5s is a great tool often used within lean manufacturing that helps organize and manage your working environment.   Put simply it’s a way of removing wasteful activities from your workspace.


Lots of lean manufacturing training organizations often start their improvement initiatives with a 5s program as it readies the workforce, providing a firm foundation for improvements that lay ahead.


The good news about 5s is that its easy to learn and simple to implement – while you might find a number of different interpretations of 5s around the web the 5 headings can be generically termed as:-


1 – Sort

2 – Set in order

3 – Shine

4 – Standardize

5 – Sustain


5s is not just for the manufacturing environment – 5s can be equally applied to the office and it’s a really simple and effective way of establishing a continuous improvement philosophy.  It’s also really quick to train staff and roll out – and being something that all staff can get involved with it can be a surprisingly effort team building activity.


Listed below is our easy to follow guide on how to carry out a 5s activity in the office


1/ Sort


  • Sort out unneeded items and remove from the your workspace – got two staplers but only need one – remove it – you’ll need to designate an area to store non-required “bits” – you may want to label them as well such as where they’re from and who made the decision to remove allowing you after an agreed time to dispose of unnecessary items.  
  • Sort mis-positioned items – they might be in the wrong place entirely or merely be out of position in the workspace
  • The workspace should be left with only the bare essentials for what’s needed to carry out the required tasks


2/ Set in order

  • Make it easy to find items your need
  • Decide where and how to store required items
  • If needed use principles like “shadow boards” to highlight where equipment/tools are out of place


3/ Shine

  • Clean the workspace


4/ Standardize

  • Establish guidelines for all workspaces –
  • Get everyone to follow the rules – consider placing posters up in the work-area reminding everyone of the 5s principles and what actions they need to do to carry out the process


5/ Sustain


  • This is the tricky bit! – get everyone to stick to the rules!
  • Monitor everyone’s progress – use the work done in the standardize section  to ensure that everyone keeps to the principles of the program – consider bouts of periodic training or auditing to ensure that the 5s program is adhered to..


5s has many benefits – most of which can directly impact staff morale through a tidier and safer workplace.  You’ll be surprised too at the improvements in efficiency you can obtain through a 5s implementation – as people shouldn’t waste time looking for a “lost” piece of equipment or information.


As with all initiatives once the program has been kicked off it takes some effort to maintain the program (consider appointing someone a 5s office champion).  But once started the benefits of implementing 5s are there for all to see.

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