Seiri, the initial phase of 5S methodology, involves sorting and eliminating unnecessary items from the workspace. This practice enhances efficiency, safety, and organization. By categorizing, removing, and organizing items, Seiri streamlines processes and optimizes space. Its attributes include simplicity and visual cues, though challenges of attachment and decision-making may arise.

ElementDescriptionExplanationImplicationsExamplesApplication in 5S
Sort (Seiri)The first step in the 5S System, focusing on eliminating unnecessary items and clutter from the workspace.Sort involves systematically reviewing items in the workspace, identifying what is essential, and removing what is not. The goal is to create an organized and efficient environment.Implications include improved organization, reduced waste, and increased productivity. It helps in streamlining processes and making it easier to locate necessary items.In an office setting, employees can sort through documents and discard obsolete files. In manufacturing, excess inventory or equipment can be identified and removed.Creating a Clutter-Free Workspace
Set in Order (Seiton)The second step, arranging essential items and tools in an organized manner for easy access and retrieval.Set in Order involves designing a logical layout for items, creating designated storage spaces, and labeling everything clearly. This step promotes efficiency and minimizes time wasted searching for items.Implications include reduced searching time, increased efficiency, and better utilization of space. It contributes to a safer and more comfortable working environment.In a warehouse, items can be arranged in a way that minimizes travel time. In an office, files can be stored in labeled folders within cabinets.Efficient and Organized Layout
Shine (Seiso)The third step, emphasizing cleanliness and regular maintenance to keep the workspace tidy and free from dirt or defects.Shine involves cleaning and inspecting the workspace to identify and address issues promptly. It ensures that the workplace remains in good condition and minimizes the chances of equipment breakdowns.Implications include a safer and healthier work environment, improved equipment longevity, and increased employee morale. Regular cleaning and maintenance prevent accidents and costly repairs.In a manufacturing facility, machines are cleaned daily to prevent dust accumulation. In an office, cleaning schedules can be established for common areas and workstations.Maintaining a Clean and Safe Environment
Standardize (Seiketsu)The fourth step, creating standardized procedures and practices to sustain the improvements made during the previous steps.Standardize involves documenting the processes and procedures developed in the earlier steps and ensuring that everyone follows them consistently. This step prevents the workspace from returning to its previous state of disarray.Implications include long-term sustainability, consistency, and ease of training new employees. Standardized procedures reduce the chances of reverting to old habits and help maintain the improvements achieved.In a healthcare setting, protocols can be established for sanitizing equipment. In an office, guidelines can be created for filing and document management.Establishing and Documenting Best Practices
Sustain (Shitsuke)The fifth and final step, focusing on continuous improvement and maintaining the 5S principles as an integral part of the workplace culture.Sustain involves fostering a culture of continuous improvement, where employees are committed to upholding the 5S principles over the long term. Regular audits and training sessions help ensure that the improvements remain in place.Implications include ongoing efficiency, adaptability to change, and a culture of excellence. Sustaining the 5S principles requires commitment from all levels of the organization and is essential for achieving lasting benefits.In manufacturing, regular 5S audits can be conducted to assess compliance. In an office, periodic training sessions can be held to reinforce the importance of organization and cleanliness.Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Seiri, often referred to as “Sort” in the context of lean manufacturing, is the foundational step in the 5S methodology. It focuses on the systematic organization and elimination of unnecessary items in a workspace to enhance efficiency, safety, and productivity. Seiri is a Japanese term that translates to “sorting” or “organization” in English, and it plays a pivotal role in the pursuit of continuous improvement and waste reduction within manufacturing and organizational processes.

In this article, we will explore Seiri (Sort) in detail, including its definition, key principles, benefits, implementation strategies, and real-world examples. We will also discuss the significance of Seiri in the broader context of lean manufacturing and its application in various industries.

Introduction to Seiri (Sort)

Seiri, as part of the 5S methodology, is a systematic approach to workplace organization and efficiency. It involves sorting through all items and materials in a workspace to determine what is essential and what is not. Unnecessary items, tools, equipment, and materials that do not contribute to the work process are identified and removed. The primary objective of Seiri is to create a clutter-free, organized, and efficient workspace where only essential items are readily available.

