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Learn About Quality

What are the Five S's (5S) of Lean

Quality Glossary Definition: Five S’s (5S)

5S is defined as a methodology that results in a workplace that is clean, uncluttered, safe, and well organized to help reduce waste and optimize productivity. It's designed to help build a quality work environment, both physically and mentally. The 5S philosophy applies in any work area suited for visual control and lean production. The 5S condition of a work area is critical to employees and is the basis of customers' first impressions.

The 5S quality tool is derived from five Japanese terms beginning with the letter "S" used to create a workplace suited for visual control and lean production. The pillars of 5S are simple to learn and important to implement:

  • Seiri: To separate needed tools, parts, and instructions from unneeded materials and to remove the unneeded ones.
  • Seiton: To neatly arrange and identify parts and tools for ease of use.
  • Seiso: To conduct a cleanup campaign.
  • Seiketsu: To conduct seiri, seiton, and seiso daily to maintain a workplace in perfect condition.
  • Shitsuke: To form the habit of always following the first four S’s.

Below, the Japanese terms are translated into the English language version of the 5S’s.








Eliminate whatever is not needed by separating needed tools, parts, and instructions from unneeded materials.



set in order

Organize whatever remains by neatly arranging and identifying parts and tools for ease of use.




Clean the work area by conducting a cleanup campaign.




Schedule regular cleaning and maintenance by conducting seiri, seiton, and seiso daily.




Make 5S a way of life by forming the habit of always following the first four S’s.

Lean 5S Program Benefits

Benefits to be derived from implementing a lean 5S program include:

  • Improved safety
  • Higher equipment availability
  • Lower defect rates
  • Reduced costs
  • Increased production agility and flexibility
  • Improved employee morale
  • Better asset utilization
  • Enhanced enterprise image to customers, suppliers, employees, and management

Five S (5S) Example: Workplace scan diagnostic checklist
5S workplace scan diagnostic checklist

Case Study: Applying the 5S Tool to Healthcare Service

During meetings with internal and external stakeholders, Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Medicaid Enrollment Project Team used the lean 5S tool to improve the enrollment template, as well as the template process. They implemented the 5S pillars as follows:

  • The fields were sorted and unnecessary fields were eliminated.
  • The fields were set into order based on stakeholder input.
  • The team shined by creating a Microsoft Access database that would not allow duplicate entries.
  • The spreadsheet was standardized by protecting it and making it a template.
  • A self-sustaining system was created by using Microsoft Access (to control data format and duplication) and Microsoft Excel templates (to control spreadsheet format and order).

Read the full case study: Streamlined Enrollment Nets Big Results for Healthcare Leader (PDF)

Adapted from Quality Essentials: A Reference Guide from A to Z, ASQ Quality Press.

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