A messy workspace is prone to safety risks, promotes distraction, and has the potential to foster a negative state of mind which may result in stress. When employees are already experiencing some stress about on-going manufacturing, engineering, construction, or mining project, having an organized space will help keep them focused and efficient.

5S is a system for organizing workspaces so that employees can work efficiently, effectively, and safely. This system focuses on putting everything where it belongs and keeping the workplace clean. This makes it easier for people to do their jobs without wasting time or risking injury.
Each S in the “5s” represents one part of a five-step process that can improve the overall function of a business as seen below;

  • SORT: The first step of 5S, Sort, involves going through all the tools, furniture, materials, equipment, etc. in a work area to determine what needs to be present and what can be removed.
  • SET IN ORDER: Once the extra clutter is gone, it’s easier to see what’s what. At this point, employees and their managers or supervisors can come up with their own strategies for sorting through the remaining items.
  • SHINE: The Shine stage of 5S system focuses on cleaning up the work area, which means sweeping, mopping, dusting, wiping down surfaces, putting tools and materials away.
  • STANDARDIZE: Standardize step is aimed at systematizing everything that just happened from the three steps above and turns one-time efforts into habits. Standardize assigns regular tasks, creates schedules, and posts instructions so these activities become routines.
  • SUSTAIN: Sustain refers to the process of keeping 5S running smoothly, but also of keeping everyone in the organization involved. Managers need to participate, as do employees out on the manufacturing floor, in the warehouse, or in the office. Sustain is about making 5S a long-term program, not just an event or short-term project.

The 5S system is believed to have originated from Japan as part of the Toyota Production System (TPS), the manufacturing method begun by leaders at the Toyota Motor Company in the early and mid-20th century. This system, often referred to as Lean manufacturing in the West, aims to increase the value of products or services for customers. This is often accomplished by finding and eliminating waste from production processes.



Q-Sourcing Servtec IPMS Solutions team working with the 5s systems in place in Rwanda

Some organizations consider safety to be an outcome of performing the other five S’s appropriately. In fact, most factory managers believe that if the workspace is properly organized and cleaned and uses helpful visual safety cues, a separate safety step is unnecessary. However, from our experience dealing with large projects and diverse skill levels of employees, we know that there’s no such thing as being safe enough without reinforcing the culture and mindset of safety. The uncommon 6th step, the Safety step involves focusing on what can be done to eliminate risks in work processes by arranging things in certain ways.


You can get started immediately with practical steps such as deciding which departments and individuals will be involved, what training is needed, and what tools to use to facilitate the process. Determining these concrete things will help begin the process of 5S implementation.

The 5s system is well established in the Q-Sourcing Servtec workplace process at all our worksites in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Sudan as part of our safety culture. Regular refresher training of the employees and management is also carried out to make sure that everyone is on board.

Need help making your workspace cleaner, safer, and more productive? Let’s have a chat, CLICK HERE to get started.