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What Are the 5 S of Lean? An Overview and How to Apply Them

Lean philosophy is a business approach that seeks to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. It focuses on continuously improving the processes and products of an organization by eliminating any activities or materials that do not add value for the customer. At its core, lean philosophy advocates for five critical principles known as the 5S ‘s: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. By adhering to these principles, organizations can move closer to their goal of providing maximum value with minimal resources. In this blog, we will dive into exploring: what are the 5 s of lean.

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5S in Lean: Sort

Sort is a step of the 5 Ss of lean philosophy. It means sorting through all the items in a workplace and eliminating unnecessary things. This helps keep a neat, organized workspace so everyone can do their jobs better. Sorting can also help identify areas of the workplace that need improvement or reorganization. 

Sort helps reduce waste and unnecessary movement by ensuring that only needed items are in the work area. By eliminating items that aren’t required, workers will have more time to focus on productive work. On the shop floor, this might include looking at how much inventory should be in the work area vs. in the warehouse.

Sort results in improved efficiency overall and less stress for everyone involved. It is essential in any lean transformation and should not be overlooked. It can provide a foundation for increased productivity and quality throughout your organization.

5 S in Lean: Set In Order

Set in Order is one of the 5 Ss of lean philosophy. It means organizing and arranging everything in the work area so that it is easy to find and use. 

This includes:  

  • putting tools and materials in the right place 
  • labeling shelves and drawers 
  • keeping everything clean 
  • removing anything you don’t need or use 


Set in Order aims to create a standardized environment that minimizes waste, reduces stress, and increases productivity. Creating an organized workspace allows workers to find what they need quickly and easily without searching through piles of stuff. It can also reduce the risk of accidents by minimizing clutter and improving visibility.

5 S in Lean: Shine

Shine means to keep the workspace clean and organized. This helps people work more efficiently. It prevents accidents or mistakes because everything has its place. 

Shine encourages everyone to care for their space by cleaning, organizing, and keeping all tools in good condition. It also helps create a sense of pride in the workspace and encourages people to own their space. 

With clear boundaries and organization, it is easier for everyone to stay on top of their tasks and ensure that projects are completed on time. Shine can foster an atmosphere of teamwork in the workplace since everyone is working towards the same goal.

Shine also prevents waste from occurring in the workplace because all tools are kept where they should be, and supplies are used efficiently. There is no wasted time looking for misplaced items or reordering materials because everything has its designated place. 

5 S in Lean: Standardize

Standardize is an essential step in the 5 Ss of lean philosophy. It means having all steps and processes done the same way every time. This helps to keep processes organized, efficient, and consistent. Standardizing ensures everyone is on the same page regarding how tasks should be completed.

Standardize helps to reduce errors, minimize waste, and maximize quality. It also makes it easier for employees to learn new tasks and processes quickly since they do not have to relearn something from scratch each time. 

This step allows companies to replicate success across multiple locations or departments using the same process or steps every time. Implementing standardization in the workplace can help organizations achieve their goals more efficiently and consistently.

Standardizing is integral to creating a culture of continuous improvement within an organization. Managers can quickly identify areas needing improvement or optimization by introducing consistent standards and procedures throughout the company. Documentation is a key way to put standardization into practice, whether that is through an SOP document or even an online library of “how to” videos, diagrams, photos, and other resources.

5 S in Lean: Sustain

Sustain means that you should keep up with what you have done to ensure it works well. This could mean ensuring all the supplies are organized and kept in the right place or setting up a system so people remember how to do tasks like cleaning or stocking shelves. Visibility and accountability are keys to sustainability in process improvements.

After learning about “What Are the 5 S of Lean”, if you are looking for information about leader standard work, then check out our blog on Understanding Leader Standard Work.

Incorporating the 5 Ss of Lean Philosophy in the Workplace

The 5 Ss of lean philosophy—Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain—are beneficial to incorporate in the workplace to streamline processes and eliminate wasted resources. In addition to reducing waste and cost, the 5 Ss of the Lean philosophy also promote safety in the workplace. By setting items in order, workers can ensure a safe environment free from clutter or debris, which could lead to accidents or injuries. By shining a workplace regularly and ensuring that it is clean and well-maintained, workers can prevent slips, trips, or falls due to hazardous surfaces.

Now that you’ve learned the answer to “What Are the 5 S of Lean”, you can apply these principles to promote consistency in operations across departments within an organization. By standardizing processes throughout the company, employees know the expectations for quality control measures and meeting production deadlines. This ensures that all employees are on the same page regarding their roles and how their work effectively meets organizational goals.

Chalmers St. Consulting is here to help you make productivity gains. Our team of experienced consultants will provide insight and guidance the moment you reach out – contact us today to start unlocking your potential.