5S Principles

It is always good to refresh your memory with the basics of any methodology.  The 5s methodology is composed of Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.  Bogart McGraw in his article Introduction to 5S System, Fundamentals Explained explains that even though the system dates back to the Japan of the 1500s, it was improved and defined by an automotive industry leader.  After he lists the original Japanese words with their literal English  translation – “Seiri (Tidiness); Seiton (Orderliness); Seiso (Cleanliness); Seiketsu (Standardization); Shitsuke (Discipline)” – he writes, “Astoundingly, 5 English S-words can also be substituted for each of the Japanese words in a beautiful east-meets-west adaptation from the concept: Seiri (Sorting); Seiton (Straightening); Seiso (Sweeping); Seiketsu (Standardization); Shitsuke (Sustaining).”

A little further on in his article, McGraw gives short explanations of the five “S-es”:

These 5 “S” words, are basically labels that cover a broader idea. Here are some straightforward explanations…


A generalized word for prioritizing. From tools to approach to instruction, separate that which you need and that which you don’t.

*Straightening (or setting in order)

This has to do with simplifying your physical environment. A type of “workspace optimization” since it applies to resources and equipment.

*Sweeping (or cleaning)

Underestimated but very important component within the 5s formula. Cleaning turns into a part in the workflow, instead of simply just a task done when things get messy.


Absolutely everyone ought to be conscious of his/her tasks. This solidifies the first three measures. Without any standardizing, measures 1, 2, 3 have no actual strength.

*Sustaining (or self-discipline)

Right here is where it fails or succeeds. A plant might have a 5s expert come in and give your entire manufacturing floor the works, but if there isn’t a commitment afterward (ie, self-discipline or sustainability — you might have wasted your investment as well as your time, and the responsibility is actually yours.)

Then in Introduction to 5S System, Fundamentals Explained McGraw says that some people “add “safety” and “security” on the list. Technically these would be addressed and can obviously take place once the 5s system is operating correctly. Still some insist on including two more “S”s and it basically is just a factor of preference for the given situation.”

He then covers a few issues which might arise when the 5s technique is implemented:

*Old habits die hard.

Humans are creatures of habit. Particularly those with seniority with the company! Alterations usually are not always welcome.


Cost can be low or high. Its actually a lot more prosperous to compensate a 5s professional to visit you and place 5s in motion, than to figure out its fine points from the ground up and after which try to implement it right out of the book (which can be costly in time and morale). Also, some 5s experts continue to be readily available for you following the initial implementation of the system. Do your homework.


Profits depend upon individuals as well as the way the process is implemented Profit can be significantly improved due to the extensive removal of necessary steps, injury, wasted time, and so forth. This very much depends upon how completely the problems are addressed. Indeed, there are lots of factors that many individuals (out of human habits and assumptions) might not see. This is also exactly where it is usually better to hire a specialist.


For more information and guides to Lean and 5s download them here.

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