Simple 5S Implementation Action Plan

How does it work? What are the steps and phases involved in a successful implementation?

Andy Pritchard  |   December 8, 2022  |    5 min read

TABLE of contents

    The 5S methodology is built on 5 easy to remember steps that have a natural flow to them as each step builds upon the success of the last. Once begun the 5S cycle should continue indefinitely with a sort of natural rhythm that continues to make incremental improvements to the efficiency and safety of your plant.

    As a result, although there are 5 steps that are defined by the S’s, the methodology is better understood as a 3 Phase process: (1) Plan, (2) Blitz and (3) Momentum.

    phase 1


    training-engagement man-with-app-in-plant-min

    Before embarking on your 5S journey its important to have the buy-in of all the key stakeholders in affected departments - production, safety, maintenance, and quality. Build a core cross-departmental team of 5S champions from that you can leverage to help brainstorm how best to proceed based on the specifics of your plant. Remember that this team will be responsible for not only organizing your 5S program, but also encouraging others to participate, so be sure to select managers that are credible and experienced leaders interested in guiding others through organizational change.

    Build a Business Case

    Consider building a business case to measure the potential positive impact to your facility. Where possible use quantified costs and goals to avoid ambiguity. The costs associated with 5S are relatively simple, primarily focused around training, execution, and ongoing auditing:

    • How many person hours will be required to train on the new methodology?
    • How long will it take to execute on each “S”?
    • How frequently will you audit? Who will be responsible for completing them?
    • How will you capture the data?
    • Paper forms or via a software solution like Weever?
    • If using paper forms, who will complete data entry and data analytics? If using software, what is your software budget?
    5S Training

    Once you have gained alignment, you can start implementing 5S by providing training to your staff to understand the system. This may be followed up with one-day sessions with each employee or team to ensure they are on the same page as far as implementation is concerned. The best results for training usually occur by quickly reviewing the 5Ss and then executing a 5S on an actual workstation. Use small groups and ask for participation.

    phase 2


    The “Blitz” is where you concentrate on the first 3 “S” Steps - Sort, Set in Order, and Shine. Schedule a 3 day 5S action plan with your teams after training is completed. You will probably want to stagger these days out to one per week over a 3 week period to allow for follow up items like ordering visual guide labels, new equipment and storage, or the right cleaning materials.

    Day 1: Sort

    Declutter to enable flow.

    It's very easy for unnecessary items to build up in workspaces and seriously inhibit the optimal manufacturing flow. This can lead to all sorts of issues including quality defects, safety hazards, unneccesary duplication of tasks, employee frustration and productivity concerns. As a result, day 1 focuses on identifying and eliminating any items that are known to be unnecessary, hazardous or duplicated.

    Storage and Junk Plan

    As preparation for Day 1 you may need to consider where extraneous items will be stored once removed, like an external storage area or someplace offsite. You may also want to consider your strategy for the disposing of unnecessary items via donation, recycling, disposal, or resale.

    Criteria for “Unnecessary”

    Another consideration for your Sort Day will be how to determine if an item is unnecessary. Each item's purpose, uniqueness, and importance to job function should be evaluated and documented. If it's unclear whether an item is critical, consider using a visual tagging system where ambiguous items can be marked as unknowns and placed in a designated area. If, during the week between your “Sort” and “Set in Order” days, the item isn’t used you can confidently remove it from the workspace to your storage location.

    Document Progress

    It is important after every stage during your blitz to take photos of the before and after state of your workspaces. Also take photos of your storage area and tagged items.

    Day 2: Set in Order

    Everything in its right place.

    Once all the clutter has been removed during Day 1 (Sort), your team can get started on finding the ideal spot for tools, materials, and equipment.

    The priority is efficiency - how can you organize work spaced to reduce wasted time and energy looking for equipment and other critical items.

