Envirotech Blog

What is the 5s System? Definitions, Core Concepts & Principles

20/10/2021 3:03:25 PM / by Daria Sobczak

5S – I don't know how about you, but I love the name of this tool.

5S has developed as a part of Toyota’s Production System about 40 years ago - rumour has it that it may have even been 400 years ago! Interestingly, even nowadays, many companies are using it in their daily operations.


Why is it so fascinating for me?

It's just so logical and it makes sense because it is all about keeping it simple, clean, safe, organised and self-sustained.


As it's coming from Japan, 5S is a shortcut of:

✓ Seiri – sort, clear and classify

✓ Seiton – straighten, simplify, set in order and configure.

✓ Seiso – sweep, shine, scrub, clean and check

✓ Seiketsu – standardise, stabilise and conform

✓ Shitsuke – sustain, self-discipline, custom and practice


The Japanese suggested that it only takes these 5 steps to create a sustainable, productive and efficient workplace. A workplace where you won't waste a minute on unneeded actions. Of course, this system was just a part of a whole strategy Toyota implemented in order to maximise customer and employee satisfaction and minimise waste. This strategy eventually increased company profit and team morale.

Time for a real-life example. Probably the best way to describe the 5S is to picture a very messy office where documents are literally in every cabinet, cables laying dangerously on the floor, people bumping into each other, and nothing has its own place.

messy office

Now picture this office where cabinets have name tags on them and they are located in handy places for people who use them the most. Desks are placed in a way that doesn't block any crossways and people can freely move. The lighting is effective, the workplace is safe - without cables lying everywhere, which can seriously hurt employees. Basically, each pen has its own "home".

Now, offices can be quite a small place, easy to manage. How about a car factory or other huge production lines where timing, placing an order is everything? For these places, it's actually a game-changer. It is also easier for employees to do their job effectively when protocols and space are clear.

5S is all about minimising the waste - whether it relates to space, time or activity. Additionally, a less obvious waste is when employees' talents and skills are not utilised.

5s helps us to recognise the areas where we could be better.

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Daria Sobczak

Written by Daria Sobczak

Environmental Consultant at Envirotech Education

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