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

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    Want to make your production process smoother, faster, and with less wasted resources? You surely do – every manufacturer aims to make their production as efficient as possible, so they could produce more goods at a lower cost.  

    There’s a clever lean methodology with which you can exactly do that – called 5S. What is 5S and how can you use it to boost your production? Here’s all you need to know.

    What is 5S?

    5S is a Japanese methodology 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, making it easier for people to do their jobs without wasting time or risking injury. 5S also puts emphasis on observing, searching, analyzing, and removing any inefficient or redundant processes or steps, all to make work more effective. While 5S methodology can be used in any industry, manufacturers are using it especially often as it can tremendously help them with production planning and scheduling.

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    What are the elements of 5S?

    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 creating a clean and efficient space, with each term starting from the letter S:

    • Seiri: Separating important tools, parts, and materials from unnecessary ones and then removing the unnecessary ones.
    • Seiton: Neatly arranging the important parts and tools for easy access.
    • Seiso: Cleaning the workspace area
    • Seiketsu: Keeping the workplace in ideal condition by regularly doing the seiri, seiton, and seiso steps.
    • Shitsuke: Forming the habit of using the previous S for every work task.

    Using the steps above, workers can clean and organize their workspace efficiently but also keep the area in order for later tasks as well.  

    Simple steps to follow

    There are five phases of the 5S method:



    Seiri (Sort)

    Seiri involves going through all the tools, furniture, materials, and equipment in the work area to determine what manufacturers will need and what can be removed. The unnecessary elements might be cluttering the workplace and serve as a distraction for the workers – so by getting them off the way, workers can focus better on their tasks. 

    For unknown items, a good way is to use the red tag method. Red tags are cardboard tags or stickers that can be attached to any items that workers don’t know what to do with them.  Employees fill out the information about the item, such as item description, location, date, and name of the user applying the tag, then place them in the designated red tag area. If no one searched for the item in the set time, then the item might be either put into a shelf (if it will be needed later) or thrown away (if it won’t be used).

    Seiton (Set in order)

    Chose the right items? So now it’s time to put them somewhere where they can be easily found and used. The goal of this step is to make the workflow smooth and pleasant. Once the extra clutter is gone, it’s simply easier to see where is which item you will need for the task.


    Implementation at workstations means arranging everything so that all tooling/equipment is nearby, 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

    A good idea is also to use clear labels, marks or hints, colorful lines, maps, floor marking tapes, or pegboards to make finding the items easier – and later, returning them to the right place.


    Seiso (Sweep/shine)

    The next step focuses on cleaning up the work area, which means sweeping, mopping, dusting, wiping down surfaces, putting tools and materials away, etc. But besides the basic cleaning, 3S also involves regular equipment and machinery maintenance. 

    By planning for maintenance ahead of time, businesses can faster catch machine problems and prevent them from breaking down. That means less wasted time and no loss of profits related to work stoppages. 

    What’s very important in this step is that everyone takes responsibility for cleaning up their workspace, ideally daily. Doing so makes people take ownership of the space, which in the long run means people will be more invested in their work and the company. Moreover, inspecting the workplace, tools, and machinery regularly improves the production process efficiency and safety, reduces waste, prevents errors and defects, and keeps the workplace safe and easy to work in.

    5S methodology

    Seiketsu (Standardize)

    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.  How to keep it this way though? Here’s where the fourth step, standardization, comes into play. 

    In this step, managers should create a list of tasks and procedures that goes into each step, so all employees would follow the 5S in the same way – and keep order in the workplace this way.  

    A great idea here is to use various checklists of tasks to ensure everyone knows how to perform sorting, organizing, and cleaning. Visual cues such as signs, labels, posters, floor marking tape, and tool organizers can also help everyone keep items in the right place, easy to find.

    Shitsuke (Sustain)

    The last step ensures that everyone keeps following the 5S methodology – and that everyone in the organization is involved. Why? Because following the 5S methodology for each work task will require a lot of self-discipline from the workers – and once people stop following those, the workplace again becomes cluttered and confusing. 

    So ideally, 5S should become a part of an organization’s culture with everyone participating –  managers, employees out on the manufacturing floor, in the warehouse, and in the office. All new employees should also receive training on how they can follow the 5S steps during their own work tasks. 

    5S tips

    Why should manufacturing companies use the 5S method?

    Following the steps might seem like a lot of work, but the effort will be more than worth it. 5S is all about organizing the space, cleaning it, and making sure that everything is where it belongs. That makes the spaces cleaner and easier to navigate, and people can more easily get their work done. 

    Plus, with visual cues such as labels, floor markings, or shadow boards it’s far easier the keep the materials, tools and other resources in order – so workers don’t need to spend a good part of their time searching for misplaced items.   

    In the long run, 5S can also decrease the number of mistakes, wasted resources, and accidents at work and improve the product or service quality. For you as a manufacturer, that means lower production costs, a smoother production process and much better communication among your staff as well – so the staff morale will get a boost as well. Consequently, the costs decrease because all resources are used more efficiently. The company achieves stability which improves its image and helps to stay competitive in the market.

    Prodio can also be a part of your manufacturing facility’s 5S implementation – all production tasks, schedules, requirements and product data can be in one place, easy to find for everyone. You can see it for yourself by trying out the free 14-days plan 🙂 


    5S is an amazing method for making your manufacturing production faster and smoother since it focuses on making the work environment as clean and clutter-free as possible. It will require some self-discipline at the start though – but a handy list with the requirements for each step should make it easier to get everyone into the habit of using the methodology. Prodio can help turn your chaotic workplace into a clean and organized as well – all so your workers could be more productive and motivated than ever before, and your facility performance would get a boost. 

    5S in manufacturing FAQ

    What is a 5S methodology? 

    The 5S methodology is a systematic approach used by manufacturers to organize and improve the efficiency of their workplace. It involves five steps: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.

    How can the 5S methodology benefit manufacturers?

     Implementing the 5S methodology can help improve productivity, reduce waste, enhance safety, streamline processes, and create a more organized and efficient work environment.

    What do the “Sort” and “Set in order” steps in the 5S methodology involve? 

    The “Sort” step focuses on removing unnecessary items from the work area. By decluttering and eliminating non-essential items, manufacturers can free up space, reduce distractions, and make it easier to find and access the tools and materials they need.

    The “Set in Order” step meanwhile aims to arrange and organize the remaining items in a logical and efficient manner. By assigning specific locations and labeling tools and materials, manufacturers can save time searching for items, minimize errors, and promote a consistent workflow.

    How does the “Shine” and “Standarize” step contribute to manufacturing processes? 

    The “Shine” step involves cleaning and maintaining the work area. By keeping the workplace clean and organized, manufacturers can prevent equipment breakdowns, improve product quality, and create a safer environment for employees.

    The “Standardize” step meanwhile establishes guidelines and procedures to ensure consistency and sustainability of the 5S practices. It involves documenting best practices, creating checklists, and training employees to maintain the organized and efficient work environment.

    Can the 5S methodology be applied to different manufacturing processes?

     Yes, the 5S methodology can be adapted and applied to various manufacturing processes, regardless of the industry. It can be beneficial for assembly lines, production floors, quality control areas, and even administrative offices.

    How can technology support the implementation of the 5S methodology? 

    Manufacturers can use digital tools for visual workplace management, task tracking, overseeing the workflow, inventory control, and communication. Software solutions and mobile apps can streamline processes and enhance collaboration among team members.

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