Lean Management: Th...

Lean Management: The Five S's  


Teiaundrea Ransom
Member Admin
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 8
24/10/2018 11:34 am  

One of the methods of determining an organizations’ approach to its business is to evaluate its workplace organization capability and visual management standards. The five S’s engage people through the use of standards and disciple. The lean enterprise understands the importance of an organized workplace. A lean operation must be stable and expose problems. You cannot be stable if you are always working in and around chaos and clutter. In order to implement lean concepts and create stability, you must clean up your working area. This is not just about housekeeping though… it is more about concentrating on maintaining standards and disciple to manage the organization.


The Five S’s:

  1. Sort
    Separate and categorize all material and information and discard the unnecessary The aim of this step is to remove anything from the area that should not be there. The first thing we need to do here is to define “what shouldn’t be in the area”.
  2. Straighten
    Organize, label, and color-code remaining items for easy use. The aim of this step is to ensure every item needed in the area has a home.
  3. Shine
    Clean and keep all storage areas void of clutter and unwanted material. The aim of this step is to clean the surfaces, equipment and tools to enable fast identification of a problem.
  4. Standardize
    Create standards for how the workplace should look at all times. The purpose of this step is to make the work practices and flow consistent from station to station. Any sufficiently skilled person should be able to work at any work station and locate the tools and parts to do the job.
  5. Sustain
    Complete regular audits and improvements to ensure the workplace remains organized. The aim of this step should be quite clear from the title: to sustain the progress made through the 5S program.


Lessons for Organizing a Workplace:

  • Only keep material and information that is critical to the operation
  • Have a place for everything and put everything in its place
  • Regularly discard all material and information that is not required


Example of Where to Apply the Five S’s:

  • Supply closets, treatment rooms, patient rooms where many different people need to be able to quickly find supplies
  • Desks or shared workspaces – if more than one person uses a space, then a standard layout will help
  • Supply carts or procedure carts


Ideas to Consider:

As a way to get started with the five S’s, consider organizing a red tag event. This allows the organization to actively participate in cleaning up the workplace and in a fun way! A red tag event is a wonderful way to help with the sorting process. Below are some steps to consider for your red tag event:


  • Start by taking a picture of your area before starting the red tag event
  • Look around your workplace with your colleagues. Discover and identify which items are unnecessary to your work (does the item bring value to your work). Mark all items with a red tag to indicate they should be removed.
  • Identify a space that will be used as the red tag holding area. The marked items will then be moved to this separate area.
  • If you and your colleagues cannot decide if an item is necessary or unnecessary, go ahead and tag the item. This will be moved to the red-tag hold area and if needed can be retrieved.
  • After one week, hold an auction. During the auction each item will be looked at to decide what will happen with the item. Mark what is the final disposition of the item (Move, throw away, sell, etc.):
    • Is this needed by another department or person?
    • If the item is no longer needed then can it be disposed of?
    • If the item is needed but infrequently can it be moved to another area to not be in the way?
  • After the red tag event is complete take another picture so that we can see the before and after


  • Think about what things should be put where, taking into account the flow of your work.
  • Decide with your colleagues which things to put where from the point of view of efficiency. The principle is to put the most frequently needed items close so as to minimize movement. Things which are not so often used can be placed farther away. Make a plan with your colleagues based on these principles and locate things accordingly.
  • It is necessary to make sure that everyone at your workplace know what is kept where for efficient use. Make a list of things with their locations and label drawers to show what is kept inside.



In conclusion, the five S’s are the beginning of the lean journey and you need to start with an organized workplace. Remember, the goal is to sustain the organized workplace! The practice of the five S’s is just one more way in which your organization can get lean. Stay tuned for more ways to get lean and for ways to sustain a lean organization.



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