Key Principles of Seiri (Sort):

Key Principles

  1. Separate the Necessary from the Unnecessary: The central idea of Seiri is to differentiate between items that are required for daily operations and those that are surplus or obsolete.
  2. Prioritize Efficiency: The emphasis is on optimizing efficiency and reducing wasted time, effort, and resources by ensuring that only essential items are present.
  3. Enhance Safety: Removing unnecessary items minimizes clutter and reduces the risk of accidents or injuries in the workplace.
  4. Simplify Processes: By decluttering and organizing the workspace, processes become more streamlined and straightforward, leading to increased productivity.

Benefits of Seiri (Sort)

The implementation of Seiri (Sort) offers a wide range of benefits to organizations across various industries:


  1. Increased Efficiency: With unnecessary items removed, employees can find and access essential tools and materials more quickly, reducing downtime and increasing productivity.
  2. Improved Safety: A clutter-free workspace is safer, as there are fewer obstacles and potential hazards. It also facilitates emergency exits and access to safety equipment.
  3. Enhanced Morale: A well-organized workspace promotes a sense of order and control, leading to improved employee morale and job satisfaction.
  4. Waste Reduction: Seiri helps identify and eliminate waste, including surplus inventory, obsolete equipment, and redundant processes.
  5. Cost Savings: Reduced waste and improved efficiency lead to cost savings, as resources are used more effectively.
  6. Quality Improvement: Streamlined processes and improved organization can result in higher product or service quality.
  7. Standardization: Seiri sets the stage for the development of standardized work procedures, contributing to consistency and reliability.

Implementation Strategies for Seiri (Sort)

Implementing Seiri (Sort) effectively requires a structured approach and the commitment of all employees. Here are some strategies for successful Seiri implementation:

Implementation Strategies

  1. Create a Cross-Functional Team: Form a team comprising employees from various departments to ensure diverse perspectives and expertise.
  2. Identify and Map Work Areas: Clearly define the work areas and processes to be sorted. Document the existing layout and inventory.
  3. Set Clear Criteria: Establish clear criteria for determining what is necessary and unnecessary. Common criteria include frequency of use, importance, and relevance.
  4. Sort and Categorize: Begin the sorting process by categorizing items into “necessary” and “unnecessary” based on the established criteria.
  5. Prioritize Removal: Remove unnecessary items promptly. Dispose of, recycle, or repurpose items as appropriate. Create a clear process for disposal.
  6. Organize the Workspace: Rearrange the workspace to optimize accessibility and efficiency. Implement visual cues such as labels and color-coding to aid organization.
  7. Document Procedures: Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) for maintaining the organized workspace and for future reference.
  8. Employee Training: Train employees on the principles of Seiri and the importance of maintaining a clutter-free environment.
  9. Regular Audits: Conduct regular audits to ensure that the workspace remains organized and free from unnecessary items.

Real-World Examples of Seiri (Sort)

Seiri (Sort) is widely implemented in various industries to enhance workplace organization and efficiency. Here are some real-world examples of how organizations have applied Seiri principles:

Real-World Examples

  1. Manufacturing: In a manufacturing facility, Seiri involves removing obsolete equipment and tools from the production area, ensuring that only necessary materials and components are readily available. This reduces setup times and improves production efficiency.
  2. Healthcare: Hospitals and healthcare facilities use Seiri to declutter patient care areas, ensuring that essential medical supplies and equipment are easily accessible. This contributes to faster response times and improved patient care.
  3. Retail: Retail stores apply Seiri to optimize inventory management. Excess or slow-moving inventory is identified and removed, freeing up shelf space for popular items and reducing carrying costs.
  4. Office Environments: In office settings, Seiri involves reducing paper clutter, eliminating redundant office supplies, and streamlining filing systems. This leads to improved workflow and reduced document retrieval times.
  5. Warehousing: Warehouses use Seiri to organize inventory, ensuring that items are stored efficiently and accessible when needed. This minimizes errors in picking and packing orders.

