Principles of 5S and lean management which can benefit every manufacturer

Posted on 16 Nov 2020 by Tim Brown

5S is an organisation system that prioritises efficiency and effectiveness within the work place. The principles of 5S originated from five Japanese words: 整理 (Seiri), 整頓 (Seiton), 清掃 (Seiso), 清潔 (Seiketsu), 躾 (Shitsuke), which have been translated into English roughly as ‘Sort’, ‘Set in Order’, ‘Shine’, ‘Standardize’, and ‘Sustain’.

Image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The principles of 5S are also commonly known as ‘lean management’ and were instigated by Toyota in the 1950s.

The main purpose of 5S, also known as lean management, is to reduce waste and increase efficiency, thereby reducing production costs while increasing productivity, safety, and employee satisfaction.  To achieve lean management in your company, follow the principles behind 5S:


The first step to making your workplace more efficient is to sort through which items need to be there, and which items don’t.  This may involve speaking with production or hygiene teams to find out exactly what equipment they need available to them, so any surplus tools can be removed.  De-cluttering your production and office space in this manner makes it more organised, as only the needed items are present, and the unnecessary items are either relocated, stored, or recycled.  If there are any items you are unsure of, red-tag it; if that tagged item has not been used in, say, a month or two, you are free to remove it from the area.

Set in Order

With your workplace cleaned up, it’s time to put everything in its place.  How you organise your equipment will depend on your workspace’s needs, but the more organised and uniform your workplace, the safer and more efficient it is for your employees.  That is why shadow boards are important; they are an inexpensive way to keep all your equipment orderly, so employees can locate equipment and store it with ease. This visual organization keeps equipment in its best possible condition, reducing the cost of replacement and ensuring that any broken or substandard items can be sorted quickly. It also raises departmental accountability and a business’s overall operating standards.


In the grand scheme of things, cleanliness can easily be overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. The regular cleaning and maintenance of equipment helps keep it running smoothly. It also allows employees to catch problems in the equipment and your systems before they become a serious issue.


Without standardisation, your efforts so far will amount to nothing more than a good spring clean. Standardising work processes and tasks ensures that every aspect of your work stays efficient. There’s a number of different techniques that can be used, from a checklist to schedules, so you’ll be able to find a solution that works best for your business.


In order to continue working efficiently, maintenance work is an absolute necessity. Standardisations make this easier to conduct and continue, as it is only in the long term that the principles of 5S or lean management truly come into effect.

We all know that time wasted is also money wasted, which is why efficient and orderly workplaces can help improve the company as a whole. This is where the principles of 5S and lean management really come into their own. If every aspect of your company is working at maximum efficiency, you can reduce costs and improve profits, giving you the opportunity to reinvest and expand.