Lean Manufacturing and 5S

Being able to improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace is one important aspect of lean manufacturing. To highlight this point, a certain concept was developed in Japan to maintain organization and cleanliness and this strategy has spread throughout the world. In the manufacturing industry, this method is referred to as the 5S and we shall go into details in the ensuing paragraphs.

What is 5S?

In the most basic term, the 5S is an approach to ensuring organization in the workplace and it revolves around 5 core Japanese words.
1. Seiri
2. Seiton
3. Seiso
4. Seiketsu
5. Shitsuke
These words might not make sense to you at the moment, but it will shortly. In essence, 5S revolves around efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness in the workplace. This is usually done via ensuring strict adherence to order, organization, and high standards.
Below is a detailed description of the components of the 5S.

Seiri (Sort)
The aim of this process is to reduce the time spent on searching for lost items in the factory. This is done by sorting through the different products in the manufacturing plant and then placing them where they ought to be. This, in turn, simplifies the inspection that is carried out on the plant and it also ensures safety in the manufacturing plant.
How to Implement Seiri
• First off, you are required to check all the products in a particular location and identify any item that is not needed.
• Then, proceed to remove the items that are tagged unnecessary. If these items cannot be removed immediately, they can be placed in a “red tag area” and this will make it easier to remove eventually.
• The last thing to do is to keep the floor clear of any extra material not necessary.

Seiton (Set in Order)
As the name implies, you are expected to put the different products in their appropriate location so that they can function properly. When you master this art, you can ensure that the workflow in the manufacturing plant runs smoothly.
How to Implement Seiton
• The first step is to arrange the work stations such that every tool is within reach. The components, when they are arranged according to their frequency, will optimize productivity.
• Make necessary arrangements for the tools to be selected easily.
• Fixed locations should be assigned for different tools and products. This location should be clearly marked and labeled, making it easy to spot any product that is missing.

Seiso (Shine/Sweep)
This is basically all about ensuring that the workplace is clean, pleasing to work in, and safe from hazard. It involves sweeping, regular cleaning, and carrying out routine inspection of the site and the tools. Ultimately, this lean manufacturing practice will prevent deterioration and quick damage of equipment.
How to Implement Seiso
• Ensure that you clean the work environment daily and other equipment used regularly should be cleaned routinely.
• The workplace, as well as the equipment, should be inspected while the cleaning process is ongoing.

Seiketsu (Standardize)
Once the first three steps are in order, the manufacturing plant begins to enjoy improved efficiency and productivity. Since order is in place, the workers also enjoy clarity while at work. But the challenge is that the 5S process is a new one, and new habits are difficult to adhere to.
Seiketsu is the process that transforms the one-time magic into a lifelong practice. Activities like assigning regular tasks, creating schedules and instructions, mandating certain tasks, etc. will be the norm in this case. Charts are also regular features here as it helps those who are not yet accustomed to the lean manufacturing strategy.
How to Implement Seiketsu
• The goal is to reinforce the procedures and the schedules you have acquired in the first three practices.
• To do this, you are to develop a work structure that supports the different new lean manufacturing practices.
• Make use of photos and graphics to ensure that everything is organized the right way.
• Use regular audit checklists to check how well your organization is faring.

Shitsuke (Sustain/Self-Discipline)
In essence, this means “do without being told”. After all the different strategies have been learned, the important key is to incorporate these lean manufacturing strategies with utmost finesse to get the best out of the system.
How to Implement Shitsuke
• One of the most effective ways and the most common ways to do this is to organize training sessions.
• Regular audits should also be carried out to check the standards being followed and review it to highlight gaps.
• Encourage the feedback of the workers and implement the feedback when a need is identified.
• Identify the cause of issues and implement changes to the system to ensure that it doesn’t occur again.

Benefits of the 5S

1. Improved Profit
Without a doubt, companies will save hours of extra labor, thereby saving money in return. The 5S process will also help business managers improve production without a corresponding increase in cost.
2. Better Service
When 5S lean manufacturing is at work, the workplace is more organized and the employees can also have bursts of creativity and ingenuity. This will translate to improved service delivery to the customers.
3. Safety is Guaranteed
Even though the risk is not completely mitigated, it is reduced to a large extent. The employees need to feel safe in the workplace and the 5S is one way to achieve it.


As you must have guessed, starting up the 5S framework in your organization will definitely yield you a lot of accolades. You have so much to gain even with minimal effort invested. However, if it is not executed professionally, you might not realize the intended effect.
If you would like to contact us to discuss more on implementing the 5S system in your company, you are welcome to contact us.