    Consider the following when optimizing work areas:

    1. Evaluation - Complete the evaluation of the tagged items from Day 1. If the item is critical, find a new home for it during Set in Order. If the item hasn’t been used in the prior week, move it to your central storage location to reduce clutter.
    2. Appropriate Storage - New areas in the workplace may be required for specific items, such as hanging wall or modular storage.
    3. Visual Identification - Label all storage so that once a tool or item is removed it's easy to figure out how to put it back correctly.
    4. Log Book - You may also want to consider a log book to record the new storage location of items to avoid confusion and lost time in the following days. Just like your Day 1 (Sort), remember to document your Set in Order efforts thoroughly.
    Day 3: Shine

    Dirty work environments are inefficient work environments.

    The presence of dirt, dust, and leaked fluids all contribute to equipment failures and workplace hazards. Machine downtime and injuries are the ultimate result of a failure to keep workspaces clean, both of which can sap the productivity and profitability of your facility.

    A 5S shine is far more than a quick sweep and dust.

    The 5S Shine is closer to a full clean, inspect, and lubricate of your entire plant, similar to one you might find in a new autonomous maintenance program. Clean work environments have been proven to improve the operating efficiency of equipment, reduce workplace safety risks, and improve employee morale.

    Completing a single day of Shine is a good start, but should be a never ending process. By elevating cleanliness standards you are not just making a cleaner workplace, you are making a cultural change and moving towards the ideals of continuous improvement.

    As always, take photos to document the before and after to help reinforce the value of your ongoing 5S efforts. Review and resolve any outstanding action items from your Sort and Set in Order days, and take an inventory of what went well and areas of improvement for your next round of 5S Days. Some “Shine” activities you may want to consider are:

    • A thorough sweep or dust of all surfaces Removal of grease, rust and stains
    • Simple repairs to surfaces and storage areas
    • Replacement of equipment components experiencing wear-and-tear
    • Tightening of bolts and screws
    • Repainting floors, walls, and equipment

    phase 3



    The 5S Methodology is not a “one and done” type of process. Although your first few 5S were based around specific days, the real value comes from codifying your gains as the new normal. The Standardize step involves making 5S duties a part of your regular daily, weekly, and monthly duties. You and your team undoubtedly learned a lot during the planning and execution of your first 3 5S days. Use that as a starting point to build a first draft of new 5S duties and make sure to get feedback from your staff and managers to ensure your list is complete and impactful.

    Consider posting duty rosters in public areas as visual reminders that 5S is an ongoing process. You can download this word doc template here:

    The goal is to maintain the new standards of cleanliness and efficiency your Blitz has created. You may want to consider a new or updated system of visual communication to cement new best practices around your plant. Signage around safety, storage best practices, equipment location, floor traffic guides etc should all be standardized for colour, font, and text size.

    You can also use Weever to manage 5S auditing schedules:

    The final step in 5S is all about the all-important process of cultural change and maintaining the forward momentum of your new continuous improvement culture.

    A good place to start is Sustain is by completing a full progress evaluation of your efforts to date. Remember the Business Case you built prior to starting your 5S journey? Once you have implemented a new schedule of duties under Standardize it is an excellent time to review your efforts and their gains thus far.

    How have your efforts matched up to your productivity, safety, and quality estimates so far? If it's premature and the full impact of your new 5S program isn't fully realized yet, build a duty log for the 5S committee focused on getting the data you need to do a full evaluation.

    Broadcast “Wins”

    Once you have completed your evaluation, be sure to broadcast those results to both staff and management. After so much hard work people appreciate seeing the fruits of their efforts laid out in a clear and concise manner.

    Document with Photos

    Continue to document visually as well, taking periodic photographs to demonstrate the new 5S system as it evolves. Over time you may find that some of the gains of your efforts erode as your staff begin to focus on other improvement efforts. When necessary, revisit the first 4 steps to ensure the right results are maintained. 5S is a process that is constantly ongoing, not a single event in time.


    As part of Standardize, remember to train your new Staff on 5S methodologies and best practices. Tenured staff can be resistant to change and may not adopt new practices and procedures easily. Ensuring new employees are well-grounded in 5S best practices and participating in the new duties can result in enthusiastic champions that will gradually win over resistant employees.

    Start On-Going Auditing Process

    5S audits are a best practice to help ensure your new normal is adhered to over time. Learn more about 5S Auditing best practices here:

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