Benefits of 5S Visual Management in the Workplace

Workers using visual management boards

Visual management allows you to improve productivity, quality, safety and efficiency in your workplace. Process improvements in any business sector should be repeatable and sustainable. With 5s visual management, you create consistency and uniformity throughout your company.

The 5S process allows you to transform workplace behavior for the better through a step-by-step process. The 5S mindset is summarized as follows: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. With these core principles, you can reduce waste, maximize labor efficiency, and reliably increase your profit margins each quarter.

What Is 5S Visual Management?

According to the Lean Masters Consulting Group:

“5S or Visual Management is the use of techniques that will enable a person to immediately recognize normal and abnormal states in a process. This technique helps an organization examine the workplace and identify irregularities for easy elimination of waste and improving safety.”

Visual Management Explained

In other words, 5S visual management is a system that quickly shows the current status. It may be production or delivery status, quality standards, machine status or even what tools are missing. There are indicators in place to let everyone know how things are tracking. 

Visual Management Examples

What does this look like? A few examples of visual management tools include labels, shadow boards, floor markings, red tags and management or KPI boards.

Visual Managemnt Examples

Circle Labels for 5S ManagementYellow 5S Cleaning Tools Shadow BoardRolls of Colored Floor Marking TapeRoll of 5S Red Tags


These may be date stickers on perishable products or signage for organizing drawers and shelves. Consider options such as adhesive labels or pre-printed circles.


These brightly-colored tool storage boards have “shadows” behind each tool so that any absence is obvious. The silhouettes make it easy to see what’s missing – and where to replace a tool when a worker is done using it.

Floor Markings 

Use floor tape to indicate hazard areas, storage zones or walking lanes. These markings are also useful for showing where to store pallets, finished goods, and raw materials.

Red Tags 

Accomplish the “Sort” step of 5S by identifying which objects need to be removed, recycled, or relocated. Place a red tag on any object that may be redundant.

Site Boards 

Whiteboards are an ideal tool for sharing information about daily operations, as well as progress toward short- and long-term goals. Common examples include:

  • Project status boards that indicate progress toward a goal
  • 5S boards to track audits and 5S activities 
  • Daily Management boards to communicate with varied shifts and departments
  • Improvement boards that share machine status, output and problems

These boards can be set up using whiteboard tape, custom overlays, indicator magnets or magnetic document holders. This is one of the main purposes of visual management – to share information succinctly.

Why Visual Management Tools Are Important

Visual management in the workplace demonstrates its value by achieving cost-reduction goals, eliminating waste, increasing safety, and reducing accidents and injuries. A study from Louisiana State University concluded that 5S aids the manufacturing climate by reducing lead time by 16%, recovering 22% of unused floor space, and reducing excess inventory by 36%.

Reducing Costs

By identifying expensive processes through systematic signage, it becomes easy to detect and fix problems quickly.

Eliminating Waste

In the 5S system, if something does not benefit the customer, it should be eliminated. The visual management process helps identify waste in the form of poorly-organized workspaces, excess void-fill in packaging, and product defects.

Increasing Safety

When clutter is reduced and workplaces are routinely cleaned and inspected, safety risks drop considerably. Boxes and equipment no longer block exits, wrong tools for the job are no longer being used, and potential hazards are eliminated before they cause a problem.

Presenting Visual Management to Your Team 

To be effective, visual management products have to be seamlessly embedded into the fabric of the company culture.

Let Employees Be Interactive in Finding Problem Areas

Instead of listing what the problems are during a meeting, empower team leads to facilitate a shared exploration of the working environment. Invite all team members to identify objects that need to be eliminated, processes that could be improved, or risk areas for safety.

Develop Criteria for 5S Management

Work collaboratively to answer essential questions that will drive decision-making. Encourage your employees to generate questions like the ones developed by consulting group iSixSigma:

  • Is this item needed?
  • If it is needed, is it needed in this quantity?
  • If it is needed, how frequently is it used?
  • If it is needed, should it be located here?
  • Who is ultimately responsible for the item? (Verify from that person.)
  • Are there any other not-needed items cluttering the workplace?
  • Are there tools or materials left on the floor?

Assign Certain Employees 5S Responsibilities

Decide who is ready to take on added responsibilities. The people you choose will be expected to internalize visual management in the office and become a role model to other employees. Responsibilities could include red-tagging items, taping off sections of the floor, or creating labels for their workstation.

Collaborate on Problem Areas in Efficiency

Ask your employees what they notice about efficiency in their department. Avoid the temptation to simply rely on the team leads and management. Invite the perspective of all employees, and you might be surprised at the results you get.

Create a Plan With the Team

One reason why 5S processes sometimes fail is that for many employees, it feels like just another “top-down” management initiative. If there is no buy-in, there is no benefit. Have intentional conversations at the department level about what possible plans could look like. Empower team leads to solicit input from all of their team members.

Collaborate on Cleanliness 

One thing that everyone can do, regardless of job description, is routinely clean their workstations and their machines. Clean as you go, rather than waiting for the end-of-day clean-up crew to do it all. Guard against the tendency to adopt the attitude of “that’s not my job.” We are all in this together.

Management and leadership should be role models in showing what it looks like to spot-check and beautify equipment and work areas. Leading by example goes a long way toward effective collaboration.

Create a Chart and Distribute Tasks Evenly

Equitable, transparent work arrangements help secure buy-in and loyalty from your team. Create a visual anchor chart for everyone to see who’s doing what, and how the work is distributed on a rotating basis. Everyone should have the chance to do any part of the 5s process that is appropriate for their job description. The chart can also be created digitally (view-only) so that all employees can have access to it wherever they are.

Encourage Regular Individual and Company Audits

All employees should grow toward being independent and self-reflective as a habit of mind. Individuals should be encouraged to regularly assess how well they are doing with 5s, considering their strengths and contributions as well as their growth areas.

The company should consider formal accountability audits as well. There should be a specialized task force or team trained for this purpose. This ensures that an objective viewpoint is readily balanced with the individual expectation of accountability. Trust, but verify.

How to Set Up 5S Visual Management Boards

Visual management boards are an essential visual tool for all employees to use as a reference point, especially when 5S is new.

What Is It?

A visual management board breaks down each of the 5S steps for all to see and creates a progress tracker to show results over time.

Make It Interactive 

Place a board in a fixed space and allows employees to contribute their questions, comments, and suggestions. If your management board is on an easel or chart paper, employees could attach their own sticky notes on the white space around the chart. If the chart is on a dry-erase board, employees from different departments could be assigned their own color to use for commentary.

Make It Accessible

Charts can also be done digitally, with the ability to comment on collaborative documents, calendars, and slide shows. Ensure that everyone can view or visit the location of the chart. Invite employees of all levels and abilities to discuss the chart and offer suggestions regularly. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, it just needs to be well-organized and useful.

Proper Ways To Implement

Consider these tried-and-true implementation strategies from TXM Lean Solutions:

  • Make sure the team knows it’s their board, not just a corporate initiative
  • Have conversations about the board regularly 
  • Keep the boards accessible and near where the work is being done
  • Focus on practicality, not aesthetics
  • Allow the boards to be customizable for employee engagement 

Closing Thoughts

Visual management and 5S offer benefits to employees, management, owners and shareholders. Productivity increases, product quality is assured, and the workplace becomes safer and more efficient. Employee satisfaction and morale improve because roles are defined, machines and equipment are clean, and the working space is more organized. Members of management appreciate 5S because it is measurable and many of the roles and responsibilities can be delegated to team members. 

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