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Sustaining 5S

One of the challenges I hear from businesses is with regards to sustaining 5S.

If you haven't come across the 5S approach for improving workplace organisation it really is worth reading up on.

Basically there it is a five step process that your business works through:


  • Sort - clearing out the clutter from a working area.
  • Set In Order - putting what's left into a sensible (and efficient) arrangement.
  • Shine - cleaning the working environment.
  • Standardise - setting the standards for the work area.
  • Sustain - keeping the efforts going once they have been put in place.
Most businesses, that I have come across, start at the first 'S' and work their way through the list.

After a few weeks, or months, of effort their 5S programme starts to wane. Usually this slowing down of activity takes effect when they reach the fourth 'S', standardise.

If you recognise this taking place in your business then here is my simple recommendation; start at the fourth 'S' and define what standard you are trying to reach. Then think through the fifth 'S' and work out how you can realistically sustain 5S in your business. Sustaining the process might need a lot more effort in the early days, until the right habits are formed in the business.

There are many simple ways to help build the right kinds of workplace habits, including the very popular Kamishibai Board approach. Brainstorm some sensible approaches and then go back to the first 'S'; this time you will have clearer direction and know what you need to do.




Giles Johnston
Author of Business Process Re-Engineering