The Tool and Why It’s Valuable

5S is a methodology for cultivating and maintaining a clean, organized, and safe workplace. 5S derives its name from five related terms that begin with the letter “S”. The 5S are:

  • Sort – Distinguish needed vs. unneeded items and remove the latter
  • Set in order – Keep needed items in the correct place to allow for easy and immediate retrieval
  • Shine – Keep the workspace orderly and clean; clean to inspect for issues
  • Standardize – Create consistent standards for visual management across an organization, using signs, photos, and colors to create a common understanding of what is an acceptable condition
  • Sustain – Be disciplined and develop a habit of maintaining the first four categories; conduct checks to ensure sustainment

How to Apply It

  1. Sort involves tagging all items that may not be regularly used, and storing or disposing of items not regularly used.
  2. Set in order involves arranging items in the work center/ office by a frequency of use, placing the most commonly used items within arm’s reach. Borders are drawn around these items to indicate their proper location.
  3. Shine is a routine to get rid of dirt and grime. Make a plan for daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning tasks.
  4. Standardize includes setting visual standards such as photos, cleaning schedules, etc. so all colleagues can adhere to a 5S workplace.
  5. Sustain by utilizing an audit approach to track how well the 5Ss are being maintained. Transfer ownership of audit to the employees in the area.
Pearls and Pitfalls
  • 5 S is not just “spring cleaning,” It is a disciplined approach to creating and maintaining order to enable workplace productivity.
  • When using 5S on shared computer files or areas the first 3 steps are easy; the last two take a commitment from all levels of the organization.

Before and After 5S

Before 5S: Clutter makes it difficult to find information customers need

before 5s

After 5S: A new standard. A place for everything. Everything in its place!

after 5s

Sample 5S Checklist

Example: 5S Your Desk & Computer Files Sustainment Checklist

Recommend setting an Outlook or Google calendar reminder with the following checklist embedded or attached, and/ or keeping a printed copy posted in the cube/office above your monitor or laptop so you physically see it every day.

Last Hour of Every Workday (including Fridays):

  • Clear desktop of all files
  • Read/Respond to e-mails (e.g. even if it is an acknowledgment of receipt such as "I received your email, and I will get back to you in the next 3-4 days").
  • Review your Outlook calendar/schedule and prepare any materials you need for meetings( e.g. if you are attending a meeting the next day, that requires you to bring printed copies or handouts, prepare those now).
  • Put all remaining paper folders and files that are "work-in-progress" back into your inbox.
  • Close all running programs
  • Shut down your computer

Every Friday Afternoon

  • Mini audit of computer file folders: All file folders match/use the established naming/labeling standards
  • Wipe down the desk, phone, and keyboard
  • Review schedule and prepare for next week