The 5S Technique


The 5S Technique is a method of organization intended to streamline manufacturing processes, but can bring efficiency to any work environment. The five S’s come from five Japanese words that symbolize the five tenets of good housekeeping. Translated, the five words are Sort, Straighten, Sweep, Systemize and Sustain. A workplace, office, garage or kitchen that is arranged using these principles eliminates wasted time and labor.


Eliminate clutter by keeping only the most essential tools for a job at the ready. This can mean storing seldom used equipment or moving it to another area where it is used more often. Sorting could take more than single day; after a week, mark any tools you haven’t used with a piece of tape. After a second week store anything that isn’t in frequent use. A “tool” doesn’t need to be a traditional hammer or screwdriver. It could be a reference book or a software program. Pare your workspace down to only what you need.


Each tool needs to have a permanent “home” when it is not in use. Evaluate your workflow and keep your most often used equipment close at hand. Organize your workspace so you can not only grab each tools as you need it, but return it “home” when you’re not using it. Label where everything belongs so others can follow your efficient workflow.


Deep clean your entire workspace. Shampoo the carpets, repaint grubby walls and wash the windows. After this initial cleaning, get in the habit of cleaning as you work. If cleaning as you go isn’t possible, clean your workspace when you complete a task. Return all tools and materials to where they belong so time isn’t wasted the next time you begin.


Develop a plan to keep your work environment clean and orderly. The system might be as simple as setting aside an hour a week to deep clean or as elaborate as maintaining a schedule of upkeep of many different systems or pieces of equipment. The goal is that everything necessary for your tasks will always be in peak condition and “ready to go”.


As you move forward, maintain the habits of organization and cleanliness, but also think about how the systems you’ve set in place can be improved. Sustaining your processes will be an ongoing task and is the most important part of the 5S technique. Communicate with colleagues to make your habits routine and brainstorm how your workflows can be further refined.

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