5S Workplace – the what, why and how?

5S – A system of organising workplace behaviours and activities to increase work efficiency & productivity.

It focuses on achieving a clean and organised work environment.

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– What is it? Many of you might not be acquainted with this jargon. Well, 5S refers to 5 Japanese words – Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke which translates to Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardise and Sustain.

These represent a system/methodology of organising workplace behaviours and activities to increase work efficiency & productivity.

It is widely believed that 5S was first developed in Japan as part of the Toyota Production Systems (TPS) that aimed to implement a systematic based approach to achieve an organised workplace.

It focuses on achieving a clean and organised work environment. An untidy or an unorganised workplace can have negative impacts leading to confusion or resulting in employees making mistakes that can reduce productivity or compromise employee safety, by causing accidents.

5S - the what,why & how

Now, let’s have a closer look at each of these 5 elements:


We all have been in situations where we are running out of time and have piles of documents, things or work stacked up in front of us and can’t decide where to start with.

The one thing that immediately comes to our mind at that moment is that it would have been easier had it been all sorted.

So, it is important that one should go through all the tools, documents, equipment and other necessities kept in a workplace and then decide which of them are required and which are not on a regular basis.

Set in Order

Once the extra pile-up has been cleared, it will be easy to set the remaining things in order. We should keep in mind, the purpose of each item and the frequency of their use before sorting.

The arrangement can include grouping items according to a particular type, the frequency of their use, or the department in which it is used. The items can be kept in designated places by attaching a Red Tag to them for easy identification & quick usability.

The main focus should be to cut down on waiting time, unnecessary motions and transportations. It would also make the workplace appear more tidy, spacious & organised.


One thing that most of us take for granted is the cleanliness of the workplace. Cleanliness becomes the last priority, which should not be so.

Good housekeeping is an important stage of the 5S system that includes dusting off surfaces, sweeping, mopping, wiping etc. It also includes putting away tools and materials after their use to their respective places.

It should not be the sole responsibility of the caretaker staff, but each and every employee must also get involved & be responsible for maintaining cleanliness in their respective work routine.

5S steps - Consultivo Blog


Once a new habit is implemented, things might look good for a while. But as human nature goes, things eventually slide back to what they were.

To avoid this, signs, labels, posters, instructions etc, highlighting the importance of the 5S system should be used which would be hard to miss. Also, maintain a daily checklist to monitor whether the system is being followed or not.

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All the above four from the 5S are of no use unless and until they are sustained and for that, it requires the involvement of each and every member of the organisation. From the top level management to the employees, it is to be made sure that the 5S system becomes a part of the company culture.

Continued sustenance of the system, will ultimately bring in positive results over time. Each and every employee – both old & new must have the necessary training in the 5S culture.

Transform your workplace…Get started with 5S!

5S culture is considered to stay here in future, not as something that will be short-term.

It is being increasingly used by companies all over the world like Hewlett-Packard and Harley-Davidson Motor Company to name a few. In India, we have Aditya-Birla, TVS and Tata Groups that have implemented the 5S.

An organised workplace always helps to eliminate wastes, streamline production, and optimise efficiencies. These 5S are the 5 core elements to establish a clean & organised work environment.

And, going by its objectivity, it could be applied anywhere – be it our workplace, homes, offices/organisation – small or big, even in our daily routine life. We just need to understand its importance and start practising it and stick to it for sustaining the benefits.

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