5S-Sort, Shine, Set in order,  Standardize, and Sustain

Implementing 5S is a fundamental first step for any manufacturing company wishing to call itself world-class. The presence of a 5S program is indicative of the commitment of senior management to workplace organization, lean manufacturing, and the elimination of Muda (Japanese for waste). The 5S program mandates that resources be provided in the required location, and be available as needed to support work activities. The five Japanese “S” words for workplace organization are:

  • Seiri (proper arrangement)
  • Seiton (orderliness)
  • Seiso (cleanup)
  • Seiketsu (standardize)
  •  Shitsuke (personal discipline)

The translated English equivalents are:

  • Sort: Separate out all that is unneeded and eliminate it
  • Straighten: Put things in order, everything has a place
  • Scrub (or shine): Clean everything, make the workplace spotless
  • Standardize: Make cleaning and checking routine
  • Sustain: Commit to the previous 4 steps and improve on them

Visual Management

Visual management is a set of techniques that

  1.  expose waste so you can eliminate it and prevent it from recurring in the future,
  2. make your company’s operation standards known to all employees so they can easily follow them, and
  3. improve workplace efficiency through the organization.

Creating an organized, efficient, cleaner workplace that has clear work processes and standards helps your company lower its costs. Also, employees’ job satisfaction improves when their work environment makes it easier for them to get the job done right. Implementing these techniques involves three steps:

  • Organizing your workplace by using a method known as the 5 S’s (sort, shine, set in order, standardize, and sustain);
  • Ensuring that all your required work standards and related information are displayed in the workplace.
  • Controlling all your workplace processes by exposing and stopping errors—and preventing them in the future.

Using visual management techniques enables your company to do the following:

  1. Improve the “first-time-through” quality of your products or services by creating an environment that:
    • Prevents most errors and defects before they occur.
    • Detects the errors and defects that do occur and enables rapid response and correction.
    • Establishes and maintains standards for zero errors, defects, and waste.
  2. Improve workplace safety and employee health by:
    • Removing hazards.
    • Improving communication by sharing information openly throughout the company.
    • Creating compliance with all work standards, reporting deviations, and responding quickly to problems.
  3. Improve the overall efficiency of your workplace and equipment, enabling your organization to meet customer expectations.
  4. Lower your total costs.

You can effectively gain control over your company’s manufacturing or business processes by focusing on the following areas:

  • Value-added activities. These are activities that change the form or function of your product or service.
  • Information sharing. This is the distribution of the right information to the right people at the right time, in the most useful form possible.
  • Source inspections. The goal of these inspections is to discover the source of errors that cause defects in either your products or
    business processes.
  • Material quantities and flow. All work operations should result in the correct quantities of materials or process steps moving as required for downstream operations.
  • Health and safety. All work processes, facilities, and equipment design and procedures should contribute to the maintenance of a safe and healthy workplace.

It is most effective to focus on the areas listed above as they relate to six aspects of your production or business processes:

  1. The quality of incoming, in-process, and outgoing materials.
  2. Work processes and methods of operation.
  3.  Equipment, machines, and tools.
  4.  Storage, inventory, and supplies.
  5. Safety and safety training.
  6. Information sharing.

To gain control over your processes, you must understand the “three actuals”:

  • The actual place or location in which a process occurs.
  • The actual employees working in that location.
  • The actual process occurring in that location.
    Mapping the process will help you understand all three actuals.

5S  Workplace Organization

The 5S approach exemplifies a determination to organize the workplace, keep it neat and clean, establish standardized conditions, and maintain the discipline that is needed to do the job. Numerous modifications have been made on the 5S structure. It can be reduced to 4S. It can be modified to a 5S + 1S or 6S program, where the sixth S is safety. The 5S concept requires that a discipline will be installed and maintained. There is a story of a Japanese team’s initial site visit to a prospective supplier. Before allowing the supplier to unveil their grand presentation, the Japanese visitors insisted on a tour of Gemba (the shop floor). After just a few minutes in the factory, the visitors knew that the plant was not committed to the highest level of manufacturing and terminated the visit. It is very easy to tell whether a plant is practicing a 5S program. In day-to-day operations, it is possible to have some dirt around the plant, but the visual signs of a 5S committed facility are obvious. Details of a 5S program are itemized below in a step-by-step approach.

Step 1: Sort (Organize):

  • Set up a schedule to target each area
  • Remove unnecessary items in the workplace
  • Red tag unneeded items, record everything that is thrown out
  • Keep repaired items that will be needed
  • Major housekeeping and cleaning is done by area
  • Inspect the facility for problems, breakages, rust, scratches and grime
  • List everything which needs repair
  • Deal with causes of filth and grime
  • Red tag grime areas and prioritize conditions for correction
  • Perform management reviews of this and other steps I

Step 2: Straighten:

  • Have a place for everything and everything in its place to ensure neatness
  • Analyze the existing conditions for tooling, equipment, inventory and supplies
  • Decide where things go, and create a name and location for everything
  • Decide how things should be put away, including the exact locations
  • Use labels, tool outlines, and colour codes
  • Obey the rules. Determine everyday controls and out-of-stock conditions
  • Define who does the reordering and reduce inventories
  • Determine who has missing items or if they are lost
  • Use aisle markings, placement for dollies, forklift, boxes
  • Establish pallet zones for work in process (WIP)

Step 3: Scrub (Shine and Clean)

  • This is more than keeping things clean, it includes ways to keep things clean
  • Establish a commitment to be responsible for all working conditions
  • Clean everything in the workplace, including equipment
  • Perform root cause analysis and remedy machinery and equipment problems
  • Complete training on basics of equipment maintenance
  • Divide each area into zones and assign individual responsibilities
  • Rotate difficult or unpleasant jobs
  • Implement 3-minute, 5-minute and 10-minute 5S activities
  • Use inspection checklists and perform white glove inspections

