Breaking down the 5S Visual Management System

The 5S system has been getting a lot of buzz lately for its utility in visual management. Some people believe it is just about organization, but the truth is that it’s about using a certain mindset and set of tools to help bring efficiency and value to operations.

It gets its name because the five key practices involved in it all start with the letter S. Here is a brief look at each component.


The first step encompasses sorting through the materials at hand and determining which ones are truly essential for completing tasks. Those that do not fall into this category should be removed from the work area altogether or even discarded.

Set in Order (Straighten)

This step involves looking at all of the items and making sure that each one is given a designated place that is logical and easily accessible. You don’t want frequently used items to be kept in places where people will have to bend or reach awkwardly to get them. Everything should also be well organized.


There is something to be said about keeping an area clean. For example, most people are reluctant to mess up their home right after their housekeeper has just made everything look beautiful, and this hesitation can be used to your advantage when you make proactive efforts to keep the work area clean and in order at all times. Not only does this entail activities like mopping and dusting but also performing maintenance on equipment and tools. The lack of clutter will also help workers maintain their focus on the work at hand.


In order to truly streamline operations, a set of standards must be created for processes and organizations alike. Establish rules for how and when tasks will be carried out. Lists, charts, and schedules can be used to lay everything out clearly.


Going through all of the first four steps will not do any good if the new practices are not carried out consistently. Inspiring a sense of self-discipline in employees will go a long way toward sustaining positive changes. Audits should be conducted in regular intervals in order to ensure compliance and find areas for improvement.

Take a more in-depth look at the 5S System.

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