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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 Five S's

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

5S example

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)

5S Resources

You can also search articles, case studies, and publications for 5S resources.


5S For Service Organizations And Offices

The Joy of Lean

Lean Hospitals

Learning Lean 5S: Quality Packet of Knowledge


Clean House With Lean 5S (Quality ProgressLack of organization in the workplace wastes time and lowers productivity. By implementing a lean 5S system - sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain - organizations can create a clean, well ordered, and disciplined work environment. Many companies implement only the first three steps, hoping the last two will automatically follow. However, unless the standardize and sustain steps are formalized, the initiative is doomed to failure and other lean tools will be ineffective. When properly implemented, 5S creates a visual factory that allows for quick determination of workplace status and lays the foundation for an overall lean production system.

5S Savvy (Lean & Six Sigma ReviewTips on getting organized and staying structured with the powerful continuous improvement tool.

Everything Is 5S: A Simple Yet Powerful Lean Improvement Approach Applied In A Preadmission Testing Center (Quality Management Journal) A pre-admission testing center applied 5S to the patient flow process, streamlining steps and eliminating waste. Results show that the 5S framework is an effective and simple model for process design and improvement.

Office Efficiency (Quality Progress) The 5S lean method is often used in manufacturing, but it can be adapted for office settings to make information workflows more efficient. Specifically, better organization and management of information flow allows knowledge workers to make better decisions about prioritizing and executing tasks.



Kaizen Event

Lean Comprehensive

Lean Essentials


Utilizing 5S in Everyday Life ASQ member Alexander Tucker, a chemist at Capsugel, has been using the 5S tool in his home life. You won’t stop smiling as he humorously recounts the ways he has organized his bathroom, planned trips to the grocery store, and even trained his dog to be a quality canine.

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

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