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Six Sigma Tools & Templates 5S A Model for Implementing a 5S Program

A Model for Implementing a 5S Program

The process improvement tool 5S (sort, straighten, shine, standardize, sustain) sounds like a simple concept to implement – and it is. But its simplicity is sometimes the cause of its early demise – it is easy to “do” 5S without much effort or strategic coordination, and thus without as much effect as possible.5S Implementation

A 5S initiative can fall broadly into one of two categories: 1) department-specific wherein each department manages the 5S initiatives specific to the department, or 2) corporate-wide wherein designated teams independent of the departments deploy and manage the 5S initiatives. A successful 5S deployment path is one that is aligned with a company’s strategic plan and priorities, optimizing resources to add value.

Whether department-specific or corporate-wide, the 5S initiative that is most likely to lead to the best results is the one that follows the integrated-with-the-process model of implementation. Here, the 5S elements are embedded within day-to-day operational processes. This model can be contrasted with a stand-alone model, in which 5S is executed independently of processes. Table 1 compares the integrated-with-the-process model to the stand-alone model.

Table 1: 5S Deployment Models
5S Integrated-with-process Model5S Stand-alone 5S Model
Graphic Representation

5S Integrated-with-process Model (Click to enlarge)

5S Integrated-with-process Model

5S Stand-alone 5S Model (Click to enlarge)

5S Stand-alone 5S Model
ExampleAssembly operators check line clearance (e.g., only acceptable parts needed for the batch in-process should be in the assembly line for processes A-D) prior to the start of each batch assembly per operations’ start-up log.5S team members (not necessarily the process owners) use a 5S checklist to verify area compliance to sorting non-conforming parts and organization of each assembly line once a week.
Measure of SuccessFirst article inspection or scrap rate trend due to wrong material.Completion and correction of findings listed in the 5S checklist.
Point of DifferentiationIn this example, 5S elements (i.e., verification of correct parts) are integrated in the operational execution of Processes A-D (i.e., the performance of line clearance). Thus, this is an example of an integrated-with-the-process model.In this example, 5S elements (i.e., verification of parts sorting and organization) are performed as independent tasks and not part of Processes A-D. Thus, this is an example of a stand-alone model.

Why Use the 5S Integrated–with-the-process Model?

Both 5S models shown in Table 1 have the same intent – deploying 5S – but the examples reveal that the integrated-with-the model process may be more effective as it provides timely feedback, visible accountability and the opportunity for immediate mitigation. The integration of the 5S elements into the core processes promotes the dynamic interaction of the 5S elements within the system that would likely increase its sustainability; the 5S stand-alone model may require more maneuvering by team members to ensure the dynamic relationship with the processes.

With the integrated-with-the process model, a 5S initiative is exposed to the same critical-to-quality requirements that the operational processes are, including customer requirements, operational costs, risk, etc. Therefore, this model has more opportunities for aligning 5S activities with business priorities and added value in comparison to the stand-alone model.

Table 2 further illustrates the benefits of the 5S integrated-with-the-process model in comparison to the stand-alone model.

Table 2: Further Comparison of 5S Deployment Models – More Examples of Use
Examples of Core ProcessesActions/Benefits5S Integrated-with-process ModelStand-alone 5S Model
Assembly line clearance5S ActivityOperators’ perform line clearance (sort) prior to start of each shift or batch5S team verifies periodically that designated material bin are allocated for each line for removal of material from previous jobs (sort)
Example MetricFirst pass yield/rework due to wrong partsCompliance to organization requirement
Point of DifferentiationThis method is dynamic and provides immediate feedback to the batch quality performance; promotes direct accountability of responsibility.This method gives passive results and does not immediately correct non-conformances.
Inventory management5S ActivityAssessment of stockroom’s racks’ organization for accuracy compliance rated by receiver of parts (straighten)Assessment of stockroom’s racks’ organization for accuracy compliance rated by the 5S auditor on a periodic basis (straighten)
Example Metric
  • Cycle time/waiting for correct parts
  • Production scrap rate due to wrong material released by stockroom
Number of sampled racks containing accurate parts
Point of DifferentiationThis method promotes actionable observations leading to measurable performance improvement of related processes.This method’s focus is limited (i.e., accuracy of sampled racks) and does not measure the impact on related processes.
Clean room process5S ActivityClean room compliance to proper clean room gowning rated through tests directly related to compliance of clean room requirements (shine)Clean room compliance to proper clean room gowning by observing and listing frequency of observations rated by supervisor (shine)
Example Metric
  • Particle count
  • Product cleanliness test
Frequency of non-compliance to procedures
Point of DifferentiationThis method provides a quantitative measurement of a successful compliance against a standard (i.e., effectiveness of clean room gowning).This method does not pinpoint action items as the metric does not show impact on a critical-to-quality characteristic.
Trailers’ floor cleanliness inspection5S ActivityMaintenance of trailer cleanliness monitored through dock supervision walk for all shifts (sustain). Dock supervision is available on all shifts and walk through is performed as a routine task (no additional labor required for dock walk)Material handlers are to complete a trailer 5S checklist as evidence that 5S–related tasks are completed, example: sweep floors prior to loading to prevent potential damage to freight (sustain)
Example MetricResults of spot checkingCompletion of the checklist
Point of DifferentiationThis approach offers real-time feedback and opportunity for immediate correction. This method also promotes accountability as well as continuous training of the workforce.This approach is passive and non-verifiable (another checklist to complete and file away).

