LEAN Management: The 5S Method for a High-Performance Company

Above all, LEAN management involves adopting an agile, customizable strategy to establish a smooth and efficient production system. The goal is clear: implement strategies and procedures that will maximize production and minimize waste. To do so, you need a method known as the 5S method. Let’s take a look at the 5 main concepts involved and find out how this method revolutionizes the operational efficiency approach.

The five S’s of the 5S method

The 5S method was created in Japan as part of the Toyota Production System, a just-in-time manufacturing system that focuses on eliminating all forms of waste and constantly searching for more efficient work methods.

As its name suggests, it’s made up of five steps or watchwords that help promote a culture of continuous improvement.

Sort (Seiri) – Eliminate the unnecessary

The first step focuses on the objects and employees in the work environment. 

  • Sort through the workspace and eliminate anything that isn’t necessary. 
  • Get rid of unnecessary items and nonessential documents, and keep only what is needed to complete the task at hand.

Set in order (Seiton) – Put everything in place

A place for everything and everything in its place—that’s how we sum up this step, which focuses on the organization of each workstation. The goal is to waste as little time as possible searching for supplies, equipment, tools, materials, documents, etc.

  • Place frequently used items nearby. Conversely, seldom-used items should be stored outside the work area.
  • Place tools on easily accessible shelves or in appropriate boxes so that employees can find and retrieve them quickly.
  • Make sure that supplies are easily accessible without impeding mobility or work.

Shine (Seiso) – Keep the workspace clean

The purpose of this step is to maintain a clean and orderly work environment. It’s not just about surface cleaning—it includes looking into the underlying causes of cleanliness problems and resolving them. For example, instead of cleaning an oil stain on the floor every day, replace the machine’s worn seals.

  • Remove dirt and debris that can break machines and cause accidents.
  • Eliminate clutter, which can be a source of distraction that lowers employee productivity.
  • Maintain and clean machines regularly to prevent breakdowns and promote safety.

Standardize (Seiketsu) – Establish rules and standards

Once the sorting, organizing, and cleaning steps are complete, it’s time to implement standardization procedures throughout the company. That way, sectors can benefit from each other’s progress, making mutual training easier and more effective.

  • Draw up lists of regular maintenance tasks.
  • Assign tools to workstations and not to employees.
  • Make it easy to find and put away tools by assigning a colour to each workstation. For example, you could put a spot of paint or coloured tape on the tools: blue for workstation A, yellow for workstation B, etc.

Sustain (Shitsuke) – Keep up the new practices

The fifth and final step highlights your organization’s ability to sustain new practices, adapt, and improve itself. This step may require more dedication than the others, because it can be tempting to settle for what is already done and accept the new status quo.

  • Encourage the members of your team or organization to keep up their good habits.
  • Conduct periodic audits to make sure everything stays clean and orderly.


Adopting the 5S method, the core of LEAN management, will help make your company more efficient and effective. Eliminating the unnecessary, optimal organizing, constant cleaning, strict standardizing, and keeping up good practices are not just concepts, but fundamental pillars that can drive your organization towards operational excellence. These five steps are much more than a method—they represent a philosophy that will transform your workspace and organizational culture for the better. They’re well worth exploring!

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