The Very Best of 5S

5S Benchmarking Report. A tape measure over the words "How do you measure up?"

5S Benchmarking Survey Report

This 5S Benchmarking Survey Report was prepared by Anthony Manos & Jennifer Molski

To receive a copy click here for the 5S Benchmarking Survey request form and you will be taken to the end of the report to complete the request.

All rights reserved. Originally Published 2011. No part of this post may be reproduced in any form or by means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior permission of the publisher. Publisher: Anthony Manos, 5S Supply 888-453-2657

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

This manuscript is an in-depth report on 5S Workplace Organization and Standardization. It sheds light on how organizations have successfully created a 5S system or the obstacles and solutions they used to overcome them.

Of those surveyed, the overall rank of the effectiveness of their 5S system is a 3 on a scale of 1-5 (1=low, 5=high). This is a clear indication that there is much room for improvement. There are many suggestions and comments presented here to help coach and guide organizations as they improve their 5S systems. The level of cooperation for 5S initiatives is initially low but increases with time with the most resistance coming from the supervisor level. Contrary to this is that upper management is generally supportive of a 5S system, but the top reasons for obstacles for implementation are “lack of management support” and “not enough time.” Another finding is that the amount of training spent on 5S training is relatively low (typically two hours or less). It seems that organizations have a hard time quantifying benefits from 5S (other than 5S Audits). Companies that did calculate the financial benefits proved that the return on investment far exceeds the cost of training, supplies and manpower. The lack of reward & recognition and the ability to ingrain 5S into the organization’s culture is another impediment that must be overcome. Over 50 “best practices” are shared and many suggestions on how to properly create a 5S system or improve your current one are included.


Want to know how your 5S system stacks up against others or would you like to see the Very Best of 5S? This report is for you.

Yokoten – a Japanese word that means “across everywhere or best practice sharing.”

Many organizations have difficulties sustaining their 5S system or have difficulties with their 5S efforts; this may help. This paper is about sharing best practices for 5S, learning, and continuous improvement – a type of yokoten. Learn from other organizations as they instill world-class 5S principles on their journey to organizational excellence.

5S System

System – a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole. Source:

Many organizations know that 5S is essential to creating a lean enterprise. Yet, many companies and individuals struggle with creating a world-class 5S system. We use the word “system” here because we feel strongly that 5S should not be considered a “program” or something that you do to your organization or a one-time process. 5S as a “system” enables operational excellence within a company — something that is part of the culture, a way of life.

About the Benchmarking Survey

This 5S Benchmarking Survey was created with you, the practitioner, in mind. The questions were carefully selected and vetted to provide a manageable survey that would provide the greatest impact. The 40 questions were spread over nine categories:

  1. General 5S Information (2)
  2. 5S Implementation (7)
  3. Management’s Support (2)
  4. 5S Training (8)
  5. 5S Audits (1)
  6. Reward & Recognition (2)
  7. Operation Excellence (10)
  8. Best Practices (1)
  9. Demographics (7)
“Companies who use benchmarking to measure business performance against their peers achieve 69% faster growth and 45% greater productivity than those who did not.” Glenn Marshall, Price Waterhouse Cooper

This report may not answer all questions regarding 5S, but it is an invaluable asset to those pursuing improvement.

General 5S Information

What’s in a name?

There are different terms that organizations use for workplace organization. The most common of these is “5S”, which are five words that begin with the letter “S”. The source for these words is Japanese and has been translated to English.

Japanese English Translation Other*
Seiri Sort Organization Sorting
Seiton Set-in-order Neatness Simplify
Seiso Shine Cleaning Sweep, Scrub
Seiketsu Standardize Standardization Systematize
Shitsuke Sustain Discipline Self-discipline

* These are samples of other terms used.

“Behind all workplace successes or failures are the 5S.” Hiroyuki Hirano

A common derivation on the original term is “6S” where the term “safety” was added to the original 5S’s. The thought behind this was companies that wanted to emphasize safety as part of their culture added another “S”. An alternative reason was that organizations that already had a safety program or committee could more easily combine these concepts together.

The initial focus of 5S included safety. Toyota, along with other companies, is widely credited with popularizing the 5S methodologies. Toyota believed that if a workplace (such as an automobile factory) was unsafe, the employees could not give their full attention to their task; thus creating additional waste. 5S was instilled to create a safe work environment and respect for people.

Other adaptations include “7S” that adds in “security” (as in protection of the facilities, intellectual property, etc.), “spirit” or “smile” (as in keeping a positive attitude, morale, etc.).

Out of those surveyed, the most common term used was “5S”72 percent.  
Effectiveness – producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.

Effectiveness of a 5S System

When asked about the effectiveness of their 5S system (based on a scale of 1 = low and 5 = world class) the results varied based on each “S”. The first three S’s (Sort, Set-in-Order, and Shine) generally scored the highest. The 4th and 5th “S” (Standardize, Sustain) scores were typically lower.

