If you have spent any time in the automotive industry you have probably spent time working within a system called the 5S.  This collection of ideas or focus areas are employed to create a clean working environment which reduces waste, and improves through put, and is part of a lean approach to the work.  Ultimately, the 5S can reduce operating costs through improved productivity, improve quality, and makes the work place safer.


5-S Japanese and English

5-S Japanese and English



Sorting is just what it sounds like, we want to work through our equipment, and ask some questions about the use of that equipment or material.  Sorting applies to everything about the work space, not just the tools, but everything in that area.  Benches, seats, tools, and materials, all of it.

We will ask the questions below as we move through the work space thinking about sorting.

  • Why do we use this item?
  • How often do we use this item?
  • Who on our team uses this item?
  • Where should this equipment ideally be located?

Things used more frequently, will be treated one way, and equipment that is used only as an exception, may be treated differently.  At the end of this work, the work area will be reduced of clutter and the confusion of what equipment or tool is used at the station.

Set in Order

Upon prioritizing what is important in the work space and reducing the clutter, it is now possible for those that work at the work station to determine the best way to set up the work space.  To do this we will engage those that do the work, to find the best possible way to configure the work space.

  • Do we need additional storage?
  • Where do we specifically place the equipment that we will use the most frequently?
  • Is there a hierarchy that we can apply to the equipment used that will impact how we should arrange the equipment?


Cleaning the work space is next in the sequence of events. This step is not relegated to the periodic cleaning or maintaining of the work space by the custodian staff for the organization.  We have removed the clutter and prioritized what remains, but we want to make sure the work area is free of debris and corruption through waste material.  We will sweep, mop, dust and keep the area free of things that intrude the work space and provide no advantage.  Keeping the space clean is part of a disciplined approach to the work.


We want to cement these previous steps, with a measure of discipline in how we approach the work space.  We want to have as a priority, maintaining the work space with the previous steps. That is we will make sure the equipment is used and put back where it belongs. We will clean the area and essentially maintain our earlier efforts.  It is easy to fall back into the previous behavior which led us to the less than stellar work place, tools all over the place and cluttered and dirty work space.  To that end we will establish a routine that will take us through this sequence very frequently, via check lists, schedule associated with Sort and Set in order.  We will develop work station instructions that describe what maintaining the work space and expect those working the station to abide.  We will be disciplined in our work regarding maintaining the space.


We have procedures for our 5S in place, but our work environment is not static.  We will maintain our previous work following those standards, however we will keep our eyes open and the organization involved to the degree where we constantly consider how to make the work space better.  We may alter the work space, new technologies, and improve the processes used to accomplish the work may implicate the need to make alterations to the work station, and thus alterations to the 5S.


We need to keep the work space clean, removing distractions and obstructions from the work space.  We do not want to use the wrong material, spend too much time looking for the specific tool we need from among the several tools we have available.  To eliminate these things, we will use the 5S technique, keeping the work space optimal for accomplishing the objectives of the work.




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