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Improve lean manufacturing with a 5S checklist

Want to learn more about what a 5S audit entails? Find out how to put the 5S approach into practice with these five steps: sort, set, shine, standardize, and sustain. Promote order and safety in the workplace with a mobile app for performing 5S audits with Lumiform.

What is a 5S checklist audit?

A 5s checklist audit is the evaluation of how well the workplace is adhering to safety and cleanliness standards. Its philosophy inspires a workplace that is clean, organized, safe, and decluttered. The idea is that if a workspace meets these criteria, then it will leave employees free to maximize their productivity, creativity, and flow.

If you were wondering where lean management techniques, Total Quality Management, and Kaizen approach came from, then you should get introduced to 5s checklist audit. It served as a foundation for the Japanese working culture and was developed as part of the Toyota Production System (TPS), just the same as Poka Yoke and the Kanban board. A checklist evaluates the introduction of the five S method at your workplace.

This article briefly explains:

1. The History of the 5s method

2. What the 5s method entails

3. What is a 5s audit?

4. How to introduce 5S in manufacturing

5. What is 6s lean method?

6. The purpose of the 6th “S”?

7. 3 Tips for implementing 6S

8. 6 advantages of the 6s method

9. How to use the 5S method more efficiently with a digital tool

Where does the 5S method come from?

For a deeper understanding and as proof of the effectiveness of this method, it is important to know the origins and background of this method: The 5s method is part of the Lean method and is therefore considered a continuous optimization process.

The principle was developed in the early 20th century by the Japanese Taiichi Ono, who significantly influenced the production philosophy of Toyota. What is innovative about the method is its minimalist and cyclical approach and the clear encouragement of employee participation. After all, employees are largely responsible for the implementation and maintenance of the method.

What the 5s method entails

  • Step 1: Sort (seiri)
    Organize your workplace by sorting through all items and get rid of anything which is not related to work. In this way, you are not only less distracted but you create more space and eliminate any obstacles or potential hazards.
  • Step 2: Set in Order (seiton)
    Establish fixed locations for each necessary item to reduce the time you or your employees search for tools. This ensures a smooth workflow during daily business. Make sure to place tags on specific items and place them in near proximity to the work area.
  • Step 3: Shine (seiso)
    Clean your work place and keep it that way. This helps to create a productive environment and ensures a clean and pleasant work area.
  • Step 4: Standardize (seiketsu)
    Develop a plan to ensure the upkeeping of the first three steps. Make sure that the workplace is frequently inspected, organized and cleaned.
  • Step 5: Sustain (shitsuke)
    It is crucial that you and your fellow employees not only assign a plan but also have the self-discipline to make conscious decisions around the workplace to keep it tidy and organized. A strong work ethic ensures a safe and productive workflow and environment.

What is a 5S checklist audit?

In its most basic form, a 5s audit rates how clean, tidy, and organized the office or warehouse is. It’s scored on a scale from zero to three, three being the best and zero being the worst. Companies can make up their own system for scoring since it is fairly straightforward and will follow the same premise. You should try to do a check at least once a month and more frequently if you fail the audit.

How to score a 5S Audit with an example?

Here’s an example of how you would perform an audit of housekeeping:

General Information

Define the type of work:
Cleaning, tidying and organizing the office.

Take a picture of the workspace and attach it here:

Use these score criteria for your inspection:

  • 3 – You’re able to maintain it
  • 2 – This is being compiled more systematically
  • 1 – It is done but not systematically and regularly

1. Sort Out – Seiri

Is the ground free of unwanted objects?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are tops and insides of all cupboards, shelves, tables, etc. free of unwanted objects?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are objects deposited according to frequency of use?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are walls clear of old posters, calendars, pictures etc.?
3   2   1   0   NA

Is there a general clutter-free appearance?
3   2   1   0   NA

Attach photo(s) of red tagged objects.

