5S in the Workplace Examples

Learn how 5S Lean can positively impact your organization and examples in various industry settings.

inspector auditing 5s in workplace

What is 5S in the Workplace?

5s Lean is a systematic approach aimed at optimizing workplace operations by reducing waste, improving efficiency, and creating an organized environment. The methodology derives its name from its core principles: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.

Importance of Workplace Organization and Efficiency

Implementing 5S Lean in the workplace is important to transform processes to produce high-quality products and services. In manufacturing processes, 5S allows the company to produce high-quality vehicles with fewer defects and reduced lead times. Healthcare facilities worldwide have also implemented 5s Lean to enhance patient safety. Organized spaces and standardized procedures lead to fewer medical errors and improved patient care.

Examples of 5S in the Workplace

While the 5S principles might appear theoretical, their real impact becomes evident when implemented practically across industries. Here are some examples of how these principles manifest in everyday scenarios:

Sorting (Seiri): Eliminating Clutter and Distractions

  • In manufacturing, the sorting principle involves identifying and removing unnecessary tools or materials. By maintaining only essential items within reach, workers spend less time searching and more time on value-added tasks.
  • In an office, sorting entails decluttering desks and shared spaces. By eliminating excess paperwork and non-essential items, employees experience reduced distractions and a more focused work environment.

Setting in Order (Seiton): Streamlining Workflows

  • Restaurants apply the setting in order principle to optimize their kitchen layout. By arranging cooking utensils and ingredients systematically, chefs can prepare orders efficiently, resulting in quicker service.
  • Even in digital platforms, arranging virtual files on computers applies to this practice. Organizing digital files into folders with clear labels allows employees to locate documents swiftly, minimizing time spent searching.

Shining (Seiso): Ensuring Cleanliness and Maintenance

  • In manufacturing, shining involves regular cleaning and maintenance of machinery. Well-maintained equipment operates efficiently and has a longer lifespan, reducing downtime.
  • In shared workspaces, shining translates to consistent cleaning routines. Clean and organized common areas improve hygiene and create a pleasant environment for employees.

Standardizing (Seiketsu): Establishing Consistency

  • Warehouses apply standardizing to packing processes. By using uniform packing methods, efficiency is improved, and the risk of errors during shipping is minimized.
  • In the retail sector, standardized checkout procedures ensure a consistent experience for customers. This reduces waiting times and ensures accurate transactions.

Sustaining (Shitsuke): Continuously Improving

  • Construction sites use sustaining to enhance safety. Regular checks for potential hazards and adherence to safety protocols create a secure working environment.
  • In offices, continuous improvement involves conducting periodic workspace audits. This practice ensures that organization and efficiency principles remain ingrained in the company culture.

3 Simple Steps to Implement 5S in Your Workspace

According to the Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME), 5S is a thought process designed to resolve a type of problem that occurs throughout a business. The global organization for enterprise performance improvement challenges companies to apply the 5S tool accordingly. Here is how you can generally implement it in 3 simple steps:

Step #1: Make a Plan

Work through each step of the 5S principles and make a habit of doing the following during planning:

  • Visualize the work area
  • Look for waste
  • Look for the root cause of every problem
  • Develop standards
  • Repeat the process

Step #2: Bring Action

Implement 5S in your organization by assigning a trained employee or a team of workers to do the following on a weekly basis:

  1. Take a photo of your workplace’s current status.
  2. Sort items needed and to be disposed of. Determine the item’s frequency of use (daily, monthly, or never) and if it’s still essential or defective and outdated.
  3. Organize and group items according to use and function. You may also add labels and apply a color coding scheme for easy sorting.
  4. Clean the workspace. Remove items that cause dirt, contamination, and filth.
  5. Conduct an audit to review items you weren’t able to deal with that day, including items you found difficult to classify or tag for disposal. Establish an action plan (e.g., selling, donating, recycling, or throwing away items) for items that need to be disposed of.
  6. For review purposes, take a photo of the workspace after implementing changes.

Step #3: Monitor

As one of the core principles of Kaizen, area supervisors or plant managers should do a monthly and quarterly audit to ensure that 5S standards are being met. Regular audits also help keep track of items and equipment so you can determine whether they need repairs or if something is missing.

Red Tag Exercise in 5S

Red tags are used during the Sort process of implementing 5S in workplaces. The following steps are involved in applying this procedure:

  1. Identify items that are unnecessary, not immediately needed, or totally misplaced.
  2. Fill the red tags—ensure legible writing and be as detailed as possible with its content.
  3. Register the red tag in the 5S red tag log for easy identification, classification, and location.
  4. Transfer red-tagged items to the red tag area but ensure that they are still accessible when needed.
  5. Determine the appropriate amount of time to keep tagged items in the red tag area—after, decide whether those items should be permanently removed from the workspace or if they need to stay.
Eligio Rempillo
Article by
Eligio Rempillo
Eligio Rempillo is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. With experience in various industries including animal products, food, technology, and protective equipment for healthcare, oil, construction, and more, he is committed to promoting workplace safety and consistently produces reliable content to help keep your business and workplace safe.