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The 5S methodology – Efficiency and Sustainability in organizations

Imagine a workspace so organized and efficient that all tools, equipment and consumables have a designated place, eliminating clutter and increasing productivity. Welcome to the world of 5S, a systematic approach that revolutionizes workplaces and turns chaos into streamlined perfection.

In an increasingly competitive and constantly changing global market, the concepts of efficiency and sustainability are of paramount importance. In this way, and based on the systematic implementation of Lean Manufacturing in organizational structures, a tool stands out: the 5S.

5S is one of the most recognized Lean Manufacturing tools in the productive sector, with practical results in companies from different sectors.

5S Origin

The origin of this methodology dates back to the post-war period in Japan, where, at the time, the world-renowned company, Toyota Industries, was faced with the effective need to reduce waste of raw materials and, thus, make manufacturing processes more efficient. He then created the 5S tool, which would later become the support for other concepts and tools that emerged from it, such as Jidoka, Just-In-Time (JIT), also forming part of the basis that is at the origin of the notion of visual workplace.


The 5S Tool

The use of 5S is based on a systematic analysis of visual management which, when trying to mitigate possible sources of waste, favoring the observation and collaboration of team members from different areas, aims not only to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the processes carried out, but also to ensure a controlled environment resulting in increases in production that result in the financial viability of organizations (profit).

From a theoretical point of view, the 5S are based on five terms from the Japanese language, all of them started by the letter S: Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set In Order), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu ( Standardize) and Shitsuke (Sustain). The original order of the 5S must be respected, in order to follow a logical reasoning and, ultimately, guarantee satisfactory results.

Seiri (Sort): Elimination of unnecessary items at the station, keeping essential items accessible.

  • How?
    • Check all items present at the station and assess their need for the work carried out on a daily basis
    • Identify the materials used
    • Eliminate unnecessary items

  • Goal:
    • Decrease item search time
    • Increase the space available at the post

Seiton (Set in order):Organization of the necessary items, in the most suitable place for their use

  • How?
    • Arrange the utensils in an easily accessible place, ordering them in order of use, or by reference (when applicable)
    • Define fixed locations for utensils and identify each position

  • Goal:
    • Decrease tool search times
    • Facilitate space organization

Seiso (Shine): Cleaning and hygiene of the place / workplace

  • How?
    • Define a cleaning plan for the site / workstation
      • What products to use, how to clean and when to clean
    • Perform periodic cleaning inspections

  • Goal:
    • Ensuring a clean, safe and waste-free post

Seiketsu (Standardize): Standardization of posts and elaboration of procedures related to previous 3S.

  • How?
    • Define work procedures that guarantee equal implementation between the various positions
    • Identify ways to establish standard workplace practices
    • Establishment of a set of good practices and knowledge of all team members

  • Goal:
    • Make working stations similar to each other
    • Everyone is aware of good practices and responsibilities
    • Smooth working stations changes between workers
      • Equal posts, equal workflow, more process efficiency

Shitsuke (Sustain): Assessment of the implementation of measures relating to previous 4S

  • How?
    • Define training moments for operators on the 5S philosophy and its advantages
    • Carry out regular audits of the status of the stations
    • When necessary, identify causes of failures and implement corrective actions using action plans

  • Goal:
    • Promoting good work practices and ensuring smoothness in the daily lives of workers

5S Implementation

In the implementation of the 5S methodology, the commitment of the operators is a crucial and decisive part of the project’s success. In fact, the predisposition of organizations to be open and committed to learning a new approach to accomplish tasks becomes vital in the execution of 5S. One of the ways to captivate employees include, for example, promoting and investing in their training, as well as presenting examples of success. At a later stage, there is a detailed initial diagnosis of the work environment and identification of the organization’s focus areas that have the greatest impact on sustainability and productivity. After the evaluation and understanding phase of the organization in question, action plans and measurable objectives to be achieved are defined, by determining who is responsible, the activities to be carried out and the associated deadlines. Once this stage is concluded, the five terms referred to in the previously specified order must be fulfilled.

5S Benefits

The adoption of this methodology presents several benefits for organizations that use this type of approach, namely:

  • Waste reduction: by removing excessive movement and unnecessary stock.
  • Improvement of operational efficiency: by indicating useful tools so that operators carry out their tasks efficiently and quickly.
  • Increased safety: by promoting cleanliness and organization in the workplace.
  • Improved quality of work: through the establishment of clear organization rules and standards, making tasks more fluid.

5S Challenges

Once the process of using the 5S tool has started, it appears that sometimes organizations do not achieve the desired success. This is due to a series of challenges that must be taken into account:

Want to roll out the tool across the entire organization at once

The tool must be applied in specific areas of the company and later disseminated to other areas. Small, consistent steps are the path to success.

Difficulty in sustaining the solution

The incorporation of 5S must be accompanied in the company’s daily tasks. Small inspections should also be carried out in the areas where the tool was implemented in order to guarantee compliance. Adding these inspections to the Gemba Walk is a great way to get good results!

Resistance to change

Resistance on the part of the various administrative and productive staff of organisations, is one of the great challenges to be overcome. It becomes imperative to train employees and demonstrate the benefits that this implementation brings to the organization, as well as providing clear information about the expected objectives.

At Erising we are specialists in developing and implementing strategies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of processes, using a series of Lean and Six Sigma tools. If you want to take the step towards the Continuous Improvement of your organization, click on the button below so that we can help you.


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