Step 4: Standardize

  • Make 5S activities routine so that abnormal conditions show up
  • Determine the important points to manage and where to look
  • Maintain and monitor facilities to ensure a state of cleanliness
  • Make abnormal conditions obvious with visual controls
  • Set standards, determine necessary tools, and identify abnormalities
  • Determine inspection methods
  • Determine short-term countermeasures and long-term remedies
  • Use visual management tools such as colour-coding, markings and labels
  • Provide equipment markings, maps, and charts I

Step 5: Sustain

  • Commit to the 4 previous steps and continually improve on them
  • Acquire self-discipline through the habit of repeating the 4 previous steps
  • Establish standards for each of the 5S steps
  • Establish and perform evaluations of each step

Management commitment will determine the control and self-discipline areas for an organization. A 5S program can be set up and operational within 5 to 6 months, but the effort to maintain world-class conditions must be continuous. A well run 5S program will result in a factory that is in control.

Steps in implementing 5 S

  1. Getting started Before you begin to implement 5s techniques, make sure you do the following:
    • Elect an employee from each work team to lead the program and remove any barriers his or her team encounters along the way.
    • Train all involved employees about the 5s techniques outlined below.
    • Tell everyone in the areas of your plant or office that will be involved in the program. Also, give a “heads up” to other employees or departments that might be affected by it.
    • Create storage (“red tag”) areas for holding materials you will remove from work sites in your plant or building.
    • Create a location for supplies you will need as you progress through your visual management programs, such as tags, cleaning materials, paint, labels, masking tape, and sign materials.
    • Coordinate the program with your maintenance department and any other departments that you might need to call on for help.
    •  Make sure that all employees understand and follow your company’s safety regulations and procedures as they make changes.
  2.  Sort. Sort through the items in your work area, following the steps below. Your goal is to keep what is needed and remove everything else.
    • Reduce the number of items in your immediate work area to just what you actually need.
    •  Find appropriate locations for all these items, keeping in mind their size and weight, how frequently you use them, and how urgently you might need them.
    •  Find another storage area for all supplies that you need but do not use every day.
    •  Decide how you will prevent the accumulation of unnecessary items in the future.
    • Tape or tie red tags to all the items you remove from your work area. Place the items in a temporary “red-tag storage” area for five days. Either use the Sorting Criteria chart as shown below as a guide for disposing of items or develop your own criteria.
  3.  After five days, move any item that you haven’t needed to a central red-tag storage area for another thirty days. You can then sort through all items stored there to see if they might be of any use and throw away everything else, remembering to follow your company policy. Use a logbook to track what you do with all red-tag items.
  4. If employees disagree about what to do with some of the materials, try to resolve the conflict through discussion. They can also consult their managers about the materials’ value, current and potential use, and impact on workplace performance.
  5. Shine. Clean and “shine” your workplace by eliminating all forms of contamination, including dirt, dust, fluids, and other debris. Cleaning is also a good time to inspect your equipment to look for abnormal wear or conditions that might lead to equipment failure. Once your cleaning process is complete, find ways to eliminate all sources of contamination and to keep your workplace clean at all times. Keeping equipment clean and “shiny” should be a part of your maintenance process. Your company’s equipment maintenance training should teach the concepts of “cleaning as inspection” and “eliminating sources of contamination.” Remember that your workplace includes not just the plant floor, but your administrative, sales, purchasing, accounting, and engineering areas as well. You can clean these areas by archiving project drawings when they are completed and properly storing vendor catalogues and product information. Decide what methods (local or shared hard drives, floppy disks, or CDs) are the best for storing your electronic files.
  6. Set in order. During this step, you evaluate and improve the efficiency of your current workflow, the steps and motions employees take to perform
    their work tasks.
    1. Create a map of your workspace that shows where all the equipment and tools are currently located. Draw lines to show the steps that employees must take to perform their work tasks.
    2.  Use the map to identify wasted motion or congestion caused by excessive distances travelled, unnecessary movement, and improper placement of tools and materials.
    3. Draw a map of a more efficient workspace, showing the rearrangement of every item that needs to be moved.
    4. On your map, create location indicators for each item. These are markers that show where and how much material should be kept in a specific place. Once you create your new workspace, you can hang up location indicators within it.e. Make a plan for relocating items that need to be moved so you can make your new, efficient workspace a reality. As you do this step, ask yourself the following questions:
      • Who will approve the plan?
      • Who will move the items?
      • Are there any rules, policies, or regulations that affect the location of these items? Will employees be able to adhere to these rules?
      • When is the best time to relocate these items?
      • Do we need any special equipment to move the items? As a team, brainstorm your ideas for new ways to layout your workspace. If it is impractical or impossible to move an item the way you would like, redesign the rest of the workspace around this item’s location.
    5. Post the drawing of the new workplace layout in your area.
  7. Standardize. Make sure that team members from every work area follow the sort, shine, and set-in order steps. Share information among teams so that there is no confusion or errors regarding:
    • Locations
    • Delivery
    • Destinations
    • Quantities
    •  Schedules
    •  Downtime
    • Procedures and standards.
  8. As you begin to use your newly organized workplace, have everyone write down their ideas for reducing clutter, eliminating unnecessary items, organizing, making cleaning easier, establishing standard procedures, and making it easier for employees to follow the rules. Once you have standardized your methods, make your standards known to everyone so that anything out of place or not in compliance with your procedure will be immediately noticed.
  9. Sustain. The gains you make during the above four steps are sustained when:
    • All employees are properly trained.
    • All employees use visual management techniques.
    • All managers are committed to the program’s success.
    • The workplace is well ordered and adheres to the new procedures all your employees have agreed upon.
    • Your new procedures become a habit for all employees. Reevaluate your workspace using the Sustain Evaluation Form (see the figure below) as needed. Encourage and recognize the achievement of all work areas that are able to sustain their visual management efforts. This helps your company to maintain a cycle of continuous improvement.

