Sept. 27 2006 11:41 AM

Some warehousing managers seem to create and maintain an organized, clean, safe and high performance workplace with ease, while other managers struggle daily to keep their workspaces productive. What are they doing differently? While the successful managers may not have heard of the 5S+1 process, its likely that they have nevertheless implemented the design into their workplace. The 5S+1 process enables organizations to construct a productive work area and is the infrastructure that helps build on the utilization of the various lean tools. Completion of each stage of the process allows managers to successfully implement the next, so it is important to understand that all of these steps must be completed in order to utilize the greater whole.



The first stage in the process consists of:

1. Removing every item that is not needed in the work area

2. Storing all frequently used items close at hand where they        

    are easily accessible

3. Storing infrequently used items separately, but in an area 

    where they are still accessible

4. Removing and disposing of all items that are not needed


The sort stage removes problems and annoyances by simplifying your workspace. Having only the items that you need to perform your tasks creates a smoother workflow, and also enhances quality, efficiency and productivity through reduction of waste. In a warehouse environment, this stage also improves safety, as unnecessary items that could cause injuries no longer take up space within the work cell.


To execute this stage, a tagging system is necessary. Tagging can be done by using a brightly colored card (5 x 7) that states what the item is, if it should be kept, stored or discarded and the date the item was tagged. To increase simplicity as well as effectiveness, it is important that you use only one tag per item. Set up a Tag Holding Area where items in question are kept for a period of time to determine their status. Items with no value must be discarded. The holding area should be cleared in a timely manner daily, weekly, or monthly.



This stage consists primarily of:

1. Placing items within arms reach

2. Placing items in order

3. Labeling storage locations

4. Initiating visual control


The 5S+1 process improves team morale and encourages accountability for personal safety.


The straightening stage forces you and your employees to keep all of your items in a neat and organized manner. It also minimizes motions, improves layout items and processes and facilitates the process with which items are found and returned. Straightening also improves safety and allows easier understanding of the layout at a glance.


To implement this stage, determine the frequency of use for various items, establish the best location for storage and use visual controls. The storage guidelines should be based on frequency of use. If the item is used hourly or daily, keep the item at your machine or desk. If it is used once a week, keep it near the workplace. If the item is used once a month, use remote area storage. When the item is seldom used (once a year or less) consider disposal of the item, especially if it has little or no value.


Create visual controls to account for items used. They can be as varied as labeling the items, using shadow boards for tools or painting or outlining locations. The key is to find what works for you. Dont be afraid to experiment and ask other employees for input; remember, this is a team effort.



The third step in the 5S+1 process consists of:

1. Cleaning all dust, dirt and grime from

    the work area or desk

2. Inspecting equipment, machinery, tools

    and work conditions

3. Keeping all areas and equipment in the best condition ·


Naturally, the shine stage promotes efficiency. It makes discovering defects and reducing machine downtime easier. In addition, it improves team morale as well as encourages accountability for safety. 


The implementation of the shine stage in a manufacturing or warehousing environment can be very challenging and may also be the stage that takes the longest to complete. First, the team needs to do daily or weekly inspections of the areas that need to be cleaned. Once they have determined what needs cleaning, they must set up a regular schedule with target dates as to when those areas should be cleaned. Companies should make cleaning up during and after the days operations part of everyones job. It is especially important that all machinery, particularly the tooling, gets daily cleaning.



The purpose of this stage is to establish consistency in the manner the stages are completed and generally consists of:

1. Developing routines and standard practices for the workplace

2. Creating documentation for who is accountable for which tasks

3. Adhering to visual standards as to the way the area is to look


In the standardize stage, everyone cleans and maintains their area the same way in order to ensure that the conditions of the newly cleaned area do not revert back to the previous state. The tools and supplies are organized and in their place, which naturally improves safety.


The implementation of the standardize stage starts with assigning accountability to each work cell. This person is responsible for the upkeep of that area. Next, integrate the first three Ss into the regular work duties of the team members assigned. Develop a checklist of their duties and a schedule as to when they are to be performed. Finally, take pictures of the results. Given that the area is through the shine stage, visual images will help the team to keep the workplace equal to the pictures.



As its name suggests, the purpose of this stage is to maintain the 5S program and generally consists of:

1. Making adherence to the 5S+1 program a habit throughout the workplace

2. Performing regular audits to insure sustaining level                 

3. Creating accountability to maintain the previous levels


This stage both reduces overhead cost and improves team morale. Performing regular audits will keep the workplace at peak 5S levels, especially when management is committed and responsible for performance.


Implementation of the sustain stage involves keeping the awareness of the 5S process fresh in the employees minds. Establish a schedule that allows employees to set time aside to perform 5S activities. In addition, KEEP SCORE! Have scoreboards set up in each work area with the status of that areas progress. Lastly, make the 5S expectations visual. Have a spreadsheet that clearly defines the schedule, such as what task needs to be completed by when.        



If youve been counting the stages, you may notice that weve already detailed the fifth step, so either we have a hard time counting, or this must be the +1 part of the equation. If the latter choice was your assumption, congratulations; you were correct. In this supplemental stage, managers should focus on the following:

1. Addressing possible issues that may result in injury

2. Providing a sufficient level of protection

3. Contributing to the daily welfare of the team members


Implementing the safety stage minimizes workplace hazards, improves morale, reduces injuries and illnesses and minimizes potential loss and damages. After all, if there are few or no injuries, it improves the companys bottom line and subsequently, employee productivity.


To implement this stage, you must first identify and address all possible safety issues immediately. All team members can bring any safety issues to their designated EHS representative or management. To report all safety hazards and near misses, keep a log of these issues, including a possible cause as well as the resolution to the issue. Next, a preventive maintenance inspection of the equipment and a proactive inspection of the workplace is required. Inspect all machines and equipment for possible failure and safety hazards. Develop a preventive maintenance program on all machines and equipment to avoid possible safety concerns. Use visual identification to make team members aware of the proper use of the equipment, as well as the safety gear that is required, such as protective eyewear, use of safety guides, safety harnesses, hard hats and steel toe shoes.


I hope this overview of the lean 5S+1 process will help you get a start on your own program or has given you some helpful advice on how to continue implementing the process to get through that plateau you have reached in a certain 5S+1 level. Remember, only after mastering the 5S+1 process can your facility then take on the next process in the lean journey.


Richard Kay is a Manager of Lean & Continuous Improvement for J&L Industrial Supply. Contact him at