Effectiveness of each “S”

Rating 1 2 3 4 5
Sort 5% 17% 42% 30% 7%
Set-in-order 5% 21% 43% 26% 5%
Shine 5% 26% 38% 25% 5%
Standardize 14% 27% 37% 18% 3%
Sustain 23% 31% 28% 15% 3%

Many organizations say that they fail at the 5th “S” Sustain. Our experience shows that the reason they can’t reach an effective level of sustainment is because they have not correctly or sufficiently applied the 4th “S” Standardize. Our recommendation to any company that is unable to sustain their 5S system is to go back to Standardize and improve that portion and mind-set.

“5S is easy. Getting people to change is hard.” Anthony Manos

5S Implementation

Level of Cooperation

Like many new initiatives or systems there may be resistance at first. It’s how you handle the implementation and resistance that can have an immense impact on your initial success.

Less than ten percent rate their level of cooperation from employees as “high”.  

As expected, organizations had more resistance in the beginning trying to implement 5S. The resistance was reduced over time, although there is a very strong indication that companies are still not getting the full amount of cooperation needed or required to have an effective 5S system.

Sample comments of initial cooperation: “Initially it was hard to convince the team. We had to implement it in a small area with a committed supervisor. It became the showcase of the company.” “Employees are skeptical at the beginning and thought it was more work for them. We now have employees demanding help to organize 6S blitz in their area.”  

Obstacles to 5S Implementation

Three of the most common themes from the survey for the biggest obstacles to 5S implementation were: 1) lack of management support, 2) not enough time, and 3) resistance to change.

How to overcome obstacles

Hansei – a Japanese word that means “self-reflection” as in looking back and seeing how things can be improved.

The respondents to the survey were very generous with ideas of how to overcome impediments to 5S.  We grouped some of the most common ones together along with some commentary. At this point we would like to also mention that as good lean practitioners you need to use the Plan-Do-Check-Act model or hansei to look at what worked and what didn’t; understand lessons learned and figure out what to do next.

Training, coaching – As one respondent put it “training, training, training.” A lack of understanding can cause lack of participation. Also, consider small group or one-on-one coaching to help improve appreciation of 5S.

Show the benefits– Sometimes this has to be completed on an individual level. What would get this manager onboard? What would make this supervisor take 5S seriously? Find something that will resonate with the person to help move them forward. Consider using measures like quality, cost, delivery, morale, and safety to help communicate the advantages of 5S.

Audits and reward & recognition – Using audits is one way to measure 5S success. It also shows employees that 5S is not just a program-of-the-month. Getting management involved with the audits is another way to show support. Use reward & recognition as a method to get people involved.

Ownership, accountability, leader standard work, involvement, engagement, commitment, and make it part of the goals – There is no 5S without people. Get everyone involved; it is best not to have to force the change. Help people move through any personal resistance and focus on the right things. The tone of the culture starts with management (for more information, see the section:  Operational Excellence).

Communication and sharing best practices – Use good communication and sharing best practices as a way to show benefits of 5S, garner more engagement, and to recognize those areas sustaining and improving their 5S system.

Standardization – Lack of standardization can cause implementation and sustainment to fail. It can also cause confusion on the part of the workers. Create a standard so that it is obvious if it is being followed (or not).

5S Tour Sites If you are interested in being a tour site for 5S, please contact us at You don’t have to be perfect; you just need a willingness to share.  

Benchmarking, seeing what other organizations are doing, site tours, etc. – Sometimes it is easier to see what someone else is doing or as a way to prove to employees that 5S can be successful.

Schedule time, events, and audits – When there is a lack of time (and when isn’t there?), the best way to make things happen is to schedule them. How much time is wasted every day when people are searching for items (some surveys say 30 minutes or more)? How much time can be saved by applying the 5S principles?

Are we there yet?

Only about one-quarter (27%) of the organizations have setup 5S throughout their entire facility. Many of the respondents indicated that 5S has been implemented (or at least attempted) in their manufacturing or production areas and there is a clear sign that office areas and support functions lag behind.

When trying to implement a sustainable 5S system, we highly recommend that you focus on the entire facility (not just the production areas). Plan to get non-production departments involved early. In our experience, there can tend to be more resistance to 5S in office areas or support functions so getting these people engaged early in the process is critical.

Methods to Implement 5S

Ten percent of the respondents reported that they did not have a formal method to deploy 5S methodologies.  

The most common method by far (and the one we recommend) is to implement 5S throughout a facility by selecting target areas or zones to perform 5S. There are several advantages to this method including the ability to pick areas based on need, cost, and safety, etc. It also allows people to actually see results in a short period of time that helps build buy-in that can be leveraged towards sustaining your efforts.

