The 5S Methodology and Kaizen: how to work more productively and safely

Becoming ever better, more efficient and more successful - that's what everyone wants for themselves and their business.

The Japanese call this process Kaizen, which means “change for the better”. Behind this lies a philosophy of life and work that was popularised in the 1980s by the author Masaaki Imai. Kaizen can best be implemented using the 5S methodology - a structured system based on five key pillars.

Find out why a perfectly equipped work place is so important for Kaizen, and how you can become more efficient and continuously improve using the 5S system.



Work better with perfect work place design

Keeping desks tidy and well organised, and being attentive to good order and sensible work place design, are factors that will contribute to the success of the business. That is not just a core idea behind Kaizen and the 5S methodology; it is also confirmed by a study conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute. The benefits of good order and tidiness are obvious:

  • Efficiency: Having the right tool or the required documents in quick and easy reach saves time and cuts down stress.
  • Cost saving: There are fewer losses, and tools do not have to be repurchased multiple times, because everything is kept in its place.
  • Employee satisfaction: Your employees prefer working in a tidy, well-organised work place - and so will work better if they do so.
  • Accident prevention: When everything is in its place, tripping hazards are avoided. And nobody slips on a clean floor.
  • Health: Cleanliness prevents health hazards from germs or harmful substances.
  • Image: Good work place design also makes a positive impression on customers and partners.

How the 5S methodology works

Kaizen and the 5S methodology are based on five steps. These are English translations of the Japanese terms beginning with the letter S:

1. Sort

In the first step, you should sort out and select unnecessary things. Tools that are unsafe, defective, obsolete, not in use or duplicated are sorted out. Only tools that are in daily use remain at the work place. Tools used weekly are kept close to the work location, and tools used monthly are stored within the department.

2. Set in order

All tools, racks and cabinets are arranged according to daily procedures. All equipment items are clearly identified and labelled. Each has its set place, and can always be found there.

3. Shine

It is also advisable to take a systematic approach to cleaning. Tools and workstations should be subjected to continuous cleaning based on set rules.

4. Standardize

Every improvement is defined by you and your employees as a new standard. Logical rules are created as a result.

5. Sustain

The 5S methodology is a cyclic system. By continuously striving for improvements, you will progress step by step.

One of the requirements is so important that it is also referred to as “the sixth S”. It is safety that predominates ahead of all else, and should be given special attention. In addition to appropriate work place design, work place safety also includes personal protective equipment (PPE). Find out here what requirements you need to consider when selecting PPE.

So a major cleaning and tidying-up operation alone is not enough. It is crucial that you adopt a mindset that results in a continuous improvement process (CIP). It is not without reason that the 5S methodology is an integral element of lean management.

The 5S system forms the basis for smooth-running procedures, process stability, safety and quality. And consequently for the lasting success of your business.

These products will support you in organising your work environment:

GARANT GridLine workstations and storage solution system

Ergonomic, intelligent and modular: With GARANT GridLine you can implement custom-designed work place concepts.

Accessories for the perfectly organised work place

From dividing material, through perforated panel accessories, to rigid foam inlays - these accessories will enable you to organise your work place efficiently.

A mobile organisational miracle

With roller cabinets, material and magazine trolleys, everything has its place, and every action is clear and decisive - no matter where you need the trolley.

Custom rigid foam inlays for optimum tidiness

When it comes to standardising processes and establishing good order, even small changes can make a big difference. Drawer divider systems, such as slotted dividing panels, boxes or rigid foam inlays, provide more structure and clarity in the roller cabinet and tool cabinet. With eForm rigid foam inlays - which can also be custom made - every tool has its own place, and you can see immediately when something is missing. Also, tools are kept safe and clean at all times.

To eForm

The 5S audit: how to implement the methodology

At the beginning it is helpful to make an inventory. An internal 5S audit will show you where there are weak points. Award points scores from 1 (inadequate) to 10 (excellent).

Check your standards against each “S” in turn.

The following questions will help:
How clean is your workshop?
How well maintained is your machinery and equipment?
Are there clear rules for keeping them clean?
Is your operation well equipped and ergonomic?

With regular audits you will update your standards and avoid falling back into old habits.



In addition to the 5S method, ergonomics at the work place is also an important topic. Workstations and storage also include workstation systems, tool cabinets, tool issuing systems, roller cabinets, tool trolleys, storage technology, environmental technology, ladders and platforms and room systems and containers. This takes you to the overview.

Achieve your goals faster with a personalised consultation

The perfect choice of products and solutions is the easiest way to implement the 5S methodology. And our team of experts in workstations and storage solutions will be glad to help you implement 5S in your business. They are on hand to provide you with competent all-round advice - from analysis of your needs, through 3D planning, to installation - either in person, by phone or by e-mail.

  • Competent expert advice from requirements analysis to installation.
  • The perfect range of products and solutions for more efficient working practices.
  • Significant cost and time saving.

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