5S – Organizating the Work to Serve the People Doing the Work

5S stands for Sort, Set-in-order, Shine, Stabilize, and Sustain.

What Is a 5S?

5S is typically used as a method for organizing space and materials—whether a factory floor with manufacturing supplies, a desk with papers on it, office storage space, or a crash cart with its medical supplies.

5S can also be used as a method for operational organization, with efficiency, effectiveness, and clear order guiding the work being done. For example, a 5S could be used to streamline what products or services a company provides or the patient intake process a hospital uses (free registration required).

The benefits of 5S:

  • everything is in the right place at the right time in the right amount so that work can flow.
  • work is within reach, so we don’t have to stretch and stoop and reach.
  • removing unnecessary items reduces clutter and confusion.
  • sets the foundation for any improvement because it forces people to think through, organize, and standardize their work processes. From that standardized baseline, improvement can begin.
  • creates standards and expectations for how the work should be done so everyone can see at a glance whether things are right or wrong with the work. 5S helps people quickly identify any waste that creeps back into the system.


  • “What is needed? What is not?”
  • Sort through all items in area
  • Keep what is needed
  • Identify items that are not needed
  • Reduce inventory to the number needed at any given time


  • “A place for everything and everything in its place”
  • Identify new locations for items based on usage, size, weight (if applicable), etc.
  • Arrange every item so it can be found and used easily


  • Also known as “sweep,” this step is an opportunity review and inspect the work
  • Clean the workplace
  • Use cleaning as inspection of the workspace and equipment
  • Keep workplace safe and easy to work


  • Make the new workspace organization standard work
  • Keep the workspace clean and orderly
  • Display visual guides (pictures, diagrams, or signs) that show how the workspace should look and where things are


  • Everyone can “do without being told”—the standard work and work organization are routine
  • Regularly check to ensure against slipping back into old habits
  • These new standards are now the basis for improvement and the next cycle of 5S

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