Significance of Seiri (Sort) in Lean Manufacturing

Seiri (Sort) holds significant importance within the broader context of lean manufacturing and continuous improvement. Lean manufacturing principles aim to eliminate waste, improve efficiency, and enhance value for customers. Seiri serves as the initial step in the 5S methodology, which is a fundamental component of lean manufacturing. Its significance includes:

Significance in Lean Manufacturing

  1. Foundation for Efficiency: Seiri sets the stage for efficiency improvements by decluttering and organizing the workspace. Without a clean and organized environment, further lean initiatives may be less effective.
  2. Waste Reduction: It helps identify and eliminate the waste of excess inventory, underutilized resources, and unnecessary movements, aligning with lean principles.
  3. Standardization: Seiri contributes to the development of standardized work procedures, promoting consistency and reliability in processes.
  4. Employee Engagement: Involving employees in the Seiri process fosters a culture of continuous improvement and empowers them to contribute to efficiency gains.
  5. Cost Savings: The elimination of waste and improved organization result in cost savings, a core objective of lean manufacturing.


Seiri (Sort) is a fundamental step in the 5S methodology and a cornerstone of lean manufacturing. By systematically organizing and decluttering the workspace, organizations can achieve increased efficiency, improved safety, cost savings, and enhanced employee morale. Seiri’s significance lies in its role as the foundation for further lean initiatives and its ability to foster a culture of continuous improvement. Whether in manufacturing, healthcare, retail, or office environments, Seiri serves as a powerful tool for organizations striving to optimize their processes and deliver greater value to their customers.

Key Highlights of Seiri (Sort) in the 5S Methodology:

  • Efficiency Boost: Eliminating clutter improves workflow efficiency by reducing time spent searching for tools or materials.
  • Safety Enhancement: A clutter-free environment minimizes workplace hazards and accidents, contributing to a safer workspace.
  • Optimized Space: Removing unnecessary items creates more space for essential tools and materials, enhancing workspace organization.
  • Visual Management: Clear identification of necessary items simplifies finding and using tools, aiding visual management practices.
  • Foundational Step: Seiri sets the groundwork for the entire 5S methodology, forming the basis for subsequent steps.
  • Employee Morale: A tidy and organized workspace fosters a positive work environment, increasing employee satisfaction and motivation.
  • Cost Savings: Reducing excess items leads to better resource allocation and decreased spending on unnecessary supplies.
  • Standardized Processes: Sorting establishes consistency in workplace practices and reduces variations caused by misplaced items.
  • Continuous Improvement: Seiri encourages an ongoing culture of improvement by promoting regular review and adjustment of items.
  • Cultural Change: Implementing Seiri initiates a cultural shift towards cleanliness, organization, and operational excellence.

Connected Agile & Lean Frameworks


AIOps is the application of artificial intelligence to IT operations. It has become particularly useful for modern IT management in hybridized, distributed, and dynamic environments. AIOps has become a key operational component of modern digital-based organizations, built around software and algorithms.


AgileSHIFT is a framework that prepares individuals for transformational change by creating a culture of agility.

Agile Methodology

Agile started as a lightweight development method compared to heavyweight software development, which is the core paradigm of the previous decades of software development. By 2001 the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born as a set of principles that defined the new paradigm for software development as a continuous iteration. This would also influence the way of doing business.

Agile Program Management

Agile Program Management is a means of managing, planning, and coordinating interrelated work in such a way that value delivery is emphasized for all key stakeholders. Agile Program Management (AgilePgM) is a disciplined yet flexible agile approach to managing transformational change within an organization.

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

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Andon System

The andon system alerts managerial, maintenance, or other staff of a production process problem. The alert itself can be activated manually with a button or pull cord, but it can also be activated automatically by production equipment. Most Andon boards utilize three colored lights similar to a traffic signal: green (no errors), yellow or amber (problem identified, or quality check needed), and red (production stopped due to unidentified issue).

Bimodal Portfolio Management

Bimodal Portfolio Management (BimodalPfM) helps an organization manage both agile and traditional portfolios concurrently. Bimodal Portfolio Management – sometimes referred to as bimodal development – was coined by research and advisory company Gartner. The firm argued that many agile organizations still needed to run some aspects of their operations using traditional delivery models.

