5S Workplace organisation tools

Should I Begin my Lean Programme with 5S?

Companies often ask us this question.  The idea of a clean and tidy workplace is very appealing. Done poorly, and there is little distinction between a 5s initiative and a good spring clean. Done well, this can involve many people and make an instant impact. The essence of a 5s Lean Programme is to:

5S lean programme 2 people looking at machine


First of all, you should decide what is required and remove everything else. This can be an enjoyable and empowering experience for the entire team.

Set in order

Next, you should ensure that what is required has a designated and suitable storage area. Again, this can give the team a tremendous feeling of taking control of their area.


Then, a business should define regular schedules to clean and maintain all that is required.  For example,  machinery, tools, work areas and materials. Good schedules assist a TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) programme and SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die or Quick Changeover).


Certainly, organisations do not form habits until a process has been performed many times. Therefore, it takes time to standardise and optimise the new processes. There can be reluctance to move away from old ways which have ‘worked’ for years. So, you should document and schedule the new ways. Consequently, it takes time to set visual controls and cannot be done in one event.


Finally, sustaining 5s in a process requires regular review. How often does your company check the schedules?  When do you recalculate frequencies, limits and quantities? How often do you update visual controls updated?  When do you audit your system and how do you measure results?  Do you communicate results to everyone?

Our view is that like any of the Lean initiatives, 5s is one of many tools. That being said, a Lean programme needs to start with clear objectives, a clear definition of value and a good understanding of the business processes. In any improvement initiative, we are looking for some measure of success. If 5s clearly impacts our measure of success, then it may be an exercise worth doing early on.

We hope you enjoyed reading about implementing a 5S Lean programme.  You may also be interested in reading about our insights on how to sustain your Lean programme and the best start to problem solving.  All our blogs are available to read here.  Please connect with us on Linkedin and Twitter.