5S Implementation Guide

5S Implementation Checklist

The purpose of this checklist is to provide reliable steps to preparing for and performing 5S activities in the work area. Included in this checklist is a preferred sequence of events and corresponding “how-to” guides for each step.

Task5S Guide
Develop your implementation plan:   Create a 5S documentation system Determine the pace of implementation Draft “straw man” 5S Map Determine “before 5S” photo logistics Establish visible ways to communicate 5S activities Coordinate and schedule services required from support organizations Make a list of internal arrangements to be made Draft timeline Communicate your plan to upper management“Develop Implementation Plan”
Photograph the work area“Take Area Photograph”
Educate workgroup5S Overview – Lean Training Module
Finalize 5S MapFinalize 5S Map
Perform Work Area Evaluation“Perform Area Evaluation”
Perform Sorting“Perform Tagging Technique”
“Conduct Sorting Auction”
“Prepare for Simplifying”
Perform Simplifying“Using Labeling Technique”
“Using Outlining Technique”
“Using Shadow Board Technique”
Perform Sweeping“Perform Sweeping”
Perform Standardizing“Perform Standardizing”
Perform Self-Discipline“Perform Team Self-Discipline”
“Perform Individual Self-Discipline”
Measure Results“ Measure Results”

Develop a 5S Implementation Plan

Purpose: To help work-group leaders plan for 5S implementation in their areas.
When: Prior to beginning implementation.
Materials required:

  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil

Steps to implement 5S

1. Create a 5S documentation system to organize and store pertinent data.

  • Determine the type of file.
  • Determine the file location.
  • Inform workgroup of location.


  • The purpose is to have one location, accessible to all, for organizing miscellaneous 5S materials.
  • Pertinent data may include, but is not limited to:
    • 5S map
    • Area check sheets
    • Historical Action Item Lists
    • 5S agreements
    • Measures, goals and progress against them
  • Examples: 3-ring binder, file folder, etc.
  • The location should be accessible to team members.

2. Determine the pace of implementation


  • The purpose is to help you understand the impacts of implementation and determine the pace that best supports your needs and to clarify expectations.
  • Consider the following questions:
    • How much time can we allocate? (Be innovative and realistic.)
    • Where will we begin – which area, group, etc.? (Be sensitive to personal work areas versus common work areas.)
    • How many shifts are involved?
    • How will we coordinate cross-shift activities?
    • What will make sense for us? (Pilot small area; use lessons learned to proceed?)
You allocate a full day for implementation.Schedule an entire day to conduct a 5S overview and initiate 5S activities.
Continue on a weekly or monthly basis until 5S methods become the norm.
You desire implementation through team meetings.Schedule one team meeting to conduct the 5S overview, then proceed with implementation in subsequent team meetings until 5S methods become the norm.
You desire an all-shift kick off implementation meeting.Schedule 5S overview meeting for employees from all shifts. Deliver 5S overview Finalize 5S map. Conduct work area evaluation. Then proceed with implementation in shifts until 5S methods become the norm.

3. Draft “straw man” 5S map.

a. Obtain approved layout of the entire work area.  Verify all relevant dimensions.
b. Coordinate area boundaries.
c. Divide the map into workable sections.
d. Determine the number of people per team (1 team per section).


  • The purpose is to take a proposed map to the workgroup for finalizing after you have coordinated the external boundaries with adjacent organizations.  The map will be used throughout 5S activities to clarify boundaries, assign responsibilities, and divide tasks into bite-size pieces.
  • This 5S map will be finalized with the workgroup following the 5S Overview.
The 2nd-level manager has prepared a 5S map.Use the boundaries identified.
5S map has not been prepared.Obtain area map from Facilities or draw a map (get boundary approval from your 2nd-level manager).
  • Communicate with organizations adjacent to your assigned areas to ensure agreement on boundaries.
  • Define who is responsible for common aisle-ways, stairways, etc.
  • Sizes of sections should require equal amounts of effort to organize and maintain.
  • Label each section (a,b,c,d, etc.)
  • Be sensitive to ownership of files and personal workspaces in office areas, when considering boundaries and team assignments.
  • Optimum team size: 4-5 people.
    Assess the size of your workgroup. Divide the total number of employees by the number of sections of the 5S map.

4. Determine “before 5S” photograph logistics (who, how, and when).


  • The purpose is to prepare yourself and your group for whom, how and when photos will be taken, considering time and budget.
  • Based on your implementation pace (see step #2 above):

Consider TIME:

If you are planningAndThen
A full day of implementation. Have photos taken before conducting a 5S overview?
Implementation in steps.You want to have the team present.Wait until after 5S overview, and before initial Sorting activities.

Consider BUDGET:

If you are planningThen
Arrange for support from Photography.Contact Photographer at least two (2) days prior to date needed.
Have the team take photographs.Obtain a camera. Obtain a camera permit (available from Security).

5. Establish visible ways to communicate 5S activities.


Communicate your plans to the workgroup, especially if you are taking photographs prior to the 5S Overview, so they will understand and feel comfortable with the process. The purpose is to serve as a communication tool.

Examples:Consider having enough room to post:
Bulletin Board5S Map
Visibility WallArea Photographs
Notebook/binderWorkgroup 5S Action Item Log Area evaluation, etc

6. Coordinate and schedule services required from the support organization(s).


  • The purpose is to build collaborative relationships within and across functional lines and to help ensure a smooth implementation with no surprises.
  • Consider cross-shift schedules.
  • Acquaint yourself with procedures of support organizations.
  • Establish a contact person in each support organization to let them know IN ADVANCE:
    • What you are doing
    • When
    • How they might be affected
    • What you need from them
  • Find out what the support organization needs from you.
    Examples of support organizations (include, but are not limited to): Surplus, Material, Tool Rooms, Office Supply, Transportation, Photography, Lean Implementation, etc.

