A Quick Guide to 5S (Five-Step) Implementation

Learn how to successfully integrate the 5S Lean system in your operations to improve overall efficiency.

What is 5S Implementation?

5S implementation is a step-by-step process to create an efficient, safe, and clean work environment by removing unnecessary items, organizing necessary items, cleaning and maintaining the workspace, establishing standards, and maintaining discipline in a manufacturing environment.

How to Implement 5S in the Workplace

Knowing where to start, especially when applying a new framework, can be daunting. Here are some basic steps you can take to start practicing 5S Lean in your business:

1. Triage issues in operations.

To make your starting point easier to identify, make a list of the current operational issues plaguing your business and list them by the level of urgency. This will help identify aspects that can either be solved or partially remedied through the 5S principles of sorting, setting in order, shining or cleaning, standardizing, and sustaining.

2. Be aware of available resources.

To maximize the potential benefit to your company, you need to be aware of your available resources for the 5S Lean application. Knowing what you have at your disposal allows you to determine the amount of time, effort, materials, and people you can afford to commit to 5S practices.

3. Create a checklist.

After identifying the issues in Step 1 and knowing the resources you can work with in Step 2, create a checklist to ensure all necessary action points are covered. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated and riddled with unnecessary details. A simple checklist only needs to include two things: items to be done and a “Yes” or “No” field to indicate completion.

Aside from helping workers stay more organized, a checklist motivates them to be more productive. Supervisors and managers can also benefit from using digital checklists because the simple breakdown of tasks boosts their confidence in the delegation.

4. Carry out the 5S Lean program.

The previous steps aim to keep your focus on the end goal—to maximize your business potential. The final step focuses on putting your plans into action. 

As you roll out your 5S program, make sure to take note of complications and other factors that you were not able to anticipate during the planning stage. This can help you prepare contingencies for future applications and streamline your transition into a 5S-centric operation.

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A Sample Implementation Plan

Knowing the basic principles of 5S as discussed above sets you up for Lean success. Having a sample 5S Lean plan to guide you will help make your first implementation as seamless as possible.


Action Plan:

Remove machinery, equipment, tools, and materials that are not used at least once a week from all work desks, production floors, and areas of operation. These items should be marked with a tag and moved to a designated area where they will remain for 7 days, at which time personnel can go through the items and reclaim the ones that are still needed in the performance of work.

All unclaimed items at the expiration of the time frame will be disposed of.

Tag Information:

The tag attached to each piece of equipment or item must provide the following information:

  • Name of the item
  • Department that owns it
  • Its intended use or purpose


Ensure that everyone has been notified of the practice so no essential machinery, equipment, tools, and materials are disposed of without the department’s approval.

Before disposing of the items that had been left unclaimed after 7 days, send an email to the team for final confirmation and approval to dispose of.


Action Plan:

Begin by eliminating existing dust, dirt, and debris in all work desks and other areas of operation. Hire a third-party cleaning and maintenance company with good reviews to ensure that proper cleaning procedures are utilized and that work equipment and areas are safe from damage. Assign a company supervisor to oversee cleaning procedures and ensure that all equipment, tools, materials, amenities, and storage areas are adequately cleaned and tidy.

Next, identify sources of dust, dirt, and debris and work on minimizing or eradicating them, if possible. For example, if dust accumulates in the office too quickly, check the HVAC filters since they may need cleaning or replacement.

Finally, create protocols such as a regular cleaning schedule to maintain cleanliness in the workplace.

Items to note:

Aside from maintaining workplace cleanliness, workers are also expected to do the following:

  • Ensure that workspaces are neat and ordered.
  • Immediately report the identified causes of dirt, dust, and debris that may have been missed in previous inspections.
  • Use designated covers to protect machinery, equipment, materials, and tools from dust and dirt between shifts.


  • Check in-house cleaning supplies such as brooms, mops, rags, and cleaning solutions once a week and stock up when necessary.
  • Use a checklist to ensure that standard cleaning practices and schedules are adhered to.

Set in Order

Action Plan:

Start by identifying the ideal ergonomic location for specific machinery, equipment, materials, and tools. Some factors to consider would be the distance between two machines used in sequence or between the material stock room and the production floor. The objective is to put facilities in their most sensible locations in order to maximize work efficiency.

Next, brainstorm with key stakeholders to figure out if the suggested changes are feasible. Discuss logistics, time and budget constraints, room layouts, etc.

Take pictures of the work area before implementing approved plans and track work improvements to properly measure the impact of changes made.

Items to note:

  • Have a floor map posted by a room’s entrance for easy visual reference.
  • Ensure proper labeling of pipes, hoses, and electrical systems to make repair and maintenance work easier.
  • Mark standard levels in barometers and indicators so anomalies are easily detected.
  • Ensure that hazard warnings and safe work practices are present in necessary containers, areas, and machinery.
  • Mark locations for safety showers and eyewash stations.
  • Ensure that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is present, fully functional, and undamaged.
  • Ensure that updated work instructions are easily accessible in optimal locations.
  • Ensure that quality standards are displayed in optimal locations for easy reference.
  • Post good examples side-by-side with bad examples for easy visual reference.
  • Ensure that all boxes and containers in stock rooms are properly labeled for easy identification.


Use a checklist to evaluate the impact of the changes made after an agreed-upon time frame.


The first three steps of sorting, shining, and setting in order introduce new practices that aim to revitalize a workplace through ergonomics and organization. The fourth step is concerned with taking successful experiments and standardizing them across the business.

Action Plan:

Start by holding a meeting with key stakeholders and assigning personnel to be in charge of standardization across departments and shifts. Ideally, they should be department managers and/or supervisors.

Once S4 Leaders have been established, proceed with the meeting to come up with a protocol as to how the standardization of the new work processes will be implemented. Below are the items to address:

  • Identify work manuals, protocols, job aids, and SOPs that require updating and assign an S4 Leader to spearhead the necessary updates for each.
  • Liaise with the company’s compliance officer to identify legal documentation that needs to be updated to reflect process changes.
  • Create new templates for scheduled cleaning and sorting activities.

Items to note:

Coordinate with the ISO coordinator or compliance officer to make sure that all updates and changes abide with ISO standards.


After standardization has been implemented, send an email blast to all stakeholders and concerned parties to ensure that everyone is updated on the new standard.


S5 is concerned with maintaining the positive effects generated by S1 to S4. This section will focus on using S5 mainly as an auditing initiative to ensure that the newly imposed standards are being followed consistently.

Action Plan:

Once the new standards have been rolled out and all stakeholders have confirmed receipt of your email, set up a meeting with the 5S committee to come up with an auditing plan to track the positive and any negative impact caused by the recent changes. Below are the items vital to an effective auditing plan:

  • Clearly identify the essential aspects of the operation that will be affected by the recent changes implemented.
  • Based on the metrics the 5S committee agrees to monitor, draft an audit checklist that can be used by inspectors to track changes in productivity and efficiency, as well as gather employee feedback regarding the new processes.
  • Agree on the frequency of audits to be performed and set schedules for assigned inspectors.

Items to note:

  • Established audit schedules must be easily accessible to stakeholders.
  • Reward workers who show initiative and dedication to 5S practices.
  • Keep an organized database of 5S Lean audit results as a reference for future 5S projects.
Eligio Rempillo
Article by
Eligio Rempillo
Eligio Rempillo is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. With experience in working with clients various industries including animal care products, food, technology, and personal protective equipment for industrial uses, he is committed to advocating workplace safety and keep your business with up-to-date technologies for a better way of working.