The other, less common methods, mentioned in rank order included: performing one “S” at a time to the facility, no formal method, performing 5S to the entire facility all at once.

Methods of 5S Implementation Target Area: Perform 5S in one target area at a time (Kaizen Blitz, Rapid Improvement Event) Zoning: Divide up the facility into 5S “zones” and perform 5S in the  zones Each “S”: Perform one “S” at a time to the entire facility (example: over 1-2 days) No formal method: ad hoc Facility 5S Event: 3-5 days to 5S the entire facility    

5S Supplies

Having the right supplies on-hand and ready to go at all times is essential to sustaining a top-notch 5S system. The top most common supplies listed from the respondents included:

  1. Labels, label makers/machines, signs, sign makers/machines, sign holders, markers, etc.
  2. Tape, colored tape, floor tape, marking tape, floor markings
  3. Tags, red tags, 5S Red Tags
  4. Training materials
  5. Tool Shadows, shadow boards, boards
  6. Shine Cart and cleaning supplies
  7. 5S Cart with supplies
  8. Paint, painting supplies & accessories
  9. Camera (for before & after photos)
  10. Bins, holders, organizers
About half of the respondents reported a savings of $25,000 or more because of their 5S system.  

Cost Savings

When asked “Do you have an estimate on how much money your 5S system has saved your organization per year?” unfortunately the overwhelming response was “Don’t know.”

We understand that it isn’t always easy to calculate savings because of 5S, but this may also be a reason that the largest obstacle in implementation is management buy-in. If we can’t convert improvements to a dollar value, they may fall on deaf ears in management.

In the chart below, the reason that almost 27% of the respondents selected the category $0 to $10,000 was because they had no estimate of the savings. Close to 50% of the respondents reported a savings of $25,000 or more with 40% of the respondents reporting that they spent less than $1,000 a year on their 5S system. The Return on Investment (ROI) is there if companies decide to pursue it. Organizations need to invest more resources (time, people, and budgets) into their 5S system so they can achieve astonishing quantitative and qualitative results.

Management’s Support

Level of Support

There are some very interesting findings related to management support:

  • The higher the level of management, the higher level of initial support
  • Supervisors provide the most amount of initial resistance and have one of the largest positive changes in current support
  • Managers have the largest positive change from initial support to current support

Sample comments from respondents

[We} Didn’t kick into high gear until the owners of the company say “we’re going to do this” and actively audited the facility daily for a few weeks.

Unfortunately the plant manager doesn’t buy in on this. He leads the way, and by his example it shows “he doesn’t care” to the plant. Very disappointing.

CEO supports the 5S efforts.

Senior Managers and Middle Managers need to show more support and Supervisors need to get more involved and hold their subordinates accountable.

Every level of Management is involved at our facility. We all know we have to be lean in order to be successful in today’s business world.

CEO driven.

Senior Staff has committed time and resources for 5S/Lean. However the lower levels of management have failed to totally embrace this. It is just another brick on the pile.

Initial and Current Level of Cooperation based on Management Level

Rating scale: 1 = low, 5 = high

Gaining Management’s Support

The respondents were very generous with their suggestions on how to gain managements support. Here is a sampling of the ideas:

  • Get them to do audits
  • TRY to get them to come to lean presentation and/or opening closing sessions for Kaizen events
  • They have been told to participate as part of their work goals
  • Demonstrate the non-value time reduced by searching for items. The positive gains for staff and the patients [customers].
  • Show results and find savings
  • Steering Committee Meetings, strategic project directly tied to profit
  • Presentation of the program, benefits and savings, customer appeal and smoother operation of company and reduction of concerns.
  • It all needs to come down to money saved or made.
  • Showing results of other areas.
  • Encourage them to be actively engaged in the process & process audits; along with quick hit results via before and after conditions
  • Adding it to their performance and tying it to their bonus.
  • Conduct a 6S event so they can observe the results
  • Find out what works and then have to share and promote those improvements
  • Continuous improvement leads to better results and positive results always draw attention
  • Quick Kaizen style power points demonstrating the power of simple fixes and how it impacts KPI’s and employee morale.
  • I promote Go and See and before and after photos.  Once they see what we have accomplished they have a better understanding.  I have led some very successful kaizen teams in the year I have been here which is has built their trust in the program.
  • 5S Report outs at Monthly Management Meeting updates.  Report outs to the Board of Directors. Sharing results.
  • Pictured results are worth a thousand words…
  • Via teaching
  • Communicate our success with other internal locations.  Leadership can use this as bragging rights and motivation for other sites to step-up.
  • Linking the 5S initiatives to the productivity of the area and showing financial benefits.
  • Communication and tie in to vision—and tell a real story/experience
  • Cost benefit/savings/bonus.
  • Sell the positive gains.
  • Keep suggesting ideas and find someone in the upper levels who can carry your messages forward.
  • Data, we are a data driven company; audit results from our external auditor are reviewed by the entire plant.
  • In our organization it actually took restructuring of lower level managers to increase the support for 5S.  However that shows the executive level cared and wanted a change to take place.  Now we have full support and mandates that help us when we deal directly with the shop floor.
  • Take executive management on tour of the facility, have the staff tell them about what they have accomplished.
  • Quantify improvements.  We measured cycle time to complete a process in the area before and after 6S.  This helped gain their approval for the efforts required to 6S the shop as well as their support in the program itself.
  • The best way to obtain management’s support is to show them the benefit of a good 5S program and how it will affect the bottom line of the company – Money. Proper 5S will eliminate searching, choosing, walking, sitting, turning, laying down, and climbing. Also when customers come to visit they will be more impressed with a company utilizing proper 5S instead of items sitting all around.

