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Cleaning Team at Work

The 5S System

5S is a disciplined management practice with a primary goal of improving work safety and performance by making the abnormal stand out from the normal, ideally at a glance.

Businessman in 5S workplace organisation concept.jpg

Do your employees frequently waste time searching for items in the warehouse or information on their computer that adds no value, increases the frequency of errors or accidents, and introduces productivity-sapping and costly waste to your process?

Do you have customers visiting your operations or office, which looks messy and you're concerned that it makes them question the quality of products and services you provide?

An organized, clean, and visual environment simplifies work and increases productivity, creates a safer workplace and reduces exposure to legal, financial, and regulatory risk, reduces expenses and increases the speed at which services can be delivered, reduces team member frustration, and improves morale while building pride in the workplace, makes it easier to train new staff, and most importantly makes problems visible.

5S — which stands for Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain — is a disciplined management practice with a primary goal of improving workplace safety and performance by making the abnormal stand out from the normal, ideally at a glance.
Some of the benefits to an organization practicing 5S include:
  • Providing customers a positive experience of receiving the consistent quality of goods and services
  • Providing employees a safe, productive, and efficient work environment
  • Preventing errors by removing improper material or incorrect information from all work and storage areas 
  • Reducing motion waste and improving ergonomics by locating items like tools and printers close to the work area
  • Improving ergonomics by reducing the need for twisting, reaching, squatting by placing frequently used items within arm's reach
All types of industries and work areas benefit from 5S. Offices, manufacturing operations, research labs, vehicles, warehouses, break rooms, storage areas, drawers, shelves, cupboards, hallways, lobbies, common areas, and even hard drives and shared drivers on computers.

How We Can Help

We, coach, facilitate, and support the 5S initiative by ensuring that best practices are followed and embedded in the organization's continuous improvement culture.

SORT:  We help the team members evaluate everything in the workplace, materials, supplies, equipment, paperwork, and so on, and get rid of anything that's unneeded, is unclean, doesn't function properly, or is wasteful.

Checking Inventory
Image by Kelly Sikkema

STRAIGHTEN:  We help the team identify where to place necessary items so they are available with minimum effort, and it's obvious to see when items are missing. In order words, there's a place for everything and everything in its place.

SHINE:  This is where the team cleans, washes, and maintains everything in the work area, which enables abnormalities to be more obvious and for people to have pride in the workplace. 

Men Volunteering
Image by TheStandingDesk

STANDARDIZE:  We help the team document the decision-making process and guidelines used in the first three Ss, which helps to create a repeatable process that team members can follow in the future to decide what should be in the work area and where to put it.

We help the team answer these questions: 

  • How will 5S be maintained? When and how often? 

  • Which supplies will the team need to have on hand to keep the area clean during normal operations?

  • Who will be accountable to ensure the entire area is maintaining 5S?

  • How will new tools, materials, or equipment be introduced into the area?

We help the team create clear visuals to support 5S such as:

  • Outlines or silhouettes of tools and equipment

  • Color coding the workplace

  • Incorporating signs, labels, pictures, or drawings

  • Creating visual cues like Kanban

  • Production dashboards

SUSTAIN:  This is where the organization strives not only to maintain what it's accomplished in the first 4 S's but also continually improves the degree of 5S in the organization. 

Image by Nana Smirnova

Taking steps to ensure that only correct items and information are available to work teams and successfully sustaining it through ongoing 5S practices moves an organization further along the journey to error-proof all processes. 

When organizations use 5S in conjunction with standard work and visual management to design, set standards, and maintain the work environment, they create spaces where customers receive safer and higher quality goods and services and are more confident in the organization's ability to deliver high quality. 

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