7.Make a list of internal arrangements to be made.


  • The purpose identify all the arrangements needed to proceed with 5S implementation and to help ensure that nothing slips through the cracks
  • Read the “Sorting” 5S Guides: “Tagging Technique” and “Auction”.
  • Your list of arrangements includes, but is not limited to:
    • Research, obtain and review any documentation about facility standards, filing guidelines, etc.
    • Determine the date for your work group’s initial Sorting Activity.
    • Schedule 5S Overview with your group.
    • Order materials for 5S Overview.
    • Practice 5S Overview delivery.
    • Schedule upper-level manager to conduct the auction, if appropriate.
    • Designate a holding area for items to be auctioned.
    • Determine which organizations you might be sending surplus items to (for example, Tool Rooms, Material, Office Supply, Salvage, etc.).
    • Consult with Facilities/ Maintenance/ Housekeeping to help determine (and provide) types of containers needed to transport unnecessary items (for example, boxes, dollies, tub skids, etc.).

8.Draft a timeline for 5S planning and implementation activities.


  • The purpose is to schedule all planning and implementation activities and notify all those involved (internally and externally) so everyone can be prepared.
  • Include estimated dates for completing all planning activities.
  • Include estimated dates for performing all other 5S activities.
  • Post in 5S communication.

9.Communicate your plan to upper management.


  • The purpose is to get buy-in and support from your management.
  • Solicit feedback.
  • Gain agreement.

10. Check your work. You will know you have completed this task when:


  • A 5S documentation system has been created, storage location determined, and the team notified of its location.
  • The pace of 5S implementation plan for the work area has been determined.
  • You have determined who, how, and when photos will be taken, and have communicated this to your group.
  • A “straw man” 5S map has been drafted.
  • A visible method for communicating 5S activities has been established.
  • All services required from support organizations have been coordinated and scheduled.
  • All the necessary internal arrangements have been made.
  • A timeline for 5S planning and implementation activities has been created and posted.
  • You have communicated your plan to upper management.

Take Area Photographs

Purpose: To provide the team with a photographic record of their work area serving as a baseline to measure improvements from.
When:  Do this per group’s previously determined implementation plan

Materials required to take Area Photograph

  • 5S Implementation Plan
  • “Straw man” 5S map
  • Camera, camera permit and photographer from the workgroup, or approved arrangements made with Photography.

Steps Required to take Area Photograph

1. Visually survey the work area.

Workgroup/individuals have agreed, and are aware their area is being photographed.

2.Determine best photo angle for each section.

Try to show as much of each section as possible – widest angle.

3.Mark agreed- upon photo angles on the 5S map.

You will be taking “after 5S” photos from the same angle.

4.Have photos taken.

Open doors of cabinets, desks, etc.
5.Have photos developed.
6.Post in the 5S communication area.
7.Check your work.
You will know this task is complete when:

  • Photos have been taken for each section according to angles identified on the 5S map.
  • Photos are posted in the 5S communication area.

Finalize a 5S Map

Purpose: To assist workgroup and 5S Leader in laying out boundaries and determining team responsibilities for 5S activities.
When: Do this immediately following the 5S Overview.
Materials required to finalise a 5S map

  • “Straw man” 5S Map
  • Flip chart stand/pad, if applicable
  • Pen or pencil

Steps to finalise the 5S map

1. Assemble

2.Post “straw man” 5S map to view.

For example Flip chart, wall, or whiteboard.

3.Agree on how the work area is divided.


  • The 5S leader explains how the sections were determined.
  • The group provides input – discussing any suggestions.
  • Any changes are agreed upon by the team.

4.Identify a place on 5S map to write in the names of members for each team.


  • Leave enough room for all team members.
  • Office operations might consider limiting team activities to common work areas like conference rooms, coffee areas, etc.
  • Areas can be identified for individual activities, (cubes, desks, files, etc.).

5. Record team members’ names for each section on the 5S map.


  • Team members volunteer and/or are assigned to a section of the map.
  • Ensure at least 1 person assigned to each section works in that section.
  • It is helpful to have a fresh pair of eyes (someone not normally working in that area).  Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.

6. Post 5S map in the communication area.

7.Check your work.

You will know you have completed this task when:

  • Team members for each section have been identified and recorded.
  • At least 1 person that works in each section is on the team for that section.
  • The finalized 5S map has been posted in the communication area.

Perform Area Evaluation

Purpose: To assist workgroup in assessing their work area’s current condition.
When: Do this after 5S Overview and immediately before Sorting.

Materials required

  • Blank “Area Check sheet” – (1 per team)
  • Pen or pencil – 1 per team
  • Blank “Levels of Excellence” form (1 per work area)
  • 5S Map
  • Flip chart stand or pad, if applicable

Steps to perform area evaluation

1.Review “Area Check sheet” for additions and/or deletions needed for team’s work area.

2.Assemble in the work area.

3.Complete “Area Check sheet”

  • Give 1 blank “Area Check sheet” to each team.
  • Each team selects a scribe to read check sheet and place check marks in appropriate boxes.
  • Team members go to the area assigned (see 5S map).
  • “Area Check sheet” is completed per instructions on the form.
  • The team returns to the meeting area when done.
  • After each area has completed an “Area Check sheet” and reassembled in the meeting area, continue with Step #3, below.

4. Determine “Levels of Excellence” for the work area.

  • Post the blank “Levels of Excellence” form on the flip chart stand.
  • Discuss Area Check sheets completed by each team to help determine the “Levels of Excellence” for the work area.
  • Fill out the “Levels of Excellence” form for the entire area.