To overcome or reduce initial resistance from management, we suggest working closely with the front-line supervisors. Determine what problems 5S would solve for them and help them get the results or solutions they are looking for related to 5S.

5S Training

Training Methods

Methods of training varied from “no formal training” to the most common responses of “lecture” and “learn-do.”

5S Training Methods

Methods used for 5S training (multiple responses) Response Ratio
Lecture/Class room 75.5%
Learn-do/5S Events (Kaizen Blitz, Rapid Improvement Event, etc.) 71.9%
In-house expert 56.4%
Videos/DVDs 44.2%
Self-taught 35.9%
Consultant 28.7%
Books 25.5%
Webinars 11.5%
Seminars 9.7%
Conferences 8.9%
Other 8.2%

Surprisingly, 54 percent of respondents said that employees received two hours or less of initial training and most (56 percent) say that employees only receive initial training or one-time training. About 21 percent responded that employees receive 5S training at least once per year.

Training frequency and percent of employees trained on 5S

How often are employees expected to attend 5S training? Response Ratio
Never 8.6%
Once (or initial training) 56.0%
Once a year 12.1%
More than once a year 9.6%
Other 8.3%
What percentages of your employees have received 5S training? Response Ratio
0 – 20% 21.1%
21 – 40% 9.3%
41 – 60% 12.1%
61 – 80% 20.0%
81 – 100% 33.9%

We feel that there is a strong correlation between the effectiveness of a 5S system and training. If we are not giving the employees the tools and the training, how can we expect to have an effective 5S system and achieve all the benefits it has to offer?

Training Materials

The most common method of preparing training materials was internal or in-house. Top training materials cited by respondents include:

  • In-house created training materials
  • Toast Kaizen DVD by GBMP
  • Internet searches, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, webinars, etc.
  • 5S for Operators & Productivity Press Shop Floor Series
  • 5S 5 Challenges DVD by GBMP
  • Consultant created materials
  • 5S Garage DVD by Old Iron Media
  • 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace by Hiroyuki Hirano
  • Gemba Academy DVDs

Top Books

Here is a listing of the most mentioned books used as training resources:

  • 5S for Operators & Productivity Press Shop Floor Series
  • 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace
  • 5S for Office
  • 5S Pocket Guide
  • Creating a Lean Culture
  • Visual Workplace, Visual Thinking
  • Lean Kaizen: A Simplified Approach to Process Improvement
  • Putting 5S to Work

Other books mentioned:

Andy & Me Office Kaizen
Fish Our Iceberg is Melting
Gemba Kaizen The Goal
Kaikaku The Improvement Engine
Kaizen Teian The Toyota Way
Leading Change The Visual Factory
Lean for Dummies Toyota Culture
Lean for Laboratories Toyota Kata
Lean Hospitals Toyota Talent
Lean Thinking Work That Makes Sense
Learning to See All I learned About Manufacturing I Learned in Joe’s Garage

Top DVDs:

  • Toast Kaizen DVD by GBMP
  • 5S 5 Challenges DVD by GBMP
  • 5S Garage DVD by Old Iron Media
  • Gemba Academy DVDs

Other DVDs mentioned

  • Five S Factory Makeover DVD
  • Visual Factory Makeover DVD
  • What Lean Means DVD
  • Winner’s Circle DVD
  • Xtreme Lean 5S DVD series

Training 5S Champions

Sample titles of people who directly support 5S training   5S Trainers/Auditors CI Coordinator / Facilitator / Manager Continuous Improvement Coach Kaizen / Lean / 5S Champion Lean Coordinator Lean Leader / Consultant Lean Six Sigma Green Belts/Green Belts / Black Belts Learning Coordinators Process Excellence Project Consultant Process Improvement Facilitator / Analyst / Manager Safety Managers Subject Matter Expert (SME)  

About half (45%) of the respondents recorded that they had 1-2 “5S Champions” to facilitate 5S training and events (see side bar for other titles used). It was also noted that these positions were part-time, meaning they had other jobs to perform. Full-time trainers accounted for 26 percent of the responses.

