Nine Keys to 5S Success

5S can lead to many wins in your organization if the steps are properly implemented. However, success isn’t always guaranteed in 5S projects. In many companies, 5S itself can become a wasteful exercise.

Getting the best out of 5S requires a deep understanding of the principles it promotes, but this is just the start. When certain elements are in place, your company is better positioned to become a 5S success story.

In this article, we’ll explore Nine Keys that can improve the implementation of 5S in your company. With these keys in place, it will be much easier for your 5S project to reap the rewards it was intended to.

What is the Importance of 5S in Manufacturing?

Successful implementation of 5S can be very good for a company’s bottom line. It can improve productivity across the plant and cut down on many forms of waste. However, the benefits of 5S go beyond this, especially in manufacturing. Some of the reasons why 5S is implemented are:

  • Increased safety: Disorganized workspaces can be prone to many accidents. Minor accidents can be disruptive to production and major accidents can be deadly. Removal of clutter and proper maintenance of equipment can prevent many accidents.
  • Creating Space: Floor space can be expensive and this expense can be wasted when equipment and materials are not in their correct space. Some basic organization can free up room for other useful activities inside your plant.
  • Faster identification of problems: Process waste and other forms of clutter can make it harder to identify problems. 5S ensures these wastes are removed and it also advocates for clean and close inspection of items regularly.
  • Improved Quality: When tools and equipment are in good shape, the products they are used on will feature fewer defects.
  • Creates a Clean Environment: Cleaning is an essential component of 5S and a clean environment will be more pleasant for employees and visitors. It can also help the company to meet health and safety requirements.

Nine Keys to 5S Success in Manufacturing

The following steps will give your 5S program a greater chance of succeeding within your company.

Secure the Full Commitment of Top Management

Many top managers will agree to any initiative that promises to improve productivity. However, 5S isn’t just any initiative. Top management will be required to provide certain resources needed for training and actual 5S activities.

Additionally, top managers may also be required to participate in 5S. Before initiating 5S, ensure the company isn’t just saying yes to the next shiny thing. They should know the scope of what they are committing to and what it will take for it to yield the stated results.

Get All Employees to Buy In

Apart from top management, it’s just as important for the employees who’ll undertake the bulk of 5S activities to get on board. It is the responsibility of the team spearheading 5S efforts to impress upon them the importance and benefits of the program.

It is not unusual for such initiatives to fail due to employee resistance. Lack of proper information about the process benefits will lead to resistance.


Some aspects of 5S will be intuitive but others won’t be. Employees will need to be trained on how to ensure they follow certain procedures, how to use tools like checklists, how to handle 5S activities that are relevant to their workspaces, etc.

Time and resources needed to train employees should be provided, and training should also be relevant to each worker’s responsibilities.

Create an Implementation Plan

The short-term execution of 5S may be straightforward, but 5S needs to be sustained until it becomes part of the daily routine. This will require some planning with timelines set for key activities such as training and auditing.

Get Input and Feedback

The 5S implementation plan should be created with input from all levels of the company. Getting input may slow the implementation of the program but it ensures that the perspectives of others are taken into account. This will make everyone feel heard and less likely to resist changes.

Input and feedback will also result in a better plan or ideas on how to improve the plan once implementation has started.

Integrate Objectives and Activities With Existing Systems

5S initiatives have a higher chance of success if they are aligned with the company’s current goals. This also makes it easier to secure the commitment of top management. If other programs are running within the company, 5S should be implemented to complement them.

Without proper integration, implementing 5S can lead to duplication of efforts and conflicts between different departments.

Use 5S for the Right Purpose

5S can be an effective tool if used to address the right problems. If 5S is used to address an incompatible problem, it will inevitably fail. Before making any decision on 5S, conduct a thorough assessment of the problem and determine, and possibly quantify what benefits will come from implementing 5S.

Create and Implement an Audit Plan

5S efforts require regular audits to ensure there is no regression. Regressing to the previous way of doing things is easy because it’s the established culture. Auditing 5S efforts regularly will ensure that the practices are sustained until they become the culture.


5S procedures should not be static. Practices that are found to be ineffective or unnecessary after a certain period can be removed or replaced. Feedback from individuals in different stations can help you to identify which practices are helpful or which ones could be better.

How Do You Measure 5S Success?

The best way to determine if 5S is a success is to have a quantifiable impact. Measuring 5S success can be tricky but here are a few ways you can approach it such as:

  • Creating Measurable Objectives: It’s not enough to state that you’d like to improve productivity. Your 5S objectives should be something more specific such as increasing the number of parts worked on at a station in a day.
  • Identifying important metrics: When you have your measurable objectives, identify the metrics that best represent whether or not an objective is being met.
  • Give it time: Measuring success two days into a program won’t be helpful. Most 5S activities will take longer for their full potential to be seen and they may even have a negative effect in the early days.
  • Choosing the right measures of success: Your measures of 5S success should align with the company’s overall goals. This means 5S success must contribute to the company meeting some of its goals.

Barriers to 5S Success

Achieving 5S success can be much harder with certain barriers in place. Some of the barriers you should look out for include:

  • Poor communication: When the goals and benefits are not properly communicated to stakeholders, it will be harder to get them fully on board. Additionally, communication strategies that work with one group may not work with another.
  • Lack of time: As helpful as 5S can be, the timing also needs to be right. 5S activities require time and many workers won’t want an extra list of things to do. Therefore, you’ll have to demonstrate how 5S can actually save them time.
  • Lack of consistency: 5S procedures should be implemented consistently, but rules and expectations also need to be consistent. Inconsistency can lead to duplicated efforts, frustration, and regression.
  • Unrealistic strategies: 5S implementation can be flexible and it’s important to choose a strategy that suits your specific company, department, or even workspace. A strategy that isn’t realistic in your company will fail.
  • Not adapting: Many of the initial procedures will need to be improved upon or even replaced. Rigidly sticking to an approach that isn’t yielding the desired results or is facing a lot of resistance will be counterproductive.


5S programs have many potential benefits but these benefits will only be realized if the program is a success. Many 5S initiatives fail, but there are approaches you can take that significantly improve your chances of avoiding this fate.

It’s also important to know how to measure success in 5S. Measuring makes it easy to quantify the positive impact that 5S has had on an organization. The success of 5S should not be independent and must contribute positively to the goals and success of the wider company.

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