The 5S Lean Principles of: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.

These words may be alien to you now, but in the few minutes it’ll take to read this article, you’ll be singing their praises. You’ll also possess an invaluable tool for cultivating a more efficient, compliant, and organised workplace.

5S Lean Principles

Where do the 5S Lean Principles come from?

Although it originally developed in Japan, 5S’s roots are frequently debated.

Some claim that the concepts underpinning the 5S framework come from 16th century Japanese shipbuilders, whose streamlined assembly process allowed ships to be built in a matter of hours, rather than days or weeks.

Others argue that it was officially introduced by Toyota in the 1970s, when their analysts were sent to dissect the assembly line of rivals Ford Motor Company. Based on these findings, Toyota formulated a methodology to surpass their competitors.

5S Lean Principles
5S Lean Principles

So, what exactly are the 5S Lean Principles?

Put simply, 5S is a framework for operational efficiency. At first, that might sound like typically vague self-development drivel – but 5S differs from other improvement systems in its applicability.

Translated from Japanese, the five words – Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke – mean Sort, Set In Order, Shine, Standardise, and Sustain. When used as a lean manufacturing tool, these 5Ss eliminate waste, uphold health and safety standards, and cultivate an environment of unrivalled productivity.

5S Lean Principles

How can the 5S Lean Principles help your business?

Often associated with similar concepts like Six Sigma or Kaizen, 5S is starting to gain traction in the food industry. Research has proven its effectiveness across a variety of workplaces, with benefits including:

  • Happier staff – your team will appreciate your efforts to make their job easier through a more pleasant and manageable working environment.
  • Amplified productivity – logical workspace organisation decreases downtime and time-consuming misunderstandings (not to mention that if your staff are happier, they’ll be more productive).
  • Tidier and safer workspace – both Sorting (Seiri) and Shining (Seiso) make your workspace tidier, which contributes to eliminating health and safety risks.
  • Better quality and lower prices – increased efficiency makes your products more consistent and of better quality, resulting in increased profits, as well as the option to reduce prices for your loyal customer base.

How can you implement the 5S Lean Principles?

1. Sort (Seiri)

There is a growing body of studies addressing direct methods of implementing the 5S Framework. Of course, these applications are dependent on the type of workplace they are intended for. However, overarching recommendations can be made regarding implementation at each of the five stages:

5S Lean Principles
5S Lean Principles

2. Set In Order (Seiton)

Consider the layout of your current workstations. Do your workers have to excessively relocate to get to the places they need to be? Do they waste precious time searching for the tools that they need?

Setting in order ensures that staff don’t waste time searching for tools and utensils that aren’t in the right place. This could involve drawing up a 5S Map of your workplace, or using the ever-popular Shadow boards and Tool Stations.

Shadow boards

Shadow board Inspiration Guide

Want to learn more about shadow boards? From engineering tool boards and storage for your spill kits to PPE bases and change part stations, there are over 70 shadow board designs to explore in our Inspiration Guide.

3. Shine (Seiso)

This is an easy one – simply keeping your factory floor or food production space clean and tidy. We suggest regular hygiene practices, including scheduled clean-downs and ‘clean as you go’ policies, in addition to black bag audits and consistent inspections to ensure that everywhere is kept pristine. This will ensure that people can work in a mess- and risk-free environment (important for productivity and morale). It also ensures that machinery is properly cared for – extending work life and saving replacement costs.

5S Lean Principles
5S Lean Principles

4. Standardise (Seiketsu)

By writing down what is being done, where, and by whom, you can officially incorporate new practices into normal work procedure. This paves the way for long-term change.

Before writing any Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), observe employees to see where problems arise, and which methods work most consistently. Consult employees to double-check each stage, and ensure the process feels natural.

Common tools for this process include:

5S Checklists – listing the individual steps of a process makes it easy for workers to follow that process completely. It also provides a simple visual management tool to check progress later on.

Job Cycle Charts – identify each task to be performed in a work area, and decide on a schedule or frequency for each of those tasks. Then, assign responsibility to a particular worker (or job duty). The resulting chart can be posted visibly to resolve questions and encourage accountability.

Procedure Labels and Signs – provide operating instructions, cleaning steps, and preventative maintenance procedures exactly where that information is needed.

5. Sustain (Shitsuke)

Implementing the 5S Lean Principles is not a one-off event. The fifth step, Sustain – or Shitsuke, which translates literally as ‘discipline’ – follows the idea of continual commitment. As a framework, 5S is most effective when habitualised and re-applied over and over.

Depending on the workplace, steps might include:

  • Management Support
  • Department Tours
  • Updated Training Procedures
  • In-House Progress Audits
  • Performance Evaluations
5S Lean Principles

Whatever programme or methods you deem most suitable for your organisation, getting the basics of the first four steps right makes ongoing success easier to sustain.


If you would like further support as you implement the 5S Framework in your workplace, you can connect with one of our consultants on 01473 461 800. Alternatively, you can share your details using the contact form below.

If you would like further guidance relating to the information shared in this blog, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help. Share your details below.