Champion Training Methods

Types of training for 5S Champions (multiple responses) Response Ratio
Lecture/Class room 69.6%
Learn-do/5S Events (Kaizen Blitz, Rapid Improvement Event, etc.) 64.0%
Books 51.1%
Self-taught 45.4%
Videos/DVDs 44.6%
Consultant 36.3%
In-house expert 34.0%
Seminars 32.5%
5S Train-the-trainer program 29.1%
Conferences 24.2%
Webinars 23.1%
Other 10.6%

Of the part-time 5S Champions, the most commonly reported percentage (mode) of time spent on 5S was 10 percent with an overall average of 13 percent. That equates to only about 4-5 hours per week of the champion’s time dedicated to 5S.

5S Audits

Close to 20 percent of the respondents said that they did not perform 5S audits. Of those that did perform 5S Audits, they mostly rated them “somewhat effective.”

Effectiveness of 5S Audits

Effectiveness of 5S Audits We do not perform 5S Audits Not effective A little effective Somewhat effective Effective Very effective
5S Audits 17% 4% 17% 29% 25% 8%
5S Auditors 18% 6% 17% 31% 23% 6%
Posting 5S Audit Results 19% 10% 14% 26% 19% 12%
Follow-up from Audits 17% 13% 18% 25% 18% 8%

One of the ways to sustain your 5S efforts, especially in the beginning, is to use 5S Audits as part of your roadmap for improvement. Our recommendation for better audits is to train your 5S Auditors not only to be consistent from person to person, but to be consistent from audit-to-audit.

Reward & Recognition

Reason given for not having a reward & recognition system:   Not needed The 5S area is reward itself “I never saw a reward & recognition program that works.”  

To our astonishment, there was a low level of reward & recognition utilized to create a 5S System. 57 percent of the respondents reported not having any reward & recognition system at all. Of those who did use reward & recognition, 57 percent rated it “Somewhat effective” or higher.

Top Reward & recognition ideas: Food, Certificates, Trophies, T-shirts, pins, Mention in newsletter, Recognition by CEO  

In our opinion it is a good idea to reward & recognize your employees when you are trying to implement a new system like 5S. We have to mention it does not have to be money based, in fact, we usually do not recommend that type of reward & recognition. As your system grows or matures, reward & recognition can be lessened as it becomes part of everyone’s everyday life – or reaching “Sustain” in 5S.

One of the other key elements here is that people focus too much on the ”reward” and not enough on the “recognition.” Everyone wants to be appreciated for doing a good job. There are many simple, low cost ways to recognize teams or individuals for their outstanding contributions or results.

Operational Excellence

Principles of Cultural Enablers

Respect for people and leading with humility

Respect for people and leading with humility are not only a tenant of the Toyota Production System, they are instrumental for creating a truly outstanding organization.

Respect for People and Leading with Humility

Rating Not at all A little Somewhat Mostly Absolutely
Do you feel that employees respect 5S? 5% 17% 42% 30% 7%
Does management listen and learn from employees regarding 5S? 5% 21% 43% 26% 5%
Are employees more empowered as a result of 5S? 5% 26% 38% 25% 5%
Do employees work more cooperatively as a result of 5S? 14% 27% 37% 18% 3%
Has 5S made a noticeable contribution to a safe and healthy environment? 23% 31% 28% 15% 3%

Processes for Cultural Enablers

Having a 5S Vision

When reviewing the comments for this section, it became apparent that most of the respondents mentioned that they did not have a specific 5S vision; although, there were several responses that mentioned goals or objectives. Another common thread was that 5S was tied into their overall (lean) strategy, but it wasn’t always clear how to trace it back directly.

5S Vision

Rating Yes No
Does your organization have a 5S Vision? 31% 69%
Are your 5S efforts linked or embedded into your strategic/business plan? 48% 52%

When setting up a 5S system, it is a good exercise to develop a “5S Vision” to help guide your teams to your “true north.”  5S may just be one of the strategies or systems you wish to create to meet your overall approach.

Communication, Waste, Flow and Quality

Rating Not at all A little Somewhat Mostly Absolutely
Are 5S expectations intentionally and effectively communicated throughout your organization? 8% 17% 28% 30% 16%
Have employees been trained to identify and eliminate waste? 5% 15% 27% 37% 16%
How effective are employees at identifying and eliminating waste? 4% 25% 40% 26% 5%
Has 5S led to better flow in the workplace? 5% 14% 26% 29% 25%
Has 5S improved the quality of your product or service? 9% 14% 32% 26% 18%

Sample Comments from Respondents:

“People are still struggling with the stop and fix mentality so we are finding this a slow process.  As more and more come on board results are showing a favorable impact on productivity and quality.”