5 File Area Check sheets in 5S document system.

6.Post “Levels of Excellence” in the 5S communication area.

7.Check your work.

You will know this task is complete when:

  • Area Check sheets are completed per instructions for each section.
  • Work area “Levels of Excellence” form is completed and posted in the 5S communication area.

5S Area Check sheet


  1. Scribe reads each statement out loud and records team member’s response in the appropriate box. A consensus of the team members is needed for each response.
  2. If team members respond “yes” place a checkmark in the “yes” column for that statement.
  3. Team members respond “no” place a checkmark in the “no” column for that statement.

NOTE: The team can add or delete items from the checklist as appropriate for their area.

Do employees know why these 5S activities are taking place?  
Have criteria been established to distinguish necessary from unnecessary items?  
Have all unnecessary items been removed from the area? Examples:  Excess materials, infrequently used tools, defective materials, personal items, outdated information, etc.  
Do employees understand the procedure for disposing of unnecessary items?  
Do employees understand the benefits to be achieved from these activities?  
Has a reliable method been developed to prevent unnecessary items from accumulating?  
Is there a process for employees to pursue and implement further improvements?  
Is there a visually marked specified place for everything?  
Is everything in its specified place?  
Is storage well organized and items easily retrievable?  
Are items like tools, materials, and supplies conveniently located?  
Do employees know where items belong?  
Has a process been developed to determine what quantities of each item belongs in the area?  
Is it easy to see (with visual sweep) if items are where they are supposed to be?  
Are visual aids in use? (For example signboards, colour-coding or outlining).  
Are work/break areas, offices and conference rooms clean and orderly?  
Are floors/carpets swept and free of oil, grease and debris?  
Are tools, machinery, and office equipment clean and in good repair?  
Is trash removed on a timely basis?  
Are manuals, labels, and tags in good condition?  
Are demarcation lines clean and unbroken?  
Are cleaning materials easily accessible?  
Are cleaning guidelines and schedules visible?  
Do employees understand expectations?  
Are current processes documented?  
Do employees have access to the information they require?  
Is there a method in place to remove outdated material?  
Do employees understand the processes that pertain to them?  
Does a process exist that enables employees the opportunity to improve existing processes?  
Self-Discipline (Sustaining)YesNo
Are safety and housekeeping policies followed?  
Is safety data posted in appropriate locations?  
Are safety risk areas identified?  
Are employees wearing appropriate safety apparel?  
Are fire extinguishers and hoses in working order?  
Is general cleanliness evident?  
Are break areas cleaned after use?  
Do employees know and observe standard procedures?  
Do employees have the training and tools that are necessary to make this program work?  
Is there a confident understanding of and adherence to the 5S’s?  

5S Levels of Excellence


  1. The team discusses the results of the “5S Area Check sheet”(s) completed for all sections of the work area.
  2. The team uses the check sheets as a basis for determining the level of excellence for each of the 5S categories. There is no one-to-one correspondence between the number of marks in the “yes” column on the check sheet(s) and the level of excellence.  The check sheet(s) provides additional information on which to base the team’s subjective opinion.
  3. As levels are determined, write the date in the appropriate column for that level (one level per category).

NOTE:  The “Levels of Excellence” form pertains to the entire work area.  Work area sections are probably at different levels.  When this happens, the entire work area defers to the lowest level. This applies to the area’s overall rating also.

1Necessary and unnecessary items are mixed together in the work area. 
2Necessary and unnecessary items separated (includes excess inventory). 
3All unnecessary items have been removed from the work area. 
4The method has been established to maintain the work area free of unnecessary items. 
5Employees continually seeking improvement opportunities. 
1Tools, supplies and materials randomly located. 
2Designated location established for all items. 
3Designated locations are marked to make the organization more visible. (For example colour-coding or outlining) 
4The method has been established to recognize; with a visual sweep, if items are out of place or exceed quantity limits. 
5Process in place to provide continual evaluation and to implement improvements. 
1Factory/Offices and machinery/office equipment are dirty and/or disorganized. 
2Work/break areas are cleaned on a regularly scheduled basis. 
3Work/break areas, machinery and office equipment are cleaned daily. 
4Housekeeping tasks are understood and practised continually. 
5Area employees have devised a method of preventative cleaning and maintenance. 
1No attempt is being made to document or improve current processes. 
2Methods are being improved but changes haven’t been documented. 
3Changes are being incorporated and documented. 
4Information on process improvements and reliable methods is shared with employees. 
5Employees are continually seeking the elimination of waste with all changes documented and information shared with all. 
LevelSelf-Discipline (Sustaining) 
1Minimal attention is spent on housekeeping and safety and standard procedures are not consistently followed. 
2A recognizable effort has been made to improve the condition of the work environment. 
3Housekeeping, safety policies, and standard procedures have been developed and are utilized. 
4Follow-through of housekeeping, safety policies, and standard procedures is evident. 
5The general appearance of confident understanding and adherence to the 5S program 

Sorting Activity – Tagging Technique

Purpose: To assist workgroup in identifying unnecessary items in the work area.

When: Do this after area evaluation and before you conduct the Sorting Auction

Materials Required

  • 5S map
  • Pen or pencil
  • Post-It notes or other methods for tagging item
  • Paper for listing auction items

Steps for Tagging Technique  

1.Assemble in the work area.

Clarify criteria for tagging.  Refer to step #2 and expand if necessary.

2.  Team members individually identify unnecessary items in the assigned work area.

Caution: Focus on Company-owned versus the personal property.