Business Innovation Matrix

Business innovation is about creating new opportunities for an organization to reinvent its core offerings, revenue streams, and enhance the value proposition for existing or new customers, thus renewing its whole business model. Business innovation springs by understanding the structure of the market, thus adapting or anticipating those changes.

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.

Constructive Disruption

A consumer brand company like Procter & Gamble (P&G) defines “Constructive Disruption” as: a willingness to change, adapt, and create new trends and technologies that will shape our industry for the future. According to P&G, it moves around four pillars: lean innovation, brand building, supply chain, and digitalization & data analytics.

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

A design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore a lesson learned to be iterated.

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.


DevOps refers to a series of practices performed to perform automated software development processes. It is a conjugation of the term “development” and “operations” to emphasize how functions integrate across IT teams. DevOps strategies promote seamless building, testing, and deployment of products. It aims to bridge a gap between development and operations teams to streamline the development altogether.

Dual Track Agile

Product discovery is a critical part of agile methodologies, as its aim is to ensure that products customers love are built. Product discovery involves learning through a raft of methods, including design thinking, lean start-up, and A/B testing to name a few. Dual Track Agile is an agile methodology containing two separate tracks: the “discovery” track and the “delivery” track.

eXtreme Programming

eXtreme Programming was developed in the late 1990s by Ken Beck, Ron Jeffries, and Ward Cunningham. During this time, the trio was working on the Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation System (C3) to help manage the company payroll system. eXtreme Programming (XP) is a software development methodology. It is designed to improve software quality and the ability of software to adapt to changing customer needs.

Feature-Driven Development

Feature-Driven Development is a pragmatic software process that is client and architecture-centric. Feature-Driven Development (FDD) is an agile software development model that organizes workflow according to which features need to be developed next.

Gemba Walk

A Gemba Walk is a fundamental component of lean management. It describes the personal observation of work to learn more about it. Gemba is a Japanese word that loosely translates as “the real place”, or in business, “the place where value is created”. The Gemba Walk as a concept was created by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System of lean manufacturing. Ohno wanted to encourage management executives to leave their offices and see where the real work happened. This, he hoped, would build relationships between employees with vastly different skillsets and build trust.

GIST Planning

GIST Planning is a relatively easy and lightweight agile approach to product planning that favors autonomous working. GIST Planning is a lean and agile methodology that was created by former Google product manager Itamar Gilad. GIST Planning seeks to address this situation by creating lightweight plans that are responsive and adaptable to change. GIST Planning also improves team velocity, autonomy, and alignment by reducing the pervasive influence of management. It consists of four blocks: goals, ideas, step-projects, and tasks.

ICE Scoring

The ICE Scoring Model is an agile methodology that prioritizes features using data according to three components: impact, confidence, and ease of implementation. The ICE Scoring Model was initially created by author and growth expert Sean Ellis to help companies expand. Today, the model is broadly used to prioritize projects, features, initiatives, and rollouts. It is ideally suited for early-stage product development where there is a continuous flow of ideas and momentum must be maintained.

Innovation Funnel

An innovation funnel is a tool or process ensuring only the best ideas are executed. In a metaphorical sense, the funnel screens innovative ideas for viability so that only the best products, processes, or business models are launched to the market. An innovation funnel provides a framework for the screening and testing of innovative ideas for viability.

Innovation Matrix

According to how well defined is the problem and how well defined the domain, we have four main types of innovations: basic research (problem and domain or not well defined); breakthrough innovation (domain is not well defined, the problem is well defined); sustaining innovation (both problem and domain are well defined); and disruptive innovation (domain is well defined, the problem is not well defined).

Innovation Theory

The innovation loop is a methodology/framework derived from the Bell Labs, which produced innovation at scale throughout the 20th century. They learned how to leverage a hybrid innovation management model based on science, invention, engineering, and manufacturing at scale. By leveraging individual genius, creativity, and small/large groups.

Lean vs. Agile

The Agile methodology has been primarily thought of for software development (and other business disciplines have also adopted it). Lean thinking is a process improvement technique where teams prioritize the value streams to improve it continuously. Both methodologies look at the customer as the key driver to improvement and waste reduction. Both methodologies look at improvement as something continuous.

