5S method and how it is used to organize production in a small manufacturing company

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Table of contents

    What is 5S?

    5S is a system for organizing spaces so work can be performed efficiently, effectively, and safely. This system focuses on putting everything where it belongs and keeping the workplace clean, which makes it easier for people to do their jobs without wasting time or risking injury. It lays at the basis of lean manufacturing, includes cleanliness and organization; it is also about maximizing efficiency and profit. 5S is a framework that emphasizes the use of a specific mindset and tools to create value. It involves observing, analyzing, collaborating, and searching for waste and also involves the practice of removing waste. It is an important element of production planning in a manufacturing company.

    What are the elements of 5S?

    5S, sometimes referred to as 5s or Five S, refers to five Japanese terms used to describe the steps of the 5S system of visual management. Each term starts with an “S”. In Japanese, the five S’s are Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. In English, the five S’s are translated as Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. These steps involve going through everything in a space, deciding what’s necessary and what isn’t, putting things in order, cleaning, and setting up procedures for performing these tasks on a regular basis. The above list describes how to organize a workspace for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order. The decision-making process usually comes from a dialogue about standardization, which builds understanding among employees of how they should do the work.

    Simple steps to follow

    There are five phases of the 5S method:



    • 1S. Sort involves going through all the tools, furniture, materials, equipment, etc. in a work area to determine what needs to be present and what can be removed. We aim at separating necessary from unnecessary. It allows us to identify excess materials, tools, manuals, data, information, which aren’t important and determine the value of each item. A workspace might be better off without unnecessary items or items used infrequently. These things can get in the way or take up space. Very often  the red tag method is used. Red tags are usually cardboard tags or stickers that can be attached to the items in question. Employees fill out information about the item such as: item description, location, date, name of the user applying the tag, then place them in the designated red tag area. After a set amount of time it’s time to make a decision whether to remove it from the workspace.
    • 2S. Set in order – means putting all necessary items in the optimal place for fulfilling their function in the workplace. The goal of this step is to make the workflow smooth and pleasant. Once the extra clutter is gone, it’s easier to see what’s what. During this phase, everyone should determine what arrangements are most logical. That will require thinking through tasks, the frequency of those tasks, the paths people take through the space, etc.

    Implementation at workstations means arranging everything in such a way that all tooling/equipment is in close proximity, in an easy spot to reach and in a logical order adapted to the work performed. All components should be according to their uses, with the frequently used components being nearest to the workplace. Likewise, tools should be easy to find and pick up.

    5S method

    The visual factor is very important at this stage. When there are fixed locations assigned for items by means of clear labels, marks or hints, colourful lines, shadow boards, maps, floor marking tapes, pegboards, etc. it is easier to return things to the correct location or spot missing a mistake.


    During 2S layout and organization of an area is important as well as clearly marked motion and transportation areas to ensure smooth workflow. In this stage, it is clearly visible that 5S is a systematic form of visual management utilizing everything from floor tape to operations manuals. 

    • 3S. Sweep/shine – focuses on cleaning up the work area, which means sweeping, mopping, dusting, wiping down surfaces, putting tools and materials away, etc. In addition to basic cleaning, 3S also involves performing regular maintenance on equipment and machinery. Planning for maintenance ahead of time means businesses can catch problems and prevent breakdowns. That means less wasted time and no loss of profits related to work stoppages. Sweeping means “visual cleanliness”, spotting failures, abnormalities, technical problems. In 5S, everyone takes responsibility for cleaning up their workspace, ideally on a daily basis. Doing so makes people take ownership of the space, which in the long run means people will be more invested in their work and in the company. Moreover, inspecting the workplace, tools and machinery on a regular basis improves the production process efficiency and safety, reduces waste, prevents errors and defects as well as keep the workplace safe and easy to work in.
    5S methodology

    •  4S. Standardize – the number one goal is to establish procedures and schedules to ensure the repetition of the first three ‘S’ practices. Once the first three steps of 5S are completed, things should look pretty good. All the extra stuff is gone, everything is organized, spaces are cleaned, and equipment is in good working order. In 4S are introduced standardized visual cues such as signs, labels, posters, floor marking tape, and tool organizers that play an important role in 5S. They can provide directions and keep items in place, in many cases without words. There are also the various checklists of tasks to ensure everyone knows their responsibilities of performing the sorting, organizing and cleaning. Photos and visual controls are used to help keep everything as it should be.Regular audits and status reviews should be carried out at this stage.  
    • 5S. Sustainrefers to the process of keeping 5S running smoothly, but also of keeping everyone in the organization involved. Sometimes it translates as “do without being told” and requires great self-discipline of the workers.Ideally, 5S becomes a part of an organization’s culture, but everyone needs to participate: managers, employees out on the manufacturing floor, in the warehouse, or in the office. To help sustain 5S practices, all new employees should receive training about 5S procedures in their field of work. To ensure that the 5S approach is followed.it is a good idea to organize training sessions to regularly review  improvements or make necessary changes.
    5S tips

    5S involves assessing everything present in a space, removing what’s unnecessary, organizing things logically, performing housekeeping tasks, and keeping this cycle going. Organize, clean, repeat. A key part of 5S is that it makes spaces cleaner and therefore easier to navigate. That means people can more easily get their work done. Visual communication tools such as labels, floor markings, cabinet and shelf markings, and shadow boards can make navigating spaces even simpler. Plus, these tools can help keep the workspace organized. A workplace that uses visual management in this way is often referred to as a visual workplace.

    5S is a long term and continuous method of organisation. In the long run, it decreases the number of accidents at work,  improves the quality of products and services and the number of mistakes constantly decreases. It means fewer complaints and more customer satisfaction, as well as potential subcontractors, suppliers,  auditors, etc. The morale of staff improves: there is logic to the way they work, order and transparency. As a consequence, the costs decrease because all resources are used more efficiently. The company achieves stability which improves the image and helps to stay competitive on the market.