Good organization and housekeeping is often underestimated in the manufacturing industry. Yet, organized spaces and clean spaces may bring major benefits to the organization, ranging from improved employee motivation to increased sales and profits. And that is why the 5S system is becoming incredibly nowadays.

What is the 5S system?

The 5S system is a systematic approach to visual management that aims to maximize efficiency and increase productivity by eliminating waste and keeping the area clean and organized. The 5S model is compromised by five factors that are key to visual management and comes from five Japanese words; Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke. In English, they are translated as Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain and each one of them is described in more detail below:


The first step to 5S is Sort and it involves sorting through materials and removing what is not essential. Some questions that need to be asked in this stage in order to determine the value of the item are:

  • What is the purpose of this item? Does it serve a purpose here?
  • Who uses it and how often is it used?
  • When was it last used?

Set in Order

The next step is Set in order and it involves setting in order everything that remained from the previous step. Here, you need to ensure that all items are organized in a logical way and each item has its own ergonomic place, depending on when and by whom it is used. At this step, you need to ask:

  • By whom is this item used and when it is used?
  • In what section should this item be grouped into?
  • Where would it be ergonomic to keep this item?


After the clutter is removed and everything is organized, you need to make use that your workplace is clean and shiny. This step not only includes the cleanup of the general area, but also the deep cleaning of machinery and tools. This cleaning routine should become a part of the daily or weekly schedule and should not be overlooked.

  • Is the area clean? Is there any dust or mold?
  • How regularly does the cleaning routine take place? Is it enough to keep everything clean?


Here, you will need to create some rules on the time and frequency that each of the above tasks are performed. This step is all about creating schedules, setting up a routine work and using visual management in order to communicate this practice to your workforce.

  • How often do I need to perform certain tasks?
  • Are the schedules up-to-date and accessible by all workforce?
  • Are visual cues such as signs, labels and posters used in order to provide directions?


The last step of the 5S model is Sustain and as it name implies it involves sustaining these new practices on the long term. Here, it is important to foster a culture of continuous improvement and convey all steps described above clearly and constantly to your workforce. Discipline and training are keys for achieving and sustaining this step.