2023 was the year that efficiency became the top priority for businesses around the world — and that isn’t likely to change any time soon. And in order to achieve optimal efficiency, organizations are turning to various, well-honed methodologies.

The 5S methodology is one such option that can supercharge your team’s efficiency. This article will explore its basic tenets and importance in the workplace, as well as offer a step-by-step guide to implementation. 

We will also explain how Wrike’s work management features can support the 5S methodology. Let’s get started!

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Photo by Headway on Unsplash

What is the 5S methodology?

If you’re looking for a systematic approach to organizing and maintaining a clean and efficient workspace, look no further than the 5S methodology. 5S was developed in the 1960s by Toyota, a Japanese manufacturing brand. Japanese inventor Sakichi Toyoda — the founder of Toyota, also known as the father of the Japanese industrial revolution — honed the 5S system as he sought to trim the excess from the car manufacturing production process. 

Initially designed to improve efficiency and safety in the workplace, the 5S methodology has stood the test of time and is still effective in various industries today.

The five pillars of the 5S methodology

True to its name, the 5S methodology consists of five key pillars, all beginning with the letter “s.” You’ll want to follow these pillars as chronological steps in order to attain a level of efficiency that will impact your business. 

  • Sort: Remove unnecessary items from the workplace.
  • Set in order: Once the unnecessary items are removed, organize and arrange the remaining items in a logical and standardized manner. 
  • Shine: Focus on cleanliness, via regular maintenance and cleaning of the workspace.
  • Standardize: Be consistent and uniform by creating guidelines and procedures for organizing, cleaning, and maintaining the workspace. 
  • Sustain: Maintain the commitment to cleanliness and efficiency by creating a culture of continuous improvement that includes regularly reviewing and refining the implemented practices.

We’ll go over these in more detail later.

The importance of the 5S methodology in the workplace

How does the 5S methodology help businesses succeed? The methodology has been proven to enhance productivity and promote a safe and efficient working environment. Let’s explore two key benefits of the 5S methodology in detail.

Enhance productivity through organization

We often get so caught up with our daily work that we don’t take the time to organize our workspaces regularly. But this comes at a cost: a disorganized workspace can waste time and effort spent searching for tools, information, or resources. 

With the 5S methodology, employees benefit from an organized workspace where they can easily locate and access what they need, leading to increased productivity. Streamlined processes and an efficient layout should also minimize the chances of errors and delays.

Imagine a workplace where every tool, file, and piece of equipment has a designated place. There will be no more wasted minutes searching for misplaced items. With the 5S methodology, every item has its own spot, clearly labeled and easily accessible. The company not only saves time but also reduces frustration and stress among employees.

Improve safety and reduce waste

A cluttered and disorganized workspace can also contribute to accidents and injuries. By implementing the 5S methodology, potential hazards can be identified and eliminated, thus creating a safer work environment. 

Additionally, the 5S methodology specializes in reducing waste, including eliminating excess inventory that takes up valuable space, minimizing unnecessary movement by organizing workstations efficiently, and streamlining processes to remove any steps that do not add value. 

Have you ever tripped over a box or slipped on a pile of papers? In a cluttered workspace, accidents like these are more likely to occur. The 5S methodology emphasizes the importance of keeping the workplace clean and free from hazards. By regularly conducting safety audits and implementing preventive measures, the risk of accidents is significantly reduced.

Benefits of the 5S methodology in digital workspaces

While the 5S methodology was designed for physical workspaces, the same concept rings true for digital workspaces as well. Your cluttered computer desktop and inefficient processes waste valuable time while you switch between platforms, duplicate information in different locations, and search for vital information. Even searching for passwords to the various apps you use occasionally can waste a ton of time — and cause huge frustration throughout your workday. 

Alternatively, an organized, streamlined digital workspace can save time, increase productivity, and improve your ROI. Here are three clear benefits of implementing the 5S methodology in your digital workspace: 

  • Increased productivity: A well-organized digital workspace reduces the time you spend searching for files, emails, or applications. This efficiency can significantly increase productivity — and it can allow you more concentrated time to focus on the tasks that truly matter and that will drive business objectives forward. 
  • Reduced stress: Cluttered digital workspaces can be overwhelming and cause unnecessary stress. By applying the 5S methodology, you can create a more streamlined, visually pleasing digital environment, which can contribute to reduced stress and increased mental clarity. 
  • Enhanced quality of work: With a clean and orderly digital workspace, the likelihood of errors, such as missing important emails or losing files, decreases. This can enhance the overall quality of work and ensure important tasks are not overlooked. 

