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The 5S's, the art of maintaining a healthy discipline

Blog originally written by Maria Albertina Fontana (BeLiveLean)

I started working for a multinational, which overtime, unlike those I had experienced before, had grown and incorporated business and personnel without a clear vision or defined objectives, and where every day the products came out like they would from my grandmother's kitchen ie. depending of the availability of the raw materials ... In addition, the knowledge, experiences or testing solutions to problems were passed on by word of mouth. So, basically, no standardization was the norm as I started walking around the factory and the offices. Clearly a huge challenge was ahead of me not to mention the unsaid question from all the other employees:

“What has she come to do here?”

That exact question, the taste of uncertainty and starting to perceive the pains from more than 300 employees (now peers, bosses and collaborators of mine) were the spark and the impulse to initiate change, based on Lean principles.

Well, I love challenges...!!!

It would be very long to write about LEAN in this single post, its principles, tools, applications and projects in which I have participated and the infinity of benefits and positive changes that can be achieved implementing it properly. So today I choose to talk about the 5S’s, which from my experience is the "starting point" for it. And also the arrival point.

¿What are the 5S’s and what are they for?

It consists of a total quality practice devised more than 40 years ago in Japan referring to the "Integral Maintenance" of the company, not only of machinery, equipment and infrastructure, but also of the maintenance of the work environment by everyone.

The 5S methodology facilitates the adoption of new forms of working that integrate self-discipline, order, cleanliness and security. However, despite the great benefits it brings and its low cost of implementation, there are still many organizations that do not apply them systematically due to the lack of involvement of staff in improvement efforts as well as the resistance in changing working habits.

5S’s, 5 letters

It's called a 5S strategy because it represents actions that are principles expressed in five Japanese words that start with the letter S. Each word has an important meaning for creating a safe and worthy workplace:

  1. ­ Sort (Seiri)

  2. ­ Set in Order (Seiton)

  3. ­ Shine (Seiso)

  4. ­ Standardize (Seiketsu)

  5. ­ Sustain (Shitsuke)

If you search the internet, there is plenty of literature about the 5S’s, but my intention here is to transmit and inspire you to incorporate this tool, making it part of your daily activities, whether in the workplace or at home.

What did I experience when starting that change with the 5Ss?

… The "NO!" ... Resistance to change… the “how we do it today works”. Then, I spent more time and attention listening to "the pains of the staff and the workplace" – And it was all in our hands !! In mine to lead change and accompany, in those of all employees to propose, execute, commit and sustain it!

This is when I started to adapt each step of the 5S's to the current environment ... after a few more implementations in that company and others, I understood that in order to implement a change and sustain it, I had to empathize with people, get involved and involve others. And above all ... become myself an agent of change, strongly believing that what I would do was of benefit for the organization, for people and especially for managers, who would eventually take the decision to implement the 5S’s or not.

The 5S's in a virtual office environment

Later on I worked in different sectors such as manufacturing, energy, oil, office, retail, services, health, government ... and today I work on projects of implementing the 5S’s to a virtual office environment, ... which was unthinkable not such a long time ago!


Basically, applying the 5S’s can range from an automobile assembly line to a person's desk.

Co-creating with Lean4U, our intention is to provide to anyone looking for improving their efficiency in an office environment with a guide, or roadmap to apply the 5S's.

This translates into an online and hands-on webinar, where participants get to understand the “how’s and the why’s of implementing the 5S’s, again, in a virtual office environment!

That said, tools are not enough when it comes to implementing changes, reason why our webinar includes people-oriented content in terms of change and visual management.

Thanks for the reading!

Maria Albertina Fontana

Lean4U & BeLiveLean: Acting together as a catalyst to help you accelerating your professional skills and abilities to face the future of work.


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