Business: General

A place for everything, and everything in place. (5S and example)

5S_Tools_drawer 15S is a methodology that organizes things into a specific design so that everything is readily available when needed. The tool allows us to remove any waste that would be associated with an untidy area where time would be spent looking for items, cleaning up the area, or organizing the items. The process is nothing unique, in fact, many of you already perform parts of this in your daily lives. The most common way that people use this is when they have shelves or locations for items and label where the items go: kitchen shelves, tool boxes, store shelves, closets, dresser drawers. The parts where people struggle often is the discipline of always returning the items to the area, or the continual cleanliness of the area. However, when the steps function together they allow a process to flow. Whether at home, or work, the principals of 5S can be beneficial to all of us.

Sort – Organize the area removing any items that should not be in the area. Only items belonging to this group or location should be kept. I will warn you, though, during a 5S event do not throw items away until you have validated the need or no need for the items. I have been witness to 5S events where it was an excuse to “spring clean” and items were removed regardless of what they were. The items were valuable, but in the wrong place, and were discarded. This caused much frustration – although it did teach a lesson to all of those involved.

Straighten – Of the remaining items, organize them into nice and orderly groups as determined by the team performing the event. Place the items in an order that makes sense. If part A is used to connect to B, then to C and so forth, consider placing the parts or widgets in that order. Placing the parts out of order, would not benefit in the long run creating waste from motion and non-needed steps during processing.

Sanitize – Tidy up the work area and ensure that it is clean. Take time to finalize the organization with making sure that all materials that are put away are clean and prepared for use – when they are needed.

Standardize – Map the area or process location. Designate where everything goes via paper, or labels. Some placed use both (it sort of depends on your operation and what makes sense for you). The idea would be that if Widget A is in cell 1, then the label and map should reflect such. The trash can next to Widget A location should also be included on the map, and anything else that belongs in the area. This allows everyone to have a reference point of what everything should look like at any given moment. Based on the groups event, and discussion, this should be the best possible scenario. In the event that something needs to change, the group needs to redesign the process to reflect the new desired condition and remove any indications from prior conditions. The documents should be living – and updated as the changes take effect.

Sustain – It is recommended that audits take place of the 5S’d areas over time. Through audits, and other ways of continual attention and focus you can assure that the best scenario is always in operation. Things that get measured, get focus, and things that have focus usually are sustained.

5S changeover time reduction

I have two examples that I think of as good examples of 5S. One is a tool box. Imagine a tool box where no tool is in any specific drawer. There are sockets in every drawer, different drill bits in every drawer, and who knows which drawer(s) the screw drivers are in. Now, if every drawer was labeled and in each drawer a section for specific pieces of tools how much easier would it be to assemble an item or use the tools?

The next is an actual application, or example which you could actually create for someone. Look at the cross word puzzles below. There is a message in the cross word, and the balance of the letters are useless. Granted you can still see the message if you look for it, but how much easier is it as you progress?


There are no grid lines. All letters are still present.









There are gridlines to start assisting where letters are, which rows, and where at in each row.







Some of the letters not in use have been removed.







Many more of the letters have been removed as we “sort, straighten and sanitize.”







With all of the letters removed, the message is much easier to read. Each letter (or widget, tool, etc.) is identifiable.




5S is not a quick fix. It will take time to build the culture. This discipline is highly effective, once sustained, in allowing for optimal use of space and maximizes the time used for identifying or using items located in this section.




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