2. Set in Order – Seiton

Are direction signs in place to all plants from the entrance onwards?
3   2   1   0   NA

Do all pieces of equipment have identification tags?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are all rooms, cubicles and comparable areas clearly numbered or identified?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are special areas for garbage/rejects/waste, etc. divided?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are switches, fan controls, etc. labelled?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are all cables, wires, pipes etc. clean and orderly?
3   2   1   0   NA

Is colour coding applied effectively for simple identification?
3   2   1   0   NA

Is there an appearance of orderliness?
3   2   1   0   NA

Is it easy to find any item/document without delay?
3   2   1   0   NA

Find and allocate a place for all the supplies required for your work.
Some areas around the office need extra attention. There’s a nice color coding system in place, but some of the labeling is damaged or missing. The office is overall fairly organized. Supplies can be procured in a timely manner although it could be faster.

3. Shine – Seiso

Are cleaning schedules available and displayed?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are floors, walls, windows doors etc. maintained at a high level of cleanliness?
3   2   1   0   NA

Is use of adequate cleaning tools evident?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are machines, equipment, tools, furniture maintained at a high level of cleanliness and their maintenance schedules displayed?
3   2   1   0   NA

Is there a general appearance of cleanliness all round?
3   2   1   0   NA

4. Standardize – Seiketsu

Is a regular checklist used to systematise 5s methods?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are standard checklists applied to regularly examine 5S?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are labels, notices etc. systematised?
3   2   1   0   NA

Do pathways have a standard size and colour?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are pipes, cables etc. colour coded?
3   2   1   0   NA

5. Sustain – Shitsuku

Is there a system in place for how and when the 5S activities will be performed?
3   2   1   0   NA

Does management provide assistance to the 5S programme by identification, resources and leadership?
3   2   1   0   NA

Has the first 3S become a part of everyday work?
3   2   1   0   NA

Do workers show positive engagement in 5S activities?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are 5S posters and 5S points of work reminders presented?
3   2   1   0   NA

Are training and other programs performed to sustain the workplace system?
3   2   1   0   NA


Any recommendations?
I would recommend better, intercompany communication from leadership to enforce organizational practice. This would include hanging more posters advertising the method on the wall and clearer, color-coded scheduling for cleaning and hygiene.

Overall Rating:
Pass   Fail

Name and Signature of the Inspector:
John Smith

Manager discussing how to implement 5S method at the office with team members

How to introduce 5S audit in manufacturing

The 5S checklist audit can streamline production and increase efficiency during the manufacturing process. However, safety is the number one priority and can also be applied in this sphere. It can now otherwise be referred to as 6S—sort, set, shine, standardize, sustain, and safety. It comes in especially handy in the manufacturing industry for these reasons.

First of all, 5S checklist can be used to inspect how the Sort principle is being implemented. In other words if the workplace is being organized properly. For example, a template can be useful to check if special tags are put on the machines and if the working and non-working items have been sorted correctly.

A checklist is also handy to watch the Set in order function. Ensure that you prepared your workplace sufficiently by proper cleaning and addressing the maintenance issues once they occurred.

Of course, the Shine aspect is also important. Machines should not only function properly but also be clean and free of dirt and grime. Maintaining hygienic working conditions is also important for the health of machine operators.

To implement Standardize in manufacturing, it is required to put specific rules in place so that the employees have no choice but to go LEAN. For example, it can be regulated that one workplace should generate no more waste than the amount stated in the quota.

Once your workers have finished with Standardize, they will be able to move on to Sustain. This is a slightly more complicated phase since it means that the employees will need to turn this practice into part of their routine.

The thing one should keep in mind is that introducing LEAN principles is going to be challenging, especially in companies that have only been producing one product for decades. In these situations, it’s unlikely employees will make the switch overnight. However, providing educational resources such as short seminars, emails, announcements, booklets, etc. could be more than enough to accelerate the process and convince your workers that the LEAN principles are worth implementing.

What is 6s lean method: 5S + safety?

The level of practical implementation of the 6S lean method is a reliable indicator of the existing potential. Lots of companies are starting to make use of lean practices which means striving to maintain a zero-waste environment.

