging electrical wires in the workplace?
  3. Are there files, drawers and cabinets in the workplace that are unlabeled or their content is hard to identify?
  4. Do you observe valuable space being occupied by useless items?
  5. Are there papers in your workplace that are not used and are gathering dust?
  6. Does everybody know how to maintain the workplace organized and what are their responsibilities?

Now it’s time to move on and implement 5s!

What does 5s stand for?

5s is based on five Japanese terms all starting with s (the English version also start with S), that represent steps towards the final aim, which is to sustain workplace efficiency:

  • Sort: Separate needed tools, materials, and instructions from those not needed. Remove everything that is not needed from the work area.
  • Store: Sort and organize all tools, equipment, files, data, material, and resources for quick, easy location and use. Label all locations and tools and equipment.
  • Shine: Set a new level of cleanliness. Clean and remove all trash, grease and dirt. Everything must be clean, tidy and neatly put in its place. Cleanliness provides a safe work area and makes potential problems visible, e.g. equipment leaks, loose parts, missing guards, loose paperwork, materials.
  • Standardize: Engage the workforce to systematically do 1, 2 & 3 above daily, to maintain the workplace in perfect condition as a standard process. Establish schedules.
  • Sustain: make 5s part of your culture. Build organizational commitment so that 5S becomes an organizational “value” or expectation so everyone develops 5 S as a habit. Integrate into the performance management system. 

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Action Plan

You can start implementing 5s by providing training to your staff to understand the system. Then organize one day sessions to actually implement it.

The first one day session the employees should look forward to meeting the first 3 s requirements:

  • Take a picture of the current status of your workplace
  • separate needed from unneeded things (Sort)
  • organize the things you need so that there is a place for everything and everything has a place. You should be able to find anything in 30 seconds (Store)
  • Clean the workplace and get rid of the things that make it difficult to maintain cleanliness, like boxes on the floor that won’t allow you to clean the full surface, put them into a drawer. (Shine)
  • Prepare an action plan for the stuff that you cannot arrange that day but you will be able to do in the near future (sometimes to get rid of some things you just have to sell them, or require someone to pick them up, schedule it as a reminder)
  • Take a second picture after the full day work


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During the second one day session, two weeks later, employees should take a third picture and compare it to the first ones. You can define peer audits to check how the 5s principles are being met and ensure the plan is moving forward. Define together ways to standardize the improvements though time: organize cleaning schedules, define roles and responsibilities, and prepare written procedures or diagrams to help everyone to know what to do.


On the third one day session, 2 months later, check how the workplace looks like with another peer review and make sure the 5s are sustained by checking defined schedules are being met and procedures are being followed by everyone.

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