Disorganized digital workspaces cause wasted time, energy, and effort, and it all adds up. Our “Dark Matter of Work” report revealed that knowledge workers typically lose over 13 hours every week because they can’t find what they need easily and quickly. And that wasted time costs organizations an average of over $16,000 every year — per worker! It’s clearly time to get organized. Don’t worry, we’ve got just the platform for that! 

Bringing your digital workspace into a single platform, such as Wrike, can help bring clarity to your cluttered processes by eliminating the need to constantly switch between apps. Wrike integrates with over 400 apps, meaning you can work with the tools you need without leaving Wrike. Consolidating your tech stack with Wrike can help employees cut out wasted time so they can focus on the work that matters most. 

animation of wrike apps and integrations

Common challenges and solutions in 5S implementation

Introducing any type of new methodology can involve challenges. However, preparing for those challenges can enable teams to prevent them, leading to a smoother transition process. 

In the case of introducing the 5S methodology, organizations might meet challenges such as resistance to change, lack of employee engagement, and inconsistent adherence to standards. Here are a few strategies for preparing for and addressing these challenges: 

  • Train employees: Clearly explaining the benefits of the 5S methodology and providing proper training can help your staff better understand the purpose and value of implementing these practices. 
  • Involve employees in decisions: Engaging employees in the decision-making process gives them a sense of ownership and increases their commitment to the 5S implementation. Do so by seeking their input and involving them in the planning and implementation stages.
  • Recognize and reward employees for their efforts: Boost morale and motivation through verbal recognition, certificates, or even small incentives. By acknowledging their efforts, you create a positive work environment and encourage continued engagement.
  • Regularly review and revise the implemented procedures: The 5S methodology is not a one-time process but an ongoing journey of improvement. By continuously seeking feedback from employees and making necessary adjustments, you can maintain a sustainable and continuously improving 5S system.

How to implement the 5S methodology

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “5S is a cyclical methodology [that] results in continuous improvement,” which means implementation requires a systematic and structured approach. 

Let’s go through the step-by-step process:

  1. Sort: Start by identifying and removing any unnecessary items from the workplace. Determine what is essential and what can be discarded or relocated. Involve employees and gather their input to verify that essential items are not mistakenly discarded.
  2. Set in order: Once the workspace is decluttered, organize the remaining items in a logical and ergonomic manner. Clearly label and designate places for tools, equipment, and documents.
  3. Shine: Regularly clean and maintain the workspace to maintain a safe and hygienic environment. Develop cleaning schedules and assign responsibilities to employees.
  4. Standardize: Create standard operating procedures (SOPs) for organizing, cleaning, and maintaining the workspace. Train employees and verify everyone follows the established guidelines. Regular audits can be conducted to assess compliance and identify areas for improvement.
  5. Sustain: Create a culture of continuous improvement by regularly reviewing and refining the implemented practices. Conduct audits and encourage employee participation and feedback so that everyone is engaged and contributes to the ongoing improvement process.

It’s clear that understanding and implementing the 5S methodology in your workplace can significantly enhance productivity, safety, and overall efficiency. By following the five pillars — sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain — you can create a visually organized and streamlined physical or digital workspace. 

woman working at laptop
Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

How Wrike supports the 5S methodology

As you implement the 5S methodology in your company, remember to address challenges, learn from successful examples, and work to continually improve your 5S system. Embrace the 5S methodology and watch your workplace transform into a more efficient and thriving environment!

Whether you are organizing a manufacturing firm or a marketing agency, a physical space or a digital one, Wrike can help keep track of new processes and systems that can support your 5S methodology. Additionally, Wrike can help you structure a change management process to implement 5S, and maintain a continuous improvement system as well. 

wrike board view showing kanban project

You’ll be able to visualize the different steps of your new process with Wrike’s Board view, automatically notify stakeholders when they need to take action or review a task, and keep track of overall success with our easily customizable reports. Want to share with your team how much sorting has been completed? Simply create a recurring report and update your team every week. 

Screenshot of projects report widget in Wrike

Take charge of your company’s organization with the 5S methodology — and rely on Wrike to support your ongoing efforts. Sign up for your free trial today and take the first step toward promoting efficiency, organization, and productivity in your workspace.

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Note: This article was created with the assistance of an AI engine. It has been reviewed and revised by our team of experts to ensure accuracy and quality.