Every individual walks through the assigned area and physically touches everything.  As each item is touched, do the following:

Item has a defined purpose and is used often enough to be considered necessary.Do not tag item.
Item has no defined purpose or is not needed.Tag item.
Item is determined unsafe and needed.Tag item to be repaired or replaced.
Item is unsafe and not needed.Tag item to be removed from the work area
Unsure about the item’s purpose.Tag item for discussion at “Sorting Auction”

3.  Remove all tagged items to the designated holding area for auction.


Single shift →The auction can take place immediately following tagging activity according to the team’s plan.
 Tagged item is too large for the team to move.Determine the appropriate process for disposition of item during auction walk-through.
Multiple Shifts →Hold tagged item for the predetermined period before conducting the auction.
List all tagged items and post list in the communication area for all shifts to preview prior to the auction.
 Tagged item is too large for the team to move.Determine the appropriate process for disposition of item during auction walk-through.

4.Check your work.

You will know you have completed this task when:

  • All items determined to be unnecessary or unsafe are tagged.
  • Provisions have been made for cross-shift viewing of tagged items, if applicable.
  • All easily removed, tagged items have been taken to the designated holding area.
  • Plan for the disposition of all other tagged items has been determined.

Sorting Activity -Sorting Auction

Purpose: To assist auctioneer in conducting Sorting Auction to dispose of tagged items.
When: Do this after “Perform Tagging Technique”.
Materials Required:

  • Blank Surplus  Items Form (attachment at end of this guide)
  •  Work Group 5S Action Item Log (attachment at end of this guide)
  • All tagged items

Steps for Sorting Action

1.Assemble in the auction area.

2.  Designate 2 scribes.


  • 1 scribe to document surplus items.
  • 1 scribe to document action items.

3.  Distribute blank surplus form and action item log.


To designated scribes.

4.  Hold up each item for auction.


One item is handled at a time.

5.  Ask criteria questions for each item.


  • Who needs it?
  • What is it used for?
  •  How often do you use it?
  •  How much of it do you need?
  • Is it safe?

6.Dispose of each tagged item.


If the item is:And:Then follow these steps
Claimed →Claimant determines a location for the item.
The scribe records action taken on the 5S Action Item Log.
UnclaimedIs still usable.Record the unnecessary item on the surplus form and place in an appropriate container for removal.
Unusable by anyone.Discard immediately.
Do not record on the form.
Item is too large for the team to move.Conduct a walk-through of the area and develop a plan for the disposition of large tagged items.
The scribe records action to be taken on the 5 Action Item Log.

7. Collect Action Item Log


Post in 5S communication area to be followed up during the next 5S meeting.

8. Distribute copies of the surplus form as appropriate.


Others may have a need for your surpluses items. Note on the surplus from the date items will be removed from the work area.

9.Remove all unnecessary items from the work area.

On date determined.

10.Check your work.


You will know you have completed this task when:

  • All tagged items have been dis-positioned.
  • The surplus form is routed to other organizations which may have use/need for listed items.
  • Unnecessary items are prepared for the return to appropriate organizations (Tool Rooms, Office Supply, etc.).

Simplifying Activity – Prepare for Simplifying

Purpose: To assist the workgroup in preparing to organize the work area.
When: Do this after all unnecessary items have been removed from the workplace.
Materials Required

  • Workgroup 5S Action Item Log.
  • Pen or pencil.
  • “Outlining Techniques,” “Labeling Techniques,” and “Shadow Board Technique” (1 set per team).

Steps for simplifying the activity

1.  Assemble in the work area.

2.Review section boundaries.

Notes: Refer to 5S Map

3.Review Simplifying criteria

Consider the following criteria:

  • Items used daily, store close at hand.
  •  Apply the 45-degree rule, minimize at hand.
  • Use strike zone rule, store items above the knees and below the chest.
  • One is best, reduce the number of duplicated items and storage locations whenever possible.

4.Distribute 5S Guides for performing Labeling, Outlining and Shadow boards.


  • 1 set per section team.
  •  Review techniques outlined in the guides.

5.Designate a coordinator to order required labels for the entire workgroup.

Notes: Labelling is one of the most common techniques. It is generally best to have one label coordinator for the entire workgroup.

6.Teams are prepared to go to assigned sections.

Notes: Refer to the 5S map.

7.Check your work.


You will know you have completed this task when:

  • You have reviewed assigned sections on 5S map.
  • You have reviewed Simplifying guidelines.
  • You have reviewed Simplifying techniques.
  • A label order coordinator has been designated.
  • Each section team has a set of “Simplifying” 5S Guides.
  • Section teams are prepared to go to assigned areas.

Simplifying Activity -Using Outlining Technique

 Purpose: To assist workgroup in outlining all appropriate items /areas in the workplace.

When: Do this after locations for all items have been designated according to their use.

Materials Required

  • Floor tape or masking tape
  • Marking pen

Steps to use the outlining technique

1.Assemble in the work area.

2.Identify and agree on the items or areas that require outlining.

Examples: (may not be appropriate in all areas)

  •  External work area boundaries.
  •  Movable carts
  •  The positioning of overhead projectors on tables
  •  Location of garbage cans
  •  Walkways
  • Stationery items in cabinets.
  • Designated receiving area.

3.  Outline the items or areas identified.


  • Use masking tape for outlining.
  • If using floor tape, contact Facilities/Maintenance for list, availability, and proper usage of approved materials.

4.  Label each item or outlined area.

Notes: Legibly print the name of the outlined item or area on the tape.

5.Check your work.

You will know that you have completed this task when:

  • All items and areas identified by the team are outlined to show a specific location.
  • All appropriate outlined items and areas are labelled.

Simplifying Activity -Using LABELING Technique

Purpose:  To assist workgroup in labelling all appropriate items in the workplace.
When: Do this after locations for all items have been designated according to their use.
Materials Required:

  • Masking tape for temporary labels
  • Marking pens
  • Computer-generated labels (as needed)
  •  Workgroup 5S Action Item Log
  • Label machine, if available
  • Blank notebook, paper and pen or pencil

Steps for using Labeling Technique

1.Assemble in the work area and designate scribe.

