The 5S-Methodology: How to Organize the Worksite and Waste Less Time?

The 5S-Methodology: How to Organize the Worksite and Waste Less Time?

Too much material to be stored, badly organized storage locations, no overview of materials that are in stock, litter everywhere, damaged material, etc.

Are chaos and lost materials things that make your life miserable at the worksite too?

Are you tired of digging your way through packaging, remnants of materials, working materials lying around, litter of food and candy, and so on? Rightfully so! It creates chaos. And the result of chaos is loss of time, which costs money and creates irritation as a result. It is also the ideal cause for unsafe situations.

Chaos at the Worksite.

Would you like to improve the working conditions on your worksite? Are you looking for a solution considering an improvement and optimization of the logistical streams? Would you like to improve the organization and the streams inside and between the storage areas and the worksites?

De 5S-methodology is a Japanese management technique which is geared towards the improvement of the organization of the workplace. With this methodology you transform your workplace into an organized and safe area. This methodology was originally developed for the production system of Toyota (this is the Toyota Production System, or TPS).

The name 5S refers to the 5 base principles that underlie the methodology.

  • Seiri: sort
  • Seiton: arrange
  • Seiso: clean
  • Seiketsu: standardize
  • Shitsuke: maintain


The 5S-methodology is a management instrument which is being utilized within the lean manufacturing. By applying this concept to your company, a structured and uncluttered workplace is the result, where simple, clear rules apply that will improve the effectiveness.

Applying the 5S methodology has different goals. Every ‘S’ is a goal unto itself.

  • Clearing the workplace of everything which is unnecessary;
  • Furnishing the workplace in an efficient way;
  • Keeping the workplace very clean;
  • Avoiding the emergence of dirt and clutter;
  • Maintaining and consolidating the new rules.

You will see many improvements in different areas thanks to this methodology:

  • The working conditions and the motivation of the employees will increase; it is so much more enjoyable to work in a clean and structured environment.
  • A lot of time and energy should and will be saved.
  • The risk for accidents and/or risks connected to pollution shall decrease.
  • The quality of the production shall increase.

The first ‘S’ is for Seiri

In English this understanding can best be explained with “Sorting and clearing”. Everything that is broken, damaged or not usable will be thrown out. Clutter often stacks up because things are being kept that have not been used for a long time. So, it’s about eliminating everything that does not belong in the workplace. A good starting point would be to consider the frequency of use of an object.

  • Objects that have not been used in over a year, should be thrown out or recycled, if possible.
  • Objects that are being used less than once a month should be put away. A good place would be in the warehouse or depot.
  • Objects that are being used less than once a week, should be put away nearby. For instance, close to the machine where it is being used for.
  • Objects that are being used less than once a day, should find a home close to the machine.
  • Objects that are being used less than once per hour, should be within reach.
  • Finally, everything that is being used at least once per hour, should be carried by the employee.

Organizing the material based on the frequency of use, automatically will lead to Seiton.

The second ‘S’ is for Seiton

This understanding can be translated as ”Arranging and organizing”. It refers to the organizing of the tools and instruments that are being used during the work.

You can mark off a storage zone, indicate the location of pallets or machinery etc. by using floor tape.

The simplest principle of Seiton is in this case: “A place for every object and every object in its own place”. The goal of this step is to organize the workplace in such a way that as little time and energy as possible is being wasted by looking for things.

The rules of Seiton are:

  • Divide the workplace functionally. Make sure that everything you need is close by, that heavy objects can be lifted easily or are placed on a carrier, etc.
  • Draw up rules regarding clearing and cleaning.
  • Make sure that your objects are placed in a way that they can be found easily.
  • Objects that are needed frequently should be close to the user.
  • Arrange the objects according to user frequency.
  • Draw up a standard division for every worksite.
  • Make use of ‘FIFO’ (First In First Out): whatever enters the worksite first, should leave from there first. This is opposite from ‘LIFO’ (Last In First Out), where the last object that enters, leaves first. As an example: ‘FIFO’ can prevent that outdated documents or floorplans remain lying around at the worksite.

The third ‘S’ is for Seiso

This understanding is translated as “Cleaning and inspecting”. After the workplace has been cleared (Seiri) and arranged (Seiton) it becomes easier to clean it thoroughly. If this doesn’t happen well, it could create problems with the functioning of the machines.

The rules of Seiso:

  • Clean, inspect and look for possible deviations or defects
  • If necessary, repair systematically
  • Simplify the cleaning and inspecting
  • Address the causes of the deviation/problem

The fourth ‘S’ is for Seiketsu

This understanding is being translated as “Systemize and standardize”. This is about checking to see if the changes that have been implemented, concerning order and cleanliness, are truly respected. Together with the employees the worksite will have to be inspected on a regular basis. According to Seiketsu, attention must be paid to neatness and order on a daily basis.

The fifth ‘S’ is for Shitsuke

This means “Maintaining, holding on to the change”.

This last step is necessary to make sure that the 5S methodology will actually be adhered to rigorously. If this does not happen, then all the previous work has been in vain. Only by checking the compliance of the first four ‘S’-es on a regular basis and to make sure that the employees remain motivated, it will be possible to maintain the implemented system.


The advantage of the 5S methodology is not just that profit can be made in the area of productivity, but also that the working conditions will be improved, which has a positive impact on the contentedness of the employees.

5S is an approximation, a methodology and at the same time an active approach, with which a functional work environment is created with the use of simple, clear and efficient rules. The immediate visible improvements will ensure a rapid acceptance of the new rules.

5S ensures a clean and organized workplace, increases the motivation of the employees and improves the work environment. The security, quality and productivity will improve considerably. In a clean, structured environment it will also become easier to implement new improvements. The 5S methodology can be applied at the worksite, in the office, in an atelier, at the storage place or even in your own home!

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