What Are the 5S Principles

Brands across the globe depend on the 5S principles to run a more effective workplace.

Derived from key Japanese words, 5S can benefit almost any workspace. If you’re looking to increase your brand’s standards, improve workplace organization, or develop a more cohesive work area, it’s important that you follow 5S best practices. So, what does 5S stand for? How does the 5S system of visual management aid brands? And how can you leverage 5S in your organization? Here’s what you need to know.


The first of the 5S principles, Seiri, roughly translates to “sort.” For a more efficient workspace that takes cues from the 5S methodology, the first step is to sort through what does and doesn’t need to be there. In a visual workplace, this helps you combat clutter, identify defects, and find the best way to focus on continuous improvement. This step of the methodology allows you to take the visual cues of the 5S approach and apply them throughout your brand. Often, this requires a bit of an audit to help you straighten up.

With the Seiri 5S standard, you can identify the right tools that a given department needs on a daily basis and relocate, remove, or recycle unnecessary items and components. This is the start of a lean journey and a 5S work environment.


The next step of 5S implementation, Seiton, means “set in order.” Once you’ve sorted and cleared up your workspace, you need to put everything in its proper place. If you don’t have an existing workstation system or routine, this can take a lot of time. However, it’s critical to the 5S process and can lead to better long-term behaviors. In this segment of 5S, you’ll likely begin to incorporate shadow boards. It’s an inexpensive way to keep each work space or workstation orderly. It also makes it that much easier for your employees to take a consistent approach to locating and storing equipment.

In the manufacturing process and production process, this is critical to the bottom line. It keeps equipment in the best condition possible, which can prevent costly repairs or even replacements. If you want to run a visual factory or shop floor, you need to find ways to follow this component of the 5S process.


Out of the steps of 5S, Seiso might seem the most inconsequential. Seiso, which stands for “shine,” focuses on cleanliness and presentability. Setting up a cleaning and maintenance schedule sometimes seems like an afterthought, but it is a facilitator of strong business practices. It also leads to better visual control and helps prevent profit leaks. Out of the 5S activities, this one allows your employees to keep equipment running smoothly and is crucial for lean manufacturing and management. Don’t let this 5S initiative slip under the radar.


Seiketsu means “standardize” and is a vital component of 5S. Without standardization, it’s unlikely that any 5S program will succeed. Whether you’re standardizing visual cues like floor markings and red tags or you’re creating training videos that help ensure consistent practices throughout your organization, it’s important to instill this discipline in your employees. If you develop a new idea, you can use your 5S training to help it proliferate throughout your brand. If an old practice needs modernizing, Seiketsu helps you ensure it’s applied evenly throughout your enterprise. Any 5S consultant will tell you how valuable this step is for efficiency and overall productivity.


The final step, Shitsuke, means “sustain.” If you’re working with a 5S consultant, you’ll want to focus on different ways to sustain the changes in your business approaches. Since 5S works best as a long-term investment, you need to ensure that the changes you make will stick. A 5S consultant can help you develop a goal-setting framework and provide you with check-ins for different 5S event triggers. This helps you spot any defects or inefficient practices and apply the 5S framework to them as needed. Without a long-term plan, it’s harder to reap the benefits of the 5S methodology. By doing the appropriate maintenance work, it’s easier to enact future-forward changes.

To learn more about the 5S principles, it’s best to meet with a 5S consultant. During the consulting phase, you’ll be able to address deficiencies and spot areas of improvement. You can also look for ways that consulting can meld 5S principles with your current business practices. This makes it much easier for your organization to develop a system that benefits both the decision-makers and the ground-level employees.

As more and more brands turn to 5S lean training, it’s important to do your part to maintain efficiency and productivity. Lean manufacturing principles enhance brand performance and can even lead to untapped growth potential. An orderly workspace contributes more to your bottom line than you might think. By investing in 5S consulting and 5S lean training, you’re investing in your brand’s future.

Contact Incito Consulting Group

Let Incito advise you on the importance of 5S Training when you contact us at 866-697-LEAN or send us a message online. You may want to take advantage of our Lean Six Sigma Consulting services or value stream mapping workshop, which will help you get the most out of all your processes.

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