2. Apply temporary labels to ALL items and locations deemed necessary.

Use masking tape as a temporary label to identify ALL items determined to be necessary for the work area (may not be appropriate in all areas).

  • File cabinets  & Files
  • Drawers & Shelves
  • Tools & Boxes
  • Garbage cans
  • Books
  • Chairs
  • Computers
  • Supplies
  • Stationery
  • Cleaning Supplies

3. Mark each label

Notes{ Print legibly:

  • The name of the item.
  • The minimum/maximum number of items (only applicable to multiple items).

4.  Identify items that require restocking.

Notes: Record on the label when an item should be reordered (by date or by item count)

5.  Prepare a list for ordering permanent labels.

Notes: Print each label legibly and exactly as it should read.

6.  Add order labels to workgroup 5S Action Item Log.

Notes: Add to Action Item Log.

7.  Forward list of label names to label coordinator.

Notes: One person coordinates label generation and/or ordering for the entire work area.

8.  Check your work.


You will know you have completed this task when:

  •  All appropriate items have visible labels.
  • A list for ordering labels has been prepared.
  • Label list has been forwarded to label coordinator.
  •  Action item has been recorded on 5S Action Item Log.

Simplifying Activity – Using SHADOW BOARD Technique

Purpose:  To assist workgroup in making a shadow board for organizing supplies and tools in the workplace.  This technique may not be applicable to all areas.

When: Do this after locations for all items have been designated according to their use.

Materials required:

Possible construction materials you might need: Pegboard, Styrofoam, Hooks, Label maker, Plywood,  Cardboard, Form board,  Markers for outlining, Plexiglas case,  Hangers, Masking tape

Steps for using shadow board technique

1.  Assemble in the work area.

2.  Identify what supplies/tools require a shadow board.

Examples: (may not be appropriate in all areas)

  • Small hand tools
  • Copier supplies
  • Desk supplies

3.  Have team draft on paper the design of the shadow board.

Include in your design:

  • An outline of the supplies/tools to be put in the display.
  • The layout of how they are to be organized.
  • What materials will be required to build the display?
  •  Where the display will be located when complete.

4.  Post the mock-up of the design in the communication area for everyone to see.


  • Leave design posted for the predetermined period (two days is generally sufficient) to allow viewing by all shifts.
  • Provide name and phone number of a contact person to receive feedback on the mockup.

5.  Gather materials to build the board.

6.  Layout all supplies and tools on the board per the design.

7.  Outline supplies and tools as they will be placed on the board.


  • Use a pencil to outline the initial placement of the item on board.
  • Use a more permanent marker when satisfied.

8.  Label each outlined item and its location with its names.


  • Use masking tape for the labels.
  • Write the item name legibly on tape.
  • Use the same name for the item and its location on the board.
  • Make/order permanent labels (see “Labeling Techniques”).

9.  Place shadow board in the work area.

Notes: Refer to design for pre-determined location.

10.  Check your work.

Notes: You will know you have completed this task when:

  •  All items to be displayed on the board are arranged per the design.
  • All supplies and tools have been outlined.
  • All displayed supplies and tools and their locations are labelled.

Sweeping Activities -Perform SWEEPING

Purpose:  To assist workgroup in developing daily visual and physical sweeping activities to assess and maintain the work area.
When: Do this after the Simplifying activities have been completed.
Materials Required:

  • Tape
  •  Paper and pencil

Steps required to perform sweeping

1. Assemble in the meeting area and designate a scribe.

 2.  Prepare a list of “Visual Sweeping” activities that need to occur in the work area.


  • The list shows frequency and responsibility for individual and common areas.
  •  Activities on the list should support “Visual Sweeping” of the work area.
  • Examples of what to check:
    • Items are orderly and safe
    • Equipment is in designated location/
    • Supplies/tools are in designated locations
    • Supplies/tools are in stock
    • Labels
    • Item location outline(s)
    • Shadow board

3.  Post the finished “Visual Sweeping” list in the 5S communication area.  
Notes: Identify list as “Visual Sweeping” list
4.  Prepare a list of “Physical Sweeping” activities.

  •  The list shows frequency and responsibility for individual and common areas.
  • Activities on the list should support “Physical Sweeping” of the work area to maintain cleanliness and order of the work environment.
  • Examples:
    • Dust cabinets
    • Clean computer
    • Empty hole punch
    • Clean tools
    • Clean trash can
    • Sweep floor

5.  Post finished “Physical Sweeping” list in the communication area.
Notes: Identify list as “Physical Sweeping” list.

6.  Check your work.

You will know you have completed this task when:

  •  A list of “Visual Sweeping” activities and responsibilities is posted for both individual and common areas.
  •  A list of “Physical Sweeping” activities and responsibilities is posted for both individual and common areas.

Standardizing Activity – Perform STANDARDIZING Activity

Purpose: To assist workgroup in documenting agreements made during 5S activities and to develop a plan for periodic repetition of 5S activities.

When: Do this after Sweeping Activities

Materials required:

  • Paper or pen
  •  Visual and Physical Sweeping Lists from Sweeping activity.

Steps to perform standardizing activity

1.  Assemble in the meeting area and designate a scribe.

 2.  Review and document Sorting activity. Do the following:


  • Ask, “What criteria did we establish for sorting?”
  • Write down on paper the criteria identified.
  • Ask, “Are the criteria acceptable?”
    If Then follow these steps Yes No change required No Ask, “What improvements are needed?”
    Document change in criteria and place agreement in the 5S file
  • Examples to consider:
    • “Is there an area designated as ‘holding’?”
    • “Do we tag items and hold in the area until auction?”
    • “Do we bring ”Surplus Items” list to crew meetings weekly for disposition?”
  • Document process and place agreement in the 5S file.

