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Spring clean with 5S

5S ToolkitAs nature starts to bloom now is a good time for some 5S to encourage your teams to spring clean, de-clutter and start thinking about their workplace organisation with fresh eyes.

Imagine if you invited a prospective customer to look around your premises. Nothing conveys a more professional image to a customer than a workplace that is clean, tidy and organised in such a way as to enable its people to be effective at what they do. I have worked in several organisations where there is an e-mail to all staff on the morning of a ‘royal visit’ by customers or senior managers telling them to tidy up their desks, close cupboard doors and remove clutter from the walkways.

5S is the perfect tool for this and becomes a healthy habit for all to adopt as part of regular, low cost, continuous improvement activities. If done in the right way….by engaging and involving your people in doing it for themselves. There are plenty of horror stories out there where this has been done in the wrong way and resulted in short term superficial exercises of tidying up and removing personal items from the workplace causing bad feeling and no buy-in from staff. This gives Lean a bad reputation. So how do we get it right?

Firstly what are the five S’s?

  1. Sort (整理 – Seiri): Eliminate unnecessary items from the workplace (using the seven wastes)
  2. Set In Order (整頓 – Seiton): Create efficient and effective storage (workplace layout)
  3. Shine (清掃 – Seiso): Daily cleaning to sustain the improved state
  4. Standardise (清潔 – Seiketsu): Standardizing and sharing best practice (Standard Operating Procedures)
  5. Sustain (躾 – Shitsuke): Resisting the return to the “old way” of doing things

In fact more people are adding a sixth S linked to their Quality, Cost, Delivery Safety and Morale measures of performance, that being:

6. Safety: Improve through better clearing, cleaning, organising & visual control

Introducing 5S to the workplace (or home!)

Step 1: Promotion Plan

  1. Establish a 5S policy
  2. Define company objectives: 40% Reduction in lead time, 30 % less WIP, 10% Increase staff engagement, Zero harm
  3. Set up a steering group
  4. Organise 5S Training (the numbers game from John Bicheno’s ‘The Lean Games Book’ works very well)
  5. Obtain workplace maps from facilities
  6. Introduce Continuous Improvement as a philosophy
  7. Develop an implementation plan

Step 2: Initial 5S Audit

  1. Audit the workplace before starting 5S
  2. Take photographs of the ‘before’ state
  3. Start a 5S storyboard somewhere prominent

Step 3: Implement the First S

  1. Sort & Initial Clean – To get rid of unwanted items – decide what is needed and to be kept and what is not needed and discarded using a red tagging exercise
  2. Throw out all items not being used or not needed: On desks, in cupboards, in store rooms, in drawers, under benches, behind equipment, etc.
  3. Remove everything that is not required for completing the everyday work from the area to a red tag quarantine zone. This means clearly distinguishing between needed and unneeded items and disposing of the latter. This frees up space, removes clutter and obstacles, stops people adding to the clutter, prevents hoarding, gives control over what is in your work area, brings order to the area and most importantly improves safety.
  4. Red tag items that the team are reluctant to remove immediately (noting date, location etc.) and place in the quarantine zone / storage area. If it has not been used or it is decided that it is not required in a months time sell, dispose or destroy.

Red Tag BoardRed Tag Area









Step 4: Implement the Second S

  1. To locate a specific place for particular items that are needed of a defined quantity, exactly where they are needed. Determine ideal locations for materials / equipment, put them there and keep them there. Use clear labels and signage to categorise. Make sure it:
  • Is easy to get hold of, is identified and enables good access
  • Is always kept in or returned to the same location (e.g. shadow boards)
  • Helps reduce the distance travelled (use spaghetti diagrams & cells to improve the layout)
  • Clearly defines the working areas on the floor/desk areas (with clear markings)
  • Has a prioritised location based on frequency of use (daily, weekly, monthly). For things needed daily keep close at hand to workstation / desk, if needed weekly it can be stored on the section or department shelf and if used yearly stored in some archive / storeroom.

‘A place for everything and everything in its place’

Step 5: Implement the Third S

  1. Shine & Sweep – Clean the workplace and at the same time visually sweep for abnormalities or out of control conditions.
  2. Maintain the standards set in step 3 & 4 at the end of the shift/day by tidying up desks or workstations for the next shift or days activity
  3. Cleaning and checking regularly (cleaning your car will detect early paint chips that can be fixed before rust sets in, or an oil leak indicates work is needed):
  • Checking computers or printers for obvious defects.
  • Eliminate dirt, dust and scrap
  • Check floor for cracks, clean corners, posts, walkways, cupboards and shelves
  • Sweep, mop, polish and dust desks, equipment, tooling and jigs
  • Check for abnormalities: Cracks, oil leaks, stains, sharp edges, dangerous items, Health & Safety risks, ventilation, noises, spare parts