What Is The 5S System? The 5S System In A Nutshell

The 5S System is a lean manufacturing tool that improves efficiency and eliminates waste. First used in the Toyota Production System (TPS). The 5S System seeks to mitigate the factors contributing to process inefficiencies with six areas of concern: sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain, and safety.

Understanding the 5S System

The 5S System is a workplace organization method originating from Japan and was integral to the success of just-in-time (lean) manufacturing. It was first incorporated into the Toyota Production System (TPS) along with many other lean manufacturing tools.

With a key focus on clean and organized workplaces, the 5S System is particularly important to the TPS and most other manufacturing operations. Cluttered and disorganized work areas can lead to mistakes, accidents, and line interruptions – all of which negatively impact a company’s manufacturing efficiency. 

The five steps of the 5S System

Given the system was created in Japan, each step denotes a Japanese term beginning with the letter S. There is also an optional sixth step that some organizations choose to adopt.

Let’s take a look at each of these below, with an English translation provided in brackets:

  1. Seiri (sort) – tools, parts, and instructions that are required should be separated from those that are not required. The latter should then be removed from the area, including broken, redundant, or outdated equipment. 
  2. Seiton (set in order) – whatever items remain should then be organized, arranged, or identified for ease of use. Businesses can arrange in whatever way they see fit, so long as waste is minimized. For example, heavy items should be placed at a height that makes them easy to handle.
  3. Seiso (shine) – the workplace should be clean and free from dust, dirt, spills, or garbage. Tools and equipment should also be kept clean and in working order. If necessary, establish a daily cleaning regime with a chart displaying action items.
  4. Seiketsu (standardize) – the standardization of best practices is a priority. Standardization should also make it easy for workers in one area to seamlessly move to another. Workplaces should also define what constitutes normal and abnormal conditions with photos, labels, signs, or guides.
  5. Shitsuke (sustain) – behaviors or habits must then be fostered to ensure standards are maintained over the long term. This may involve audits, reviews, continuous improvement, training, and the commitment of leaders to follow through. 
  6. Safety – an optional consideration helping businesses avoid obsessing over lean manufacturing to the detriment of their workers. Safety is not a sequential step but instead is paramount to each part of the 5S System.

Benefits of the 5S System

There are many obvious and not-so-obvious benefits to the 5S System.

These include:

  • Less wasted space – with each square meter of floor space costing money, most businesses will benefit from the removal of superfluous equipment or the re-organization of existing equipment. This maximizes the profitability of the production facility.
  • Fewer injuries – when done correctly, organized workspaces reduce the frequency and intensity of manual labor for workers. Removing clutter also negates trip hazards and associated injuries.
  • Higher morale – employees using the 5S system feel empowered to do better since their valuable input is listened to and then implemented by management. Morale is also boosted by safer, more efficient work practices. 
  • Reduced equipment downtime – dirty or poorly maintained tools and equipment cost the company money in downtime, repairs, and worker injury. When essential infrastructure is kept in good working order and potential failures are identified earlier, costs are reduced.

Key takeaways:

  1. The 5S System is a lean manufacturing tool that improves efficiency and eliminates waste. It was first used in the Toyota Production System (TPS).
  2. The 5S System seeks to mitigate the factors contributing to process inefficiencies with six areas of concern: sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain, and safety.
  3. The 5S System reduces operating costs by freeing up floor space for other uses. It also reduces workplace injuries and equipment downtime.

Connected Agile Frameworks


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Agile Methodology

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Agile Project Management

Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance.

Agile Modeling

Agile Modeling (AM) is a methodology for modeling and documenting software-based systems. Agile Modeling is critical to the rapid and continuous delivery of software. It is a collection of values, principles, and practices that guide effective, lightweight software modeling.

Agile Business Analysis

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Business Model Innovation

Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

Continuous Innovation

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problem and not the technical solution of its founders.

Design Sprint

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Design Thinking

Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.


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Feature-Driven Development

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eXtreme Programming

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Lean vs. Agile

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Lean Startup

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Kanban is a lean manufacturing framework first developed by Toyota in the late 1940s. The Kanban framework is a means of visualizing work as it moves through identifying potential bottlenecks. It does that through a process called just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to optimize engineering processes, speed up manufacturing products, and improve the go-to-market strategy.

Rapid Application Development

RAD was first introduced by author and consultant James Martin in 1991. Martin recognized and then took advantage of the endless malleability of software in designing development models. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a methodology focusing on delivering rapidly through continuous feedback and frequent iterations.

Scaled Agile

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Spotify Model

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Test-Driven Development

As the name suggests, TDD is a test-driven technique for delivering high-quality software rapidly and sustainably. It is an iterative approach based on the idea that a failing test should be written before any code for a feature or function is written. Test-Driven Development (TDD) is an approach to software development that relies on very short development cycles.


Timeboxing is a simple yet powerful time-management technique for improving productivity. Timeboxing describes the process of proactively scheduling a block of time to spend on a task in the future. It was first described by author James Martin in a book about agile software development.


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Scrum Anti-Patterns

Scrum anti-patterns describe any attractive, easy-to-implement solution that ultimately makes a problem worse. Therefore, these are the practice not to follow to prevent issues from emerging. Some classic examples of scrum anti-patterns comprise absent product owners, pre-assigned tickets (making individuals work in isolation), and discounting retrospectives (where review meetings are not useful to really make improvements).

Scrum At Scale

Scrum at Scale (Scrum@Scale) is a framework that Scrum teams use to address complex problems and deliver high-value products. Scrum at Scale was created through a joint venture between the Scrum Alliance and Scrum Inc. The joint venture was overseen by Jeff Sutherland, a co-creator of Scrum and one of the principal authors of the Agile Manifesto.

Read Also: Business Models Guide, Sumo Logic Business Model, Snowflake

InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model

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