I get asked a lot of times about the benefits of implementing 5S. Clients often ask me ‘how can tidying up make a real difference to our business?’.

5S is a brilliant system for tidying up your business, for sure, but there is so much more to be gained by implementing these five simple steps (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standards and Sustain).

Let me take you through five benefits that I think will change the minds of anyone that thinks that this approach isn’t for them.

1. It improves the performance of the workplace.

When 5S is done correctly it is a great way to improve the safety, effectiveness and efficiency of the workplace. However you describe your workplace, be it an office environment or the production floor, when there are fewer trip hazards and a better organised area performance goes up. The second ‘S’ (Set in Order) is a great way to optimise the working area and drive up efficiencies.

Even just decluttering the workplace (Sort, the first ‘S’) can improve efficiency and productivity by stopping people having to hunt around for their tools, materials or information. This works just as well in a factory environment as it does on a computer server.

2. It improves disciplines and helps to build effective habits.

In order for 5S to become a sustainable system the right disciplines and habits need to be formed. This is great news for any business that is looking to improve its results generally as most business systems and processes require habits to drive them. Whether the habits are enforced at first and then allowed to become part of the normal business culture, or whether they are natural to acquire, good habits bring good results.

If you don’t have good habits in your business already then you can use the 5S approach to develop some good habits and then spread out from there.

3. It forces managers to walk around with their eyes wide open!

You can’t sustain 5S if your managers aren’t looking around the business. If your team are already good at doing this then well done. For many businesses, this is a real challenge, but one that 5S encourages.

Getting involved with 5S, in order to reap the rewards longer term, means engaging with the business. Many times I will see managers walk through their business but not see what is all around them. One of the pivotal parts of 5S is setting standards and then living up to them.

Engagement increases all round with this activity; you find out more about what is going on in your business, ideas flow and high performance becomes normal.

4. 5S is a great entry point for TPM.

TPM, or Total Productive Maintenance, is a great way to further improve the productivity of your business. Like all business improvement methodologies it helps if you are flexible with the way that you apply the ideas. TPM is all about the entire team looking after the equipment that it has at its disposal. This is moving past that ideas that maintenance is solely someone else’s job to look after the business’ assets.

Whilst TPM can be done fully in isolation, building in the ‘operator’ maintenance tasks into the routine required to Sustain your 5S Standards is another way to get into TPM.

5. It is a great springboard into ongoing continuous improvement.

To get to the Sustain stage of 5S successfully you will have needed to discuss improvement ideas with your team. This discussion doesn’t need to stop once the initial 5S implementation has been carried out and therefore 5S is a great way to get continuous improvement started.

Keep the momentum going and move straight into your next Lean manufacturing project, or go for a more general continuous improvement approach.

Share this article with your colleagues that aren’t convinced about the benefits of 5S and see if you can get them onside!

0,Making 5S Work

All the best,


Giles Johnston

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who consults with businesses to improve their productivity and on time delivery performance. Giles is also the author of What Does Good Look Like? and the co-creator of the StreamLiner business improvement software program.