Learn how to use the 5S methodology to eliminate waste and streamline your manufacturing processes

A Quick Introduction to the 5S System for Lean Manufacturing

5S Principles, 5S Management, 5S for Lean Manufacturing

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What is 5S?


5S is a visual management system that originated in Japan. It is designed to maximise efficiency, create value and increase profit.

The term 5S comes from the Japanese terms Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. Translated into English, these stand for:

  • Sort
  • Set in Order
  • Shine
  • Standardise
  • Sustain

Sometimes you’ll see a sixth S introduced (6S). This stands for:

  • Safety

These are the principles on which the 5S methodology is built, and they are explained in more detail below.

The Principles of 5S Explained



The primary goals of this principle are to:

  • Increase safety
  • Reduce time lost (due to distraction and missing items)
  • Simplify inspection

Sort refers to sorting through materials, keeping only the essential items needed to complete a given task or process. This involves going through the contents of a workspace and determining which are needed and which can be removed. Everything that is not used to complete a work process should be removed from the work area.

Set in Order

The primary goal of this principle is to:

  • Improve efficiency by implementing a smooth, easy workflow

Setting in order is about ensuring that all the essential items remaining are organised and that each item has a designated place. They should be organised in a logical way to make tasks easier for workers to complete. This often involves placing items in ergonomic locations so that your team need not make unnecessary movements to reach them.


The primary goals of this principle are to:

  • Keep the workplace safe
  • Reduce waste, defects and errors
  • Improve production efficiency

Shine refers to proactive efforts to keep all work areas clean and orderly to promote purpose-driven work. This includes everything from cleaning to performing maintenance on machinery, tools and other equipment.


The goal of this principle is to:

  • Ensure the repetition of the first 3 practices by establishing procedures and schedules

This is where you take the first three Ss (Sort, Set in order and Shine) and create rules, processes and schedules for how and when they should be performed. To assist in following these standards the use of checklists, charts and schedules are common. Many organisations still use paper for this purpose. Other, more progressive organisations looking for improved efficiency and inter-departmental collaboration use digital systems such as OpsBase.


The goal of this principle is to:

  • Ensure that the 5S approach is followed

Sustain is about continuing the first 4 Ss over time. Often this is attempted by trying to instil a sense of self-discipline in employees. However, software systems like OpsBase can be very effective in making it easy for staff to understand what they should be doing and when – providing real-time instruction to assist in getting the job done, plus alerts and reports for managers for total control and performance insight. Regular auditing using software like OpsBase will help with continuous improvement.

Continue reading below to discover why 5S is an essential foundational component in Lean Manufacturing…

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5S and Lean Manufacturing

Lean Manufacturing is a method used to identify and eliminate waste from a manufacturing process, aiming to remove anything from the production process that does not add value to the end product or service.

These principles of eliminating waste and streamlining processes also originated with the manufacturing industry in Japan and later became popular in the West.

5S is a system and methodology that serves as the foundation for all other Lean Manufacturing endeavours. It creates a visual logic in the workplace and puts things in order so waste can easily be identified and removed.

The term 5S is often paired with Lean because implementing 5S in the workplace makes it easier for people to navigate, find what they need, and keep things organised. The principle is to have a solid foundation system in place.

Once a sustainable 5S system is in place, other Lean manufacturing methods such as Kanban or Kaizen can be implemented more successfully because the workplace is already easy to work in. Without the foundational principles of 5S already established to keep everything in order, problems are not so easily identifiable and other Lean efforts often fail. It is for this reason that (in most cases) 5S is what makes the rest of Lean possible.

Using software apps such as OpsBase will assist with monitoring adherence to your new, standardised processes and evaluate how well they are working – highlighting opportunities for further savings, efficiencies and ensuring compliance.

The level of focus, professionalism that exists in the OpsBase team is something I will always remember. A shiny example of a great product developed and supported by a fantastic team.”

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5S Principles, 5S Management, 5S for Lean Manufacturing
5S Principles, 5S Management, 5S for Lean Manufacturing
5S Principles, 5S Management, 5S for Lean Manufacturing
5S Principles, 5S Management, 5S for Lean Manufacturing
5S Principles, 5S Management, 5S for Lean Manufacturing
5S Principles, 5S Management, 5S for Lean Manufacturing

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