An enterprise can follow 3 different concepts total quality management, 6 Sigma, or 6S system. 6S (also known as 5S + safety) serves to increase, optimize and maintain productivity and safety in the workplace. It is based on the 5S methodology.

This simple but effective method creates a fundamentally structured work environment. In this way, you create the optimal conditions in your company for a focused workflow and a sustainable safety culture for your employees.

The principles of the 5s lean method are primarily used in manufacturing to cut down on wasteful practices. The concept is to increase efficiency and reduce the time, effort, cost, and materials that goes into the manufacturing process.

This method combines the basic principles of 5s and lean manufacturing so that no time, energy, or effort goes to waste. Every part of the workday, from the moment you step through the front door to each swing of the hammer, is replete with purposeful action: every movement has a purpose and every action has a target.

Think of the word ‘lean’ in this context to mean the trimming down of excess work. It’s a bit paradoxical in nature—you reduce the amount of work to increase productivity which, in turn, gets more work done—but it makes sense to create these shortcuts. You wouldn’t handwrite every company memo by hand complete with a stamp and envelope when you have a perfectly good computer equipped with an email to get it done in a fraction of the time.

To talk about training employees in this methodology, you can introduce the five pillars in phases. That might look like doing step one on Monday, step two on Tuesday, and so on and so forth until the practice becomes a part of everyday work life.

What Is the 6th “S”?

The last S stands for Safety. The reason why this element was included is that safety is crucial at the workplace. It has a direct influence on employee productivity, job satisfaction, and the reliability of the work environment, in general. Therefore, it is considered that providing safety warnings and work guidelines at the point of necessity can have a huge impact on the work cycle.

For example, every company of any size must ensure they have an emergency fire exit and a fire extinguisher, first aid stations, and safety showers, etc. Also, it is important that the essential protection equipment is placed in an easily reachable area and ready for immediate usage. This means that 5s principles in warehouses are especially relevant

3 Tips for Implementing 6S

6s Lean or 5s + safety is more than just cleaning up! This is about a consequent and continuous process improvement. Implementing 6s can result in several serious mistakes, such as using the method once or communicating incorrectly with your employees. Find out how to implement 6S Lean in manufacturing and other industries. The following three tips will help you to implement 6s in a step-by-step and meaningful way.

  1. Communicate & School – Ensure that all employees are introduced to the 6s method and made aware of its benefits. Involve employees in increasing productivity by incorporating their experiences with the method and suggestions for corrective measures into the company policy.
  2. Appoint a person in charge – As a cyclical improvement method, it is essential for the success of this method to carry it out regularly so that it becomes a routine process over time. For this purpose, it is beneficial to appoint a person in charge who also has an open ear for questions and impressions from employees.
  3. Control – The implementation of this regular procedure must, at least at the beginning, be done by a certain degree of control or self-control. It is important not to rebuke employees as chaotic, but to emphasize the effectiveness of this method, which is achieved through uniformity.

Advantages of the 6s method:

Here you will find the main advantages of implementing 6s Lean for your company in a nutshell:

  • Productivity increase in the entire company
  • Less reworking
  • More freedom of movement
  • Satisfied and motivated employees
  • A stable safety community within your company
  • Faster familiarization of new employees

Your Digital 5S Auditing Tool

Use Lumiform’s mobile app to conduct digital 5s inspections, report issues on the fly, and quickly assign corrective actions to responsible colleagues. Take photos of items that are no longer needed, notify your team or suppliers of upcoming changes, and schedule inspections to consistently increase the productivity of your production.

Use Lumiform’s checklists to:

  • Collaborate with your teammates to conduct on-site inspections with the super intuitive mobile app.
  • Increase the efficiency of your internal processes. Get faster incident reporting and resolution through easier communication within the team, third-party vendors, and management.
  • Automatically generate and share reports with your team and stakeholders instantly.
  • Perform simple analyses of all your data so you can more quickly identify the areas that need your attention.
  • Increase quality and safety in production: through the checklist builder you can constantly optimize internal checks and processes. That Lumiform guides the auditor through the audit so no training needs to take place.

Woman working on a 5S audit checklist on her computer

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