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What is 5S? Let’s learn the basics of 5S.

What is 5S? Let’s learn the basics of 5S.
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What is 5S? Let's learn the basics o...

What’s 5S? 5S was systematized by Toyota and is used all over the world. 5S stands for the activities of Sort, Set in order, Scrub, Standardize and Sustain.

(Duration: 5:26)

The basic of 5S and the 5 steps of its activities.

Hi, this is Mike Negami, Lean Sigma Black Belt.

Have you heard of 5S?  If you were in the manufacturing industry, you would learn 5S as the basic of your work.  5S was systematized by Toyota and is now used all over the world.

What is 5S?  5S stands for the activities of Sort, Set in order, Scrub, Standardize and Sustain.  By hearing that, you may think “It sounds like just cleaning, what’s so important about it?”  In fact, it’s totally the opposite.

55 5S Definition in Eng

5S is the foundation of Visual Control in the Toyota Production System.  I made an article about this topic. ⇒’Visual Management’ – Learn from the Origin.【The Quote of Taiichi Ohno】

Importance of 5S

If you or your employees have time you should look for something we call Muda (waste) in an untidy factory or office.  Untidiness increases risk of mistakes and injuries and deceases employees’ motivation for work.

The more that equipment and inventory increase in your workplace, the more problems are hidden and they will not be solved. By thoroughly implementing 5S within your company, your company will nurture an excellent and productive culture.

Let’s examine each step of 5S.


You sort through everything in your workplace to separate it into things you’ll use and won’t use, then throw the 2nd group away.  Red tags are often used in this step.  You attach visual red tags on the things that you won’t use. ⇒”【5S Case Study】5S Application at Home and 5S Red Tag Template Introduction”

One issue here is that you’ll most likely have things that you want to keep since you may use them “someday”.  A solution for this is to make rules for what to keep or not keep before starting your red tagging.

For example, things you haven’t used for the past 6 months are thrown away, and if things don’t get used in the next 6 months, they would be thrown away.  Write the date after six months in the red tags.  Then, when that day comes, throw them away.

“Set in order”

You set places for each “needed” item and display their names so that everyone can understand where they can find what they need.  It’s a great idea to put a mark like in this picture below so that if the item was not returned after being used, it would be noticed at a glance.


The image from


Scrub away dirtiness and clean up your workplace.  Since you moved out your unneeded items, a lot of hidden dirtiness will be exposed.


Maintain the first 3S of the “Sort”, “Set in order” and “Scrub” and create a mechanism to maintain that.  Apply the PDCA Cycle to the mechanism is the key to success for this step.

For example, decide whose weekly duty it is in turn and have them patrol to see workplaces whether the 3S are maintained.


Many rules and policies would be created during the first 4S. The purpose of “Sustain” is to make all employees carry out all the rules and get accustomed to them.

Let‘s assume that some rule was broken. You analyze why it happened.  If that was a system problem, you improve your system, or if that occurred totally because of an employee’s fault, discipline the employee individually.  Your aim is to nurture everyone to practice their 5S proactively.

Conditions for 5S Projects’ Success

Now you understand that 5S is not just a cleaning project.

It’s usual to launch a project to install the 5S system at first.  Then, you’ll hand over the new system to all the employees.  The project may be finished, but all employees must continue to run the 5S forever.  It is a big project.

The factor that is essential and the most important for a 5S project is the commitment and leadership that the top of the organization has towards its success.

In order to penetrate 5S to all employees, the executives and intermediate managers are required to set an example for others to follow.

Here I will introduce the famous words of Japanese commander-in-chief, Isoroku Yamamoto, which all leaders and educators should practice:

“Demonstrate first, explain what to do, let them try it, additionally praise well, then people do their work well.”

Yamamoto-Isoroku's Words

Today I introduced 5S which Toyota developed. Even if you’re not a leader or manager, please practice this 5S around yourself at work or at home.

“See these other popular articles.”


  1. Maria Morrissey says:

    Dear Sir,

    I downloaded your excel template for the VSM but it is asking for a password.
    Can you provide this password?

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