Lean Startup

A startup company is a high-tech business that tries to build a scalable business model in tech-driven industries. A startup company usually follows a lean methodology, where continuous innovation, driven by built-in viral loops is the rule. Thus, driving growth and building network effects as a consequence of this strategy.

Minimum Viable Product

As pointed out by Eric Ries, a minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort through a cycle of build, measure, learn; that is the foundation of the lean startup methodology.

Leaner MVP

A leaner MVP is the evolution of the MPV approach. Where the market risk is validated before anything else


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.


Jidoka was first used in 1896 by Sakichi Toyoda, who invented a textile loom that would stop automatically when it encountered a defective thread. Jidoka is a Japanese term used in lean manufacturing. The term describes a scenario where machines cease operating without human intervention when a problem or defect is discovered.

PDCA Cycle

The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle was first proposed by American physicist and engineer Walter A. Shewhart in the 1920s. The PDCA cycle is a continuous process and product improvement method and an essential component of the lean manufacturing philosophy.

Rational Unified Process

Rational unified process (RUP) is an agile software development methodology that breaks the project life cycle down into four distinct phases.

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.

Retrospective Analysis

Retrospective analyses are held after a project to determine what worked well and what did not. They are also conducted at the end of an iteration in Agile project management. Agile practitioners call these meetings retrospectives or retros. They are an effective way to check the pulse of a project team, reflect on the work performed to date, and reach a consensus on how to tackle the next sprint cycle. These are the five stages of a retrospective analysis for effective Agile project management: set the stage, gather the data, generate insights, decide on the next steps, and close the retrospective.

Scaled Agile

Scaled Agile Lean Development (ScALeD) helps businesses discover a balanced approach to agile transition and scaling questions. The ScALed approach helps businesses successfully respond to change. Inspired by a combination of lean and agile values, ScALed is practitioner-based and can be completed through various agile frameworks and practices.


The SMED (single minute exchange of die) method is a lean production framework to reduce waste and increase production efficiency. The SMED method is a framework for reducing the time associated with completing an equipment changeover.

Spotify Model

The Spotify Model is an autonomous approach to scaling agile, focusing on culture communication, accountability, and quality. The Spotify model was first recognized in 2012 after Henrik Kniberg, and Anders Ivarsson released a white paper detailing how streaming company Spotify approached agility. Therefore, the Spotify model represents an evolution of agile.

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.


Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.


Scrumban is a project management framework that is a hybrid of two popular agile methodologies: Scrum and Kanban. Scrumban is a popular approach to helping businesses focus on the right strategic tasks while simultaneously strengthening their processes.

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.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating errors or defects in a product, service, or process. Six Sigma was developed by Motorola as a management approach based on quality fundamentals in the early 1980s. A decade later, it was popularized by General Electric who estimated that the methodology saved them $12 billion in the first five years of operation.

Stretch Objectives

Stretch objectives describe any task an agile team plans to complete without expressly committing to do so. Teams incorporate stretch objectives during a Sprint or Program Increment (PI) as part of Scaled Agile. They are used when the agile team is unsure of its capacity to attain an objective. Therefore, stretch objectives are instead outcomes that, while extremely desirable, are not the difference between the success or failure of each sprint.

Toyota Production System

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is an early form of lean manufacturing created by auto-manufacturer Toyota. Created by the Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1940s and 50s, the Toyota Production System seeks to manufacture vehicles ordered by customers most quickly and efficiently possible.

Total Quality Management

The Total Quality Management (TQM) framework is a technique based on the premise that employees continuously work on their ability to provide value to customers. Importantly, the word “total” means that all employees are involved in the process – regardless of whether they work in development, production, or fulfillment.


The waterfall model was first described by Herbert D. Benington in 1956 during a presentation about the software used in radar imaging during the Cold War. Since there were no knowledge-based, creative software development strategies at the time, the waterfall method became standard practice. The waterfall model is a linear and sequential project management framework. 

Read Also: Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

Read Next: Agile Methodology, Lean Methodology, Agile Project Management, Scrum, Kanban, Six Sigma.

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