“Have a very tenured staff which is not very receptive to change.  Planning will include standard work efforts in 5S.  Currently employees each work their own way.”

“We feel we are still in the infancy stage of 5S even though we have been at it for 2 years.  Because there was no program prior it has been a long climb to get even as far as we are but we are now seeing a steady increase in initiatives and by the end of this year will have a solid foundation from which we can grow even better.”

“5S is the foundation or base.  We are now moving forward with more advanced Lean thinking and practices. But very key to have a solid 5S base!”

“Training employees to problem solve is a continuous process.  5S has opened the employees’ eyes to understand waste.  Identification and eliminations of waste is rapidly emerging; employee-designed processes are being changed and improved to better suit the work.”

“[It] All depends upon maturity of team & where they are in their improvement journey.”

“Nobody wants to stop and fix. Metrics have created the challenge of driving pace, not stop and fix.”

Continuous Process Improvement Techniques and Practices

Gemba – a Japanese word that means “the place or where the action is.”

Improving your System – Techniques

The problem solving techniques most use for 5S was “Go See” followed by “5 Whys”. By using “Go See” that shows respect for the issue and allows the person to go to gemba to directly observe.

Improving your System – Time

When asked how much time employees get to spend improving their 5S system per month, the overwhelming response (by over 50 percent) was two hours or less. That equates to about one percent of the work-time for the month. For those who consider their 5S system less than optimal, you might want to consider creating additional time for improvements.

Here are two suggestions to carve out the time for 5S improvements:

  1. Hold a one-hour 5S improvement meeting each week for the next 13 weeks (one quarter). You can follow the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology:
    1. Plan- Determine topics that are relevant (use 5S audits or suggestions from employees), brainstorm ideas, select the top ideas
    1. Do – Implement these ideas during the meeting
    1. Check – Follow-up the next week to see how it is going
    1. Act – Adjust as necessary
  2. Hold a 1-2 day Kaizen Event for 5S improvements. We have found that following up your initial 5S implementation with focused sessions on the fourth “S” – Standardize allows organizations to continue on the path to true “Sustain.”

When it comes to understanding the importance of 5S it appears that employees do get it, but the overall data shows that organizations still struggle with setting up, sustaining and improving a “world class” 5S system.

Adding Value and Impact

Rating Not at all A little Somewhat Mostly Absolutely
Do employees feel that 5S adds value for internal customers? 5% 16% 34% 33% 12%
Do employees feel that 5S adds value for external customers? 8% 21% 32% 26% 12%
Do employees understand the impact of a good 5S system? 4% 21% 30% 33% 11%
Do employees understand the overall impact of a poor 5S system? 5% 21% 29% 28% 13%
Do employees feel that 5S is a flavor-of-the-month? 26% 30% 24% 14% 7%
Do employees understand that 5S is an important improvement system? 8% 19% 30% 34% 9%

Sample comments from respondents

“Gaining traction with acceptance of the 5S program, mostly because the employees are seeing the usefulness of having things at hand when they need them and the ability to rapidly changeover from task to task.”

“We’ve seen recent improvements in employees really understanding 5S.  We’ve started discussing it as part of the employee review process too…so the employees clearly see that we are serious about 5S.  We have also started giving employees information on 5S from the first day of employment.”

“Do employees understand the 5S is an important improvement system? No, because their managers can see it as a cleaning system, not an improvement system.”

“Employees understand that there is always a rush to clean up for Customer visits, but there is not a good understanding of the impact and benefit that a World Class 5S program would give us.”

“Varying levels of “buy-in”; however, culture is shifting to an all-inclusive buy-in.  Benefits are now being realized and Team Leads have experienced smoother workflow, and greater productivity.”

“There are cases when employees lose sight and we have to get them back on course. We do this by training and involvement of the team as a whole, which shows the importance to all of the team.”

“They know it is here to stay, but they are still waiting for someone to come in here and make it right.  They aren’t seeing that we all need to do it on our own.”

“Too many [people are] allowed to continually and openly talk down 5S.”

5S Results

Over 56 percent of the respondents said that they do not capture results specific to 5S (other than possibly 5S audits). Of those that did record 5S measures they typically included the common lean measures of quality, cost, and delivery/service (QCD).

Some additional measures included:

  • Safety, accidents, near misses, etc.
  • Number of 5S ideas, and number of 5S ideas implemented
  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
  • Percentage of facility with 5S deployed
  • Training hours on 5S

Out of the measures and metrics used to track (check) an organization’s 5S system, the most common was 5S Audit scores. Taking that into consideration along with the organizations that capture additional measures, here is how they rated in relation to the following questions:


Rating Not at all A little Somewhat Mostly Absolutely
Do your 5S measures tie into your overall strategy? 24% 18% 22% 19% 17%
Are your 5S measures simple and easy to capture? 17% 13% 24% 28% 17%
Do your 5S measures give timely feedback? 18% 14% 26% 24% 18%
Do your 5S measures drive improvements? 16% 17% 27% 25% 15%

Direct Impact

Close to 50% or more of the respondents said that 5S has “mostly” or “absolutely” had an impact on quality, cost, delivery, customer satisfaction and morale.  

