What is the 5S Lean Methodology?

The 5S lean methodology is an important technique in lean manufacturing. To clarify, it is a systematic approach to workplace organization and helps keep workplaces clean, safe, and uncluttered to reduce waste and optimize productivity. As a result, this helps build a quality work environment, both physically and mentally. Furthermore, this philosophy applies in any work area that has visual control and lean production.

What Does 5S Stand For?

5S, also referred to as 5s or Five S, refers to five Japanese terms used to describe the steps relevant to the 5S lean methodology of visual management. In fact, each step has a term that starts with the letter S. In Japanese, the five S’s are:

  • 1. Seiri
  • 2. Seiton
  • 3. Seiso
  • 4. Seiketsu, and
  • 5. Shitsuke

However, in English, the five S’s are translated to:

  • 1. Sort
  • 2. Set in Order
  • 3. Shine
  • 4. Standardize, and
  • 5. Sustain

The 5S's of Lean

The 5S Lean Methodology

The 5S lean methodology involves five key practices that should occur in the following order:


This practice involves sorting through materials and keeping essential items required to complete tasks only. In essence, this action involves going through all the contents of a work space to determine what is needed and what needs to be removed. 

Set in order

This practice ensures that all materials and essential items are organized in a logical way and has its own designated place. As a result, this makes tasks easier for employees to complete and often involves placing contents in ergonomic locations. That is to say, contents should be placed where workers will not need to bend or make extra movements to reach them.


Proactive efforts are necessary to keep work areas clean and to ensure purpose-driven work. So, this means cleaning and maintaining the newly organized and cleaned workspace. For example, routine cleaning tasks include mopping, dusting, and conducting maintenance checks on machinery, tools, and other equipment.


A set of standards is essential for both organization and processes to keep things standardized. In essence, this practice involves taking the first three S’s and making rules for when and how these tasks will be performed. For instance, these standards involves utilizing schedules, charts, lists, etc.


This practice involves sustaining new practices and conducting audits to maintain an orderly workplace. In short, it is important to continuously practice the previous four S’s. 

Implementing the 5S Lean Methodology into Your Organization

Tag management, or also known as tagging or f-tags, is an important element of any continuous improvement strategy. Furthermore, it is closely related to the 5S lean methodology as it is part of the first S: sort. Essentially, the objective of tagging is to physically identify any unnecessary, defective, or unsafe items in the workplace and remove them.

TheLeanSuite’s Issue Tracker, a built-in app that digitizes the tagging process, supports the 5S lean methodology. In sum, it helps you to save time and money, close critical problems quickly and easily, and gain in-depth insight on tagged issues.