English Articles, Productividad

The application of 5S technique in achieving a Lean & Sustainable warehouse environment

5 S Tecnique

5S is a highly systematic method (or set of techniques) of organizing and optimizing any warehouse, office, institution (i.e. university, hospital, library etc) or a factory’s housekeeping. It is a proven method in carrying out proper maintenance and upkeep of machines, equipment and facilities. It is often promoted as being far more than simply housekeeping, with elements described such as:

organizing, cleaning, developing and sustaining a productive, neat & well maintained work environment.


It originated, as most of all other elements of Lean Manufacturing concept (Kaizen, JIT/JIC, Cost reduction principle, 7 Wastes, Visual workplace etc) in Japan within Toyota and this technique utilizes 5 keywords of activities, each one starting with the English letter S.

These are:
Sort – Seiri
Stabilise or Set in Order – Seiton
Shine – Seiso
Standardise – Seiketsu
Sustain – Shitsuke

A cornerstone of 5S is that, untidy and cluttered work areas are NOT productive.



It means to sort out the necessary from the unnecessary items through everything in each work area. Sorting is the first step in making a work area tidy. It makes it easier to find the things you need & frees up additional space. As a result of the sorting process you will eliminate – dispose or repair broken equipment or tools.


Separate what is needed and what isn’t needed.

a. Keep the needed ones
b. Keep those which might be needed in the near future
c. Dispose the non-needed ones.

ACTION 1: Decide of the process of what is needed and what is not.
ACTION 2: Apply the process daily, weekly or monthly.
ACTION 3: Audit your process regularly and adjust it accordingly.

Examples of Step 1 – SORT:

  • Stocks

SKUs which could not be accessible for immediate sales, such as damaged, expired, aged or returned stock. Need to sort them out and decide whether they should be kept (if there is still any value in them?) or be written off and subsequently be disposed of.

  • Warehouse Equipment

Various tools and Material Handling Equipment (MHE) such as Hand Pallet Trucks, wooden or plastic Pallets, Fork Lifts, Racks, Shrink-wrappers etc which have not been in operation/use for some time owing to their substandard condition.

  • Printed matter and Computer peripherals

Old documents beyond their retention time frame, old or duplicate invoices, piles of old delivery orders etc. Old or faulty printers and their consumables or outdated & faulty PCs.

  • Redundant or congestion items

Old vehicles or sea freight containers kept unused for long periods of time, bins with unwanted company’s material or rubbish, or even long branches from nearby trees, which can extend and reach the warehouse roof or its walls. The latter could potentially be a possible hazard to the optimum warehouse operation as such long branches could facilitate easy access to various pests in their effort to enter into the warehouse.
The practice of creating a separate location within the warehouse for storing such above-described items (we call it “Red Tag” area or location) could not be overemphasised at this point.


It means to organize, identify & arrange everything in each work area.

All storage areas and even small enclosures within the storage should be properly identified and labelled.
Outline areas on the floor to identify work areas, movement lanes, walk paths, storage areas, finished product areas.
Arrange your stock in each area according to their regularity of movement.

 Stock A category – Very fast moving
 Stock B category – Fast moving
 Stock C category – Slow moving
 Stock D category – Very slow moving

Place your Stock A & B categories very close to your dispatch or stock packing area to minimise unnecessary movements of staff and equipment. A place for everything & everything in its place.

Seiton - 5S


ACTION 1: Identify & place in an orderly fashion all items needed in your work environment.
ACTION 2: Allocate a fixed place for each item, equipment or individual tool.
ACTION 3: Mark their specific locations for easy identification.
ACTION 4: Return items to their designated locations after each use.


It means to regularly clean & maintain everything in each work area. Regular, usually daily – but it could also be weekly or monthly – cleaning is needed or everything will return to the way it was. Warehouse staff could implement a routine task of 5 minutes before and after work to go through a list of basic activities to cover stocks, working space and numerous tools and equipment. This could also act as an inspection exercise.
While cleaning it is easy to inspect tools, equipment and supplies you work with (i.e. hand trucks, pallets, forklifts, racks, dock levellers etc) to record and report of any abnormalities or possible malfunctions.

Seiso - 5S

ACTION 1: Get rid of all dirt and unwanted items.
ACTION 2: Correct or adjust stuff during cleaning process.
ACTION 3: Identify the root of any problem area & take immediate & drastic action.
ACTION 4: Organize a cleaning schedule.


It means to simplify and standardize everything in each work area. Develop a work structure that will support the new practices and convert them into long term habits.Avoid old work habits and discourage employees from going back to them. An easy way to make people aware of the new standards is to use labels, signs, posters and banners, showing various activities which are being taken place.
It is also advisable to create some posters featuring pictures of the “Before” and “After” work environment, showing evident improvements and various actions taken to secure such improvements.

Sheiketsu - 5S

Sheiketsu - 5S

ACTION 1: Sustain the application of the above 3 Ss.
ACTION 2: Ensure total awareness of respective staff responsibilities.
ACTION 3: Keep all activities well organized, even at personal level (office, desk etc).


It means to frequently continue with training and maintaining the standards already achieved so far in each work area. Don’t expect that by cleaning, getting things organised & labelled or by asking people to clean every day will have everything continue to happen without any follow up. Continue on a regular basis to educate your people about maintaining standards, otherwise you will achieve rather limited success.
It would also be advisable that the management could organise some sort of 5S Competition applicable for each departmental area-warehouse or individual storage area. Such activity will encourage team leaders and their respective staff to excel in their efforts to achieve a well maintain working environment and possibly to look forward to an extra financial reward (bonus) or for a company’s internal recognition (i.e. best warehouse team or best 5S warehouse employee of the month etc).




It is well understood that the 5S Technique in the Lean Warehousing alone might not be enough to sort out all problems or difficulties associated with the warehouse environment.
However, if 5S & Lean Warehousing is collectively join forces with other traditional management skills and ways, or new innovative techniques and applications, then the entire warehouse operation could be transformed into a very well organised, neat and optimally functioned operation, which will for sure deliver a positive contribution to the optimisation of any company’s performance.


Petros Zenieris
Mr. Zenieris’s professional career covers a period of over 24 years accumulated management experience from Europe, (Greece & the U.K.), West Africa (Ghana & Nigeria) & S. E. Asia (China, Singapore & Malaysia) during which he served in various marketing & management capacities on a number of MNCs. Mr. Zenieris received his tertiary education in his native country Greece and in the U.K. He has also attended numerous related seminars & business courses conducted in Greece, in Nigeria (Lagos Business School) as well as in Singapore, which enabled him to advance his professional horizon. Upon his return and settlement in Singapore (along with his family) in December 2009, Mr. Zenieris became a member of the following institutions: a. Singapore Institute of Management (SIM). b. Africa Business Group (AfBG), which operates under the auspices of Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and provides services to its members for their business development in the Sub-Saharan African Region. c. Singapore Management University (SMU) – IIE Entrepreneurs’ Corner; monthly business meetings for assisting and mentoring young entrepreneurs in their endeavour of setting up their own business activities. d. Institute for Adult Learning (IAL).

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