3.  Review and document Simplifying activity.


Document agreements (including, but not limited to) those made for:

  • Labelling
  • Outlining
  • Shadow boards
  • Storage and stock quantities of supplies and tools
  • Safety

4.  Review and file Sweeping activity lists.


  • Obtain Visual and Physical Sweeping lists
  • Ask, “Are the activity lists rigorous enough to maintain a safe, clean, and orderly work area?”
    If Then follow these steps Yes No change required No Ask, “What improvements are needed?”
    Document change in criteria and place agreement in the 5S file

5.  Establish a schedule for periodic repetition of 5S activities.


  • Document agreed-upon schedule on note-paper.
  • Post in the 5S communication area.

6.  Check your work.

You will know you have completed this task when:


  • Documented agreements have been placed in the 5S file.
  • The schedule is in place for periodic repetition of 5S activities.

Self-Discipline Activity – Team

Purpose To assist workgroup in following through on all 5S agreements made for the work area. When Do this 1-2 weeks after Standardizing Activity has been completed in your area.  Repeat on a regular basis.

Materials required: 

  • Paper and pen
  •  Workgroup 5S Activity Item Log
  • Documented 5S agreements
  •  Individual Self-Discipline 5S Guide

Steps for team self-discipline activity

1.  Assemble in the work area for visual assessment and designate a scribe.

 2.  Determine if the 5S agreements are being followed in the work area.


Ask, “Are we following the agreements we put in place as a result of our 5S activities?”

IFThen follow these steps
YesAcknowledge and congratulate
NoList those agreements not being followed.
Ask, “Why not?”
Ask, “How can we fix it?”
Document agreed-upon solutions.
Place agreement(s) in the 5S file.”

3.  Develop a plan to address the needed improvements.


  • Be specific.
  • Identify responsibilities.
  •  Record on 5S Action Item Log.
  • Post in the communication area.

4.  Review Individual Self-Discipline 5S Guide.


  • Point out its location.
  • Review purpose.

5.  Check your work.


You will know you have completed this task when:

  • A group assessment has been performed on what has and what has not been followed through in the work area.
  •  A written plan has been prepared to detail issues that need to be addressed.
  • Any action items have been added to the 5S Action Item Log.

Self-Discipline Activity – INDIVIDUAL

Purpose:  To assist individuals in applying 5S agreements to the personal work area.

When:  Do this after Standardizing Activity has been completed in your area.

Materials required:

  •  Paper and pen
  • 5S agreement

Steps for self-discipline activity

1.  Go to your work area.

Notes: The immediate area where you perform most of your daily activities, i.e. cubicle, bench, etc.

2.  Determine the effectiveness of your individual organizing methods in support of the 5S agreement.

Considering your own personal work style, ask yourself:

  •  “Am I following the guidelines put in place as a result of 5S efforts?”
  • “Is my work area safe?”
  • “Is it neat and organized?”

Examples (add/delete as appropriate):

  •  Notebooks neatly stacked and labelled?
  •  In basket cleaned daily?
  •  Posted items neat and organized on the wall?
  •  Method for planning/prioritizing work assignments?
  •  Routine use of proper tools and methods?
  • Daily schedule posted?
  •  Use of in-out boards in the area?
  • Method for responding to phone messages?
  • Respond to the following:
IFThen follow these steps
You are following 5S agreementsAsk: “How will I maintain and improve?”
You are not following 5S agreements.Ask: “What steps can I take to  improve?”

3.  Prepare a personal 5S plan.


  • This is your own personal plan.
  • Be realistic as you decide what improvements you want to make.
  • Revisit this plan frequently and make adjustments accordingly.

4.  Check your work.


You will know you have completed this task when:

  •  A self-assessment has been performed on what is and what is not being followed.
  • You have prepared a written plan to improve your area using 5S methods.

Measure Results

Purpose:  To assist the team in measuring improvements resulting from Implementation of 5S methods.

When: Do this after each completed repetition of 5S activities.

Materials required:

  •  “Before 5S” photographs
  • “Before” Area Check sheets
  •  “Levels of Excellence”
  •  Surplus list
  •  “Take Area Photographs” and “Perform Area Evaluation”
  • Pen or pencil

Steps to measure Results

1.  Take “after 5S” photographs.

Notes: Follow all steps in, “Take Area Photographs ”

2.  Complete “after 5S” area evaluation.


Follow all steps  “Perform Area Evaluation”
Following the development of “after 5S” photographs and completion of “after 5S” area evaluation, reassemble workgroup in the communication area and continue with Step #3 below.

3.  Analyze results following evaluation.
a)     Review “before” and “after” photos.
b)    Review “before” and “after” evaluations.
c)     Review a list of surplus items.


  • Observe improvements (such as organization, cleanliness).
  • Compare “before 5S” and “after 5S” evaluations.
  • Estimate the value of surplus inventory items.  Additional measures to consider.
    • Safety (number of injuries/time away from the job).
    • Cycle time.
    • Reduced inventory.
    • Increased usable floor space.

4. Acknowledge improvements in your area.

5.  Establish your next “Levels of Excellence” Goal.


  • Use the above analysis and the plan established during Team Self-Discipline.
  • Refer to “Levels of Excellence” and write down the agreed-upon next Levels of Excellence Goal.

6.  Post your goal in the communication area.

7. Communicate results with upper management.

8.  Check your work.


You will know you have completed this task when:

  • “After 5S” photos are posted in the communication area.
  • “After 5S” evaluation is posted in the communication area.
  • Improvement results have been analyzed and communicated to upper management.
  • You have established your next “Levels of Excellence” Goal.

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