Do’s for a Successful 5S Initiative

  • Keep the initiative simple, not cumbersome
  • Define the company’s success metrics that will provide the optimum added value to the system
  • Review the initiative periodically to ensure initiative has not been “outgrown” by process changes

Prioritize areas of implementation based on risk assessment and cost list only the tasks that can be realistically achieved. For example, it may add more value to prioritize 5S implementation in critical areas (such as dock operations for a logistic company) rather than areas with lesser variability (such as the administrative offices).

5S initiative designers may not necessarily be part of the larger process improvement deployment team especially for bigger organizations. Therefore, deployment-level process improvement leaders would be well served to set up a periodic follow-up mechanism with the 5S process owners to identify any major process changes that may require adjustment or re-designing of the 5S deployment model. Metrics may send signals that items need to be adjusted; for example, constant failure may mean that expectations are exceeding capability.

An escalation path for addressing the continuing effectiveness of the 5S intent needs to be part of the design of the initiative. The escalation path may be as simple as reviewing a monthly trending of results versus goals with process managers.

More Than a Checklist

Claiming to have a 5S program is not as simple as having a 5S checklist. 5S is more than a form or a procedure – it is a discipline that needs to be understood, embraced, implemented and continually measured by the workforce for the program to be effective and add value. If used properly, this is a powerful improvement tool that is simple and inexpensive.


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Leave a Comment


Joy Hannan

Most people think 5S program is limited to keeping the office and/or working areas clean and neat. After reading Janet Smith’s article, “A Model for Implementing a 5S Program”, I believe people will view 5S differently.

Integrating the 5S initiative with the process is an effective model to support process success, such as the line clearance example discussed in the article. The line clearance initiative aims not only in keeping the working area clean/neat, but it also reinforces a control to ensure the use of correct parts in the assembly. I’ve been working for electronic companies for many years and have seen so many incidents of mix ups when workers do not clear lines from extra left over parts from previous batch. The use of wrong components is a waste of time, money, resources and possible lost opportunities.

This article gives another perspective of the 5S initiative and highlights 5S as a tool to help improve quality and increase productivity. It is also can be used as a checklist to measure the performances.

Joy Hannan
VP of Operations

Geroge Gephart

Janet Nicely Done,

I especially like the example of the Trailer Floor Cleanliness Inspection -” monitored through dock supervision walk for all shifts (sustain). Dock supervision is available on all shifts and walk through is performed as a routine task (no additional labor required for dock walk)”

As you stated this provides real time feedback and allows correction to take place preventing a potential customer complaint, and it is a lean process not requiring additional resources. Where with a checklist completed by the Material Handler is less controlled and creates an opportunity for just the checklist to be filled out and filed.

In addition this would be a very effective way to improve Load Quality with supervisor walks taking place during the loading of trailers as again real time feedback and potential issues being corrected prior to it being a compliant from the customer. No additional resource needed and the check is completed in process and is not an additional task to be completed after the fact and in most cases a checklist filled out by the Material Handler will not note improper loading issues but will indicate all is well with the load and we will not know of the issues until we receive negative feedback from the customer.

It has been my experience these two items – trailer cleanliness and load quality have the greatest opportunity to improve with just this type of process( Walk The Dock), it sounds simple and it is; the return is well worth making it part of the operational culture.

Thank you,

George Gephart
Operations Specialist

Rodolfo M. Nava

After reading Janet Smith’s article, “A model for Implementing a 5S Program”, I understand that 5S is not only a program to organize and keep an area clean… But a tool to manage a Quality System (i.e. ISO 9001:2008).
Using a 5S Integrated-with-process Model, is also an article that show us how to optimize resources and add value to our processes focusing on eliminate waste activities and have more efficient and not only effective processes. It is also telling us that this could be an initiative for a department-specific or also a corporate-wide but more important not only for manufacturing processes or companies, but also for service industries. It is also telling us about how to measure our success and a point of differentiation so we can track our performance and see that a well implemented 5S program can help us to improve our performance. And last but not least, this 5S initiative is telling us to concentrate on the critical-to-quality requirements so we can focus on customer satisfaction through out the improvement of our core operational processes.
This article is giving us a different perspective and perception of how a 5S program can really help us to properly manage our processes to improve in all areas we need to improve.

Rodolfo M. Nava
Industrial Process Engineer


Yes Sir. I agree!

Riche Sagarino Ibale
Business Process Analyst/Industrial Engineer

Federico Paez

I agree that the maintenance of 5S is best left within the standards of the process.

By integrating 5S into our written instructions and training staff to a standard that includes a baseline 5S requirement at each step (ensure these necessary materials are present, complete work at the optimal location for the start of the next process, etc.) 5S ceases to become a specialized initiative that our employees need to take time out of their normal process to do.

We no longer have to stop and budget time for 5S activities, which is in and of itself a barrier to a successful implementation.

5S simply becomes part of the process, and we cycle time and set the required workload with those maintenance standards in mind.

Well written Janet.


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