Here are the results for 5S having a direct impact on: quality, cost, delivery/service, customer satisfaction, employee morale or empowerment.


Rating Not at all A little Somewhat Mostly Absolutely
Quality? 6% 16% 28% 26% 24%
Cost or productivity? 5% 13% 23% 32% 27%
Delivery or service? 7% 15% 23% 30% 24%
Customer satisfaction? 8% 15% 30% 25% 22%
Morale or empowerment? 6% 16% 22% 31% 25%

Other Impact due to 5S

Rating Not at all A little Somewhat Mostly Absolutely
Have safety incidents been reduced due to 5S? 14% 21% 30% 19% 16%
Has employee morale improved because of 5S? 9% 17% 33% 28% 12%
Do employees feel that there are benefits to performing 5S? 4% 18% 32% 33% 13%
Has teamwork improved because of 5S? 7% 16% 36% 28% 12%
Has communication improved because of 5S? 11% 14% 37% 26% 12%
Has discipline improved because of 5S? 12% 17% 37% 20% 14%
Has 5S helped with implementing other aspects of Lean? 9% 12% 29% 24% 26%

5S Best Practices

Here is a sampling of 53 “Best Practices” for 5S shared by the participants of the survey. We looked for practices that: helps implementation, helps engage people, makes it easy to have the right materials on-hand, helps you train better or more effectively, helps get management involved, makes it easy to share success stories, etc.

Similar items have been arranged together for your convenience. We would like to thank all of those who gave freely of their ideas and encourage others to submit best practices to


  • Including a maintenance person on the 5S event team.  Having a map and before pictures to help work though the vision for the after area.
  • Kaizen teams, Plant 5S audit boards.
  • Selection of the right group of team members before the training starts is highly important.
  • The less motivated members need to be limited to only one per group.
  • Involve the employees working in the area.  Do NOT go in and upend someone’s work space without having them help design the solution.
  • We have a 5S Core Implementation Team that periodically reviews the entire plant.  There is a lot of learning and sharing of ideas between departments during these events.
  • Have plant leaders lead a zone – at least for the first 12 months.  This gets them engaged and ensures they can support 6S long-term.
  • Assign zone coordinators; have them meet weekly, then bi-weekly, then monthly to share successes, learning’s, and challenges.
  • Hold a close-out presentation by the 5S team. Team presents to management. Great for increasing visibility of effort, engaging management, providing positive encouragement to team members.
  • Our 5S teams consist of managers as well as hourly operators who identify the primary area for a 5S activity. From that team a “core” team of specialists or users are selected to map the issues and then create a “perfect world” scenario which becomes the ultimate objective.
  • I like to have the team completely empty the cell or area being 5S’d and separate all the items onto 2 carts or tables.  1 is for items needed and 1 is for un-needed items.  It is a very good visual display of the un-necessary items that collect in an area over time.
  • Using a team (point kaizen) to 5S a given area.  Once associates see what is expected they are more willing to pitch in and organize other areas on their own.


  • Utilizing a numbers game during training to help re-enforce the concept
  • Garage 5S video, really brought it home to staff, because they can see how it would work in their personal lives.
  • I typically use real life situations or areas to get the point across a broad audience, for example: I use a grocery store layout to compel thoughts on how well it works, what it would be like if there were no order, cleaning, and routines involved.  It really makes the “light go on” when I say that…
  • After initial training having the employees try 5S at their home in a junk drawer or cabinet
  • I implemented a ‘hands on’ exercise in the first 15 minutes of every training.  I have three ‘bathroom drawers’ with items and I ask the team to ‘help me clean out the drawers’.  I have a ‘red tag bin’ and ‘trash bin’ and sorters.  Only a few have realized the first go around all three drawers are in the same bathroom (even though noted at beginning). Once they sort and combine all three drawers, I apply the 5S tactics to exactly what they just did.  Then the last 15 minutes of the training is dedicated to ‘What they want to achieve or how will they apply 5S in their area’ and then the team decides who will do what.  Very effective…
  • All of our employees have been through a one week training program that introduces them to Lean.
  • We distribute lanyard tags to each new hire as we provide the training.  Everyone seems to keep these and they refer to them as they learn the building.
  • Be prepared for every training session.  Stay on time and on task.  Get dirty yourself.  Provide lunch.  Have fun.  Make sure that the people that work in those areas provide the greatest input for the layout.
  • We also have week-long events (sometimes 3 days) where participants have additional training and the training is put to use on the selected area.
  • No-one can say that being tidy and safe is a bad thing.
  • Tool shadow holders – laser cut 14ga sheet metal with the profile of the tool and tabs to hold the tool that bend out.  Shadow indicates the tool to be kept there and the bent tabs hold it in place.
  • We are governed by a 5S Steering committee at the corporate level with representatives from numerous sites.
    • had a 5S implementation pizza party
    • demonstrate and recognized dollar savings
    • identified successful work practices that were an outcome of a 5S program
  • If it’s “their idea”, it gets implemented FAR better than if it’s someone else’s “dumb stuff I gotta do”.

