What is the 5s System?

What is the 5s system? This is a question asked by many business owners who are looking to understand the benefits of the system and why they need to implement it in their workplace. With the help of 5s systems, a business improves working conditions and the working environment while simultaneously providing more value for their customers. This is done through the elimination of waste and revolves around five key principles.


The 5s system consists of five key principles. Sorting involves going through an area and removing any unnecessary items. Once this has been done, straighten this space and shine it up, so everything can be put into the proper place in the future. Next, standardise common actions, allowing everyone to perform the same actions when completing a task. Finally, the company needs to put practices in place to make certain the work area stays clean and continue to find ways to improve.


Many business owners equate this system with simple housekeeping. The system is actually much more than this, as it serves as a visual tool to engage employees. Everyone must participate in the system if it is to work properly, while housekeeping tasks are usually reserved for just a few individuals. The system isn’t perfect either. It must constantly be refined to meet the needs of the company and, when a problem is identified, changes need to take place to improve system’s sustainability.

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Business owners find they need to offer metrics to measure progress as the company moves through the system. For example, when a company first starts using the system, removing unnecessary items from a work space may be enough to satisfy employees. Once the system has been used for a period of time, however, a higher standard is needed. Employees need to start identifying items that are no longer necessary and pinpoint problem areas to find solutions to these issues. This ensures the system is sustained over the long term, rather than needing to be completed regularly, simply because things have reverted to the way they were before the 5s principles were implemented. A 5s system checklist can be of great help in measuring progress on an ongoing basis.


Put a plan in place to implement the 5s system in the workplace. One plan many business owners achieve success with involves a four-step process known as Plan-Do-Check-Act. During the planning stage, a committee is formed to oversee the process and a plan put into place for implementation of each step. Next, during the do stage of the process, the committee announces the program, sets a timetable and begins training and educating the employees in how to complete the process in their work area. An evaluation of the results takes place during the check stage, and the act stage involves examining what has been done and what preventative and corrective actions need to be taken to make the program sustainable.

Use of the 5s system benefits a company in numerous ways. Customers acquire a more positive image of the company, employee morale boosts, and productivity improves, while waste within the company is minimised or eliminated completely and costs decrease. The entire culture of the business changes as a result of implementing the 5s principles, and everyone feels better about where they work. It’s a great way to improve a company in every area, and yet one doesn’t have to spend a fortune to implement the program. Business owners can start the process today without investing any money simply by removing unnecessary items. Once this has been done, the motivation to continue and succeed is present, and it shows in every employee.