5S is one of the most widely adopted techniques from lean manufacturing. It is considered a foundational lean concept and sets the stage for standardized work and continuous improvement.

The objective of 5S is to create a neat and orderly workplace with “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

The key elements of any 5S program are:

  • Sort – go through the tools, materials and equipment and keep only what is necessary to complete the work. All else is eliminated or stored offsite
  • Shine – clean up the workplace so it is an efficient place where people are proud to work
  • Set in Order – label and organize the space so it’s clear where everything belongs. A “shadow board” for tools hung on the wall is a perfect example of this.
  • Standardize – use standardized work to keep the space organized and maintain the progress
  • Sustain – sustain the improvement by empowering individuals to take responsibility for the space and develop new improvements regularly.

When applied to design and construction operations, 5S can not only bring a sense of order and control to the operation, it can set the stage for a shift in culture from firefighting toward continuous improvement.  We often use 5S techniques to help companies begin their lean improvement journey and help participants see that simple improvements can have a dramatic impact on operations – and the bottom line.