5S and Lean Manufacturing: Both Are Better Together

5S improves manufacturing efficiency

Lean Manufacturing and 5S: Better Together

As someone who keeps an eye on efficiency, you tend to notice when things aren’t right. Perhaps you’re strolling through the workspace and you spot an employee rummaging through a toolbox, looking for the right tool. Perhaps, you notice how much time is wasted and wonder why it’s taking so long. Then, something else catches your eye. Beyond the employee is a messy and cluttered workstation.

Has this ever happened to you? Our customers often tell us that they recognize inefficiency in their workplace. They know their disorganized workspace connects to this. And this is why companies tend to employ methodologies like Lean Manufacturing and tools like 5S to solve for this.

Do you really need both?

Having a Lean initiative in place is a great start. After all, Lean helps to eliminate waste and focuses the entire organization on improving outcomes for the customer. Many companies that employ Lean start with 5S. Here’s why.

While 5S does not replace the rest of the Lean Toolkit, it adds value. The common approaches used in 5S help to create a foundation for and support Lean. In fact, each pillar of 5S is equally important to bolstering a successful Lean initiative. Let’s take a look at how.

How does each of the 5S phases support Lean?


In the Sort Phase of 5S, all machinery and tools receive inspection and evaluation. Unnecessary items are Red Tagged and placed in a Red Tag Holding Area where it is properly disposed, recycled, or reassigned to a different area. Doing this eliminates waste and enhances productivity while saving time, space, and labor costs.

Set in Order:

The second phase, set in order, focuses on creating efficient and effective storage methods for quick and easy use and retrieval. This allows for missing items, shortages, and problems to be identified and handled quicker, resulting in reduced delays. Additionally, when done right, this leaves the products in an ergonomic layout to help with safety and with tools labeled in a highly visible manner to cut down on setup time.


In the Shine Phase, new standards are set for cleaning procedures. All trash, grease, and dirt are cleaned and removed and all items tidy and neatly put in its appropriate place. This helps provide a safe workplace and makes potential problems like leaky equipment or loose parts more noticeable, avoiding costly downtime in production. It also increases employee morale by making their workspace nicer and easier to maneuver through and less stressful.


Once steps 1, 2, and 3 are complete, the Standardize phase of 5S ensures these phases become a part of the everyday routine. Formalizing what’s been done with schedules and set expectations in order to maintain waste reduction and maximized productivity within the workplace. A standardized way of working and basic maintenance of equipment will improve quality and reduce costs due to increased efficiencies.


Minimizing waste while maximizing productivity is something every company wants as part of their Lean initiative. Sustaining 5S improvements is an important lesson to employees on the importance and impact of behavioral change. 5S practices should become a part of the company culture and in practicing these steps in everyday work, they become a habit to the employees. The discipline it takes to do 5S well is an important lesson to employees and can be used as a precursor to Lean implementation.

In summary

At the 5S Store, we believe that 5S is not a replacement for Lean Manufacturing, but we strongly advocate for it to be a foundational element to adopting a Lean mindset. Utilizing 5S sets a tone and a continuous improvement mentality for all employees that you can build upon with Lean. And, when done properly, it helps with waste elimination and efficiency across the business.