5 Principles of 5s

5s lean principle in practice

Published 13 May 2022

5s is a philosophy applied in the workplace that helps promote efficiency and effectiveness. As one of the core principles of kaizen, 5S lean principles can help identify and eliminate wastage to achieve a well organized and safe working environment. A cluttered and untidy workplace can lead to low productivity, worker dissatisfaction, and re-occurring accidents. 

5S safety is commonly applied in manufacturing, warehouses, offices, and hospitals but 5S principles as follows can be applied to any workplace.


Sort (Seiri)

All items, equipment, and work materials should be neatly arranged and all unnecessary objects should be removed. The objective is to reduce clutter and make it easier to locate the resources needed for work. Ensure that:

  • only necessary tools and equipment are present in the work area;
  • only necessary furniture are present in the work area;
  • only necessary items, materials, and supplies are present in the work area;
  • all working, walking, and standing areas are free from trip hazards

Set in Order (Seiton)

All items, equipment, and work materials should be in optimal locations. The objective is to maximize accessibility, free up space, and prevent accidents from occurring by removing unnecessary obstacles. Ensure that:

  • tools and equipment are clearly identified (numbered, named, color-coded, etc.) and placed in a sensible location;
  • when applicable, furniture are clearly identified and placed in a sensible location;
  • items, materials, and supplies are in their designated containers and properly labeled for easy identification;
  • paperwork and other documents are properly compiled, labeled, and have clear identified locations away from work surfaces;
  • work areas requiring personal protective equipment (PPE) are clearly marked via safety signs or labels;
  • stop switches and breakers are clearly visible and easily accessible in case of emergency;
  • fire hoses, fire extinguishers, and other emergency equipment are prominently displayed and unobstructed for easy access;
  • floors/aisles are clearly marked and forklift lanes, exits, hazardous areas, paths of egress, walkways, etc. are all marked and labeled with visible lines (floor tape/floor paint);
  • work stations are ergonomic, tools and items needed for work are stored at appropriate heights, anti-fatigue mats are in place when applicable, safety signages are clearly displayed; and
  • workspace layout allows for unobstructed exits and the emergency exit route is easily located.

Shine (Seiso)

The workspace, including all tools, equipment, and machinery, should be cleaned on a regular basis. The objective is to make the workspace safe, waste-free, and conducive to productivity. Ensure that:

  • work areas, including machines, furniture, and fixtures are kept clean as much as possible;
  • walls, partitions, rails, etc. are kept clean and painted;
  • floors are free from dirt, debris, oil, parts, hardware, empty boxes, etc. and all drains, if applicable, are clear of debris and clogs;
  • containers, boxes, bins, etc. are clean, undamaged, and neatly stacked in their correct location;
  • PPEs are maintained, sanitized, and in good condition as well as properly stored and easily accessible;
  • cleaning equipment are properly stored and easily accessible;
  • safety warning signs are clean, easy to read, undamaged, and unobstructed; and
  • there is a posted schedule showing times, frequency, and person in-charge responsible for cleaning areas of the workplace.

Standardize (Seiketsu)

The processes for sorting, order, and cleanliness should be standardized and implemented across all offices and branches of operation. The objective is for all aspects and branches of operation to consistently gain the benefits of practicing seiri, seiton, and seiso. Ensure that:

  • all tools, equipment, documents, etc. are to be stored neatly in their designated areas after use;
  • equipment maintenance records are easily accessible and clearly state when the last maintenance occurred;
  • product waste (shavings, containers, liquids, wrappers, etc.) are consistently and regularly cleaned and disposed of;
  • preventive measures are implemented to ensure the workplace adheres to 5S guidelines;
  • the work environment provides sufficient lighting, comfortable temperatures, sufficient air flow and quality, etc.;
  • the results of the previous 5S audit are posted and clearly visible for the team’s reference; and
  • the areas for improvement identified in the previous audit are addressed

Sustain/Self-discipline (Shitsuke)

The organization should have the initiative to continuously and consistently practice the 5S methodology. The objective is to maximize the business’s potential by removing all obstacles to productivity that are within the operation’s control. Ensure that:

  • a member of upper management has participated in at least one of the past three 5S audit periods;
  • recognition is given to teams actively involved in 5S activities;
  • time and resources are allocated for 5S activities (e.g., designated daily/weekly clean-up time, 5S meeting with team leader, etc.);
  • all operators, team leaders, and supervisors, are assigned 5S activities to be completed at least once a week; and
  • the team took the initiative to make improvements to the workplace that were NOT identified during the last audit, if applicable.
  • With proper utilization and consistent practice, companies benefit from 5S through reduced costs, improved efficiency, and a safer working space.