Reward & Recognition

  • This may sound funny, but having breakfast and lunch catered as part of the event is something that really motivates our employees.
  • Personal recognition for excellence in 5S implementation or in the creation of a good best practice.
  • In my experience a “Best Practice” is competition of departments.  We had a 5S trophy which was passed to the department that scored the highest on the monthly audits. This gained everyone’s participation.
  • We took pictures of “before” and “after” in many areas. This was most effective in the front office. We posted the pictures of the before shots on the outer walls of the cubicles, so you know at a glance if the owner of the area is following the 5s protocol.
  • Show by example
  • Maintain a 5S discipline in all of the office areas. This helps to show from the top down that 5S is important to all levels in the company.
  • We have teams present their results in a formal report-out (~10 minutes) at a monthly management meeting.  Two team members show before and after photos along with metrics and explain how 5S has impacted their area.
  • To implement 6S we have our dedicated office resource spend several days with a specific area.  Starting with training and then a 3 – 5 day-long event to complete each S.  This has greatly improved the employees willingness to have their area 6S’d and for them to sustain the initial effort.
  • Link the 5S activity with process mapping. It helps to define the process that you are trying to support with 5S and identify what the inputs to each process step are to identify what is really needed in the area.
  • Before and after photos posted on teams personal video displays and on the intranet helps spread the word and installs some pride within the team.
  • All machine centers have “standards” or photos showing how the area should look at all times.
  • We have a shared network folder for best-practice sharing of 5S and moonshine examples.
  • Implement steps and share with others what was done and its effect. Report status in Management Review with all managers present.
  • Move slowly at first, the “rush” should come after an effective plan is in place.
  • Visual Management tools so you can manage by walking around
  • Anything that helps to self-direct your employees to do the right thing
  • Every 2 weeks I visit every 5S-zone to see how the zone looks like and to talk with the 5S-coordinator.
  • Sharing positive customer feedback relating to Lean or 5S observations
  • Provide information that was easy to understand post information to remind them of the importance of 5S.


  • We created a 5S cart with the most widely used supplies including: camera, video camera, label maker, standards, kanban pouches, sign pouches, tags, floor tape, etc.
  • 5S cart stocked with supplies for common 5S activities.  Saves cost ordering in volume for the whole company and allows for “unplanned” 5S activity when there is time since materials do not have to be ordered.


  • For 2 years we required regular audits of each area. And the management team would audit areas on a bi-annual basis. This really forced action & follow-through & brought visibility to the program and our expectations.
  • Involve everyone, groups are assigned to audit another area for 5S compliance. Share results immediately, encourage feedback.
  • A manager is assigned each day to conduct 6S audits.  The findings are discussed with personnel in the area.  A score is reported in the daily operations meeting.
  • Incorporating a pre-event 5S audit into a kaizen blitz process.  This drives action items during the week to improve the score.
  • Act like it’s your home. Rewards

Please feel free to share additional 5S best practices with us at

In Closing

We hope this report has been helpful and that there are things in it that will assistance you in improving your 5S system. Work on creating your own best 5S system. Learn from others, show respect and improve – if you can do any of these, you will make a difference.

Thank you,

Tony & Jennifer


We want to know what you think. If you have any ideas, suggestions or other 5S best practices that you would like to share, please let us know. Provide feedback on this whitepaper to


We would like to gratefully acknowledge our 5S Benchmarking Survey Advisory Council for their insights and efforts in creating this survey and report. Without their help, this endeavor would not have been such as success.

  • Gwendolyn Galsworth, Visual Management Institute
  • Bob Hatfield, S&C Electric
  • Carla Konzel, Saint Vincent Health System
  • Tim McMahon, The Lean Journey Blog
  • Bonnie Rashleigh, ProMedica
  • Beth Reid, Northrop-Grumman
  • Mark Sattler, ProMedica
  • David Visco, The 5S Store

For helping us promote the 5S Benchmarking Survey, we would like to give a special thanks to:

  • Rhonda Kovera, Visual Workplace, LLC
  • Mark Graban, Lean Blog
  • Karen Martin, Karen Martin and Associates
  • Lela Gilkes, GBMP

To receive a copy of this report, please fill out the request form

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