1S, 2S and 3S

Workplace are like living organisms. The healthiest organisms move and change in a flexible relationship with their environment.

As living organisms, if factories do not adapt to their changing environment, they perish.

Implementation of 5S is the starting point of any improvement activities to ensure company’s survival. It is a system of steps and procedures that can be used by individuals and teams to arrange work areas in the best manner to optimize performance with higher quality, lower cost, reliable deliveries, improved safety and higher availability of equipments. Successfully deploying the5S will improve organizational efficiencies and enhance overall performance.

In most Organization or a typical workplace, we need to look for things – such as files, parts, carts, jigs, and tools etc – are taken for granted. The more people have to search for things the lower their productivity slips. The same goes for offices. How much time do people in an office spend looking for files, papers, pencils and Staplers?

It is found that

  1. A neat and clean Organization or office will have higher productivity

  2. A neat and clean Organization of office will produce fewer defects

  3. A neat and clean Organization or office will meet deadlines better

  4. A neat and clean Organization is much safer place to work

Some of the essential benefits of implementing 5S are

  1. Helps to have more product diversification because of the less wastages and improvement in changeover time

  2. Improve quality with zero defects

  3. Lowers cost because of zero wastages

  4. Helps in make reliable deliveries due to zero delays

  5. Promotes safety

  6. Improves the equipment availability rate due to zero breakdown or unwanted surprises

The five pillars are defined as Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

The first Pillar: Sort

We start learning about getting things organized and sorted. As children, we were told to organize (sort) our toys and books. Strictly speaking, this kind of organizing is not the same as that practiced as part of five pillars. When children organize their toys and books, they usually line them up or store them somewhere – without sorting out what is necessary (and to be kept) from what is unnecessary (and to be discarded).

Definition of the First Pillar

Sort, the first pillar of the visual workplace, corresponds to the just-in-time (JIT) principle of “only what is needed, only in the amounts needed, and only when it is needed”. In other words, Sort means that you remove all items from the workplace that are not needed for current production (or clerical) operations. That means throw away all unnecessary items and keep only the necessary items.



Take five minutes to think about this question and to jot down your answer.

What problems occur in your work area because of the Accumulation of unneeded items?

Second Pillar (2S) – Set in Order


The second pillar, Set in Order can be implemented only when the first pillar is in place. No matter, how well you arrange items, Set in Order can have little impact if many of the items are unnecessary. Similarly, if sorting is implemented without Setting in Order, it is much less effective. Sort and Set in Order work best when they are implemented together.

Definition of the Second Pillar

Set in order means that you arrange needed items so that they are easy to use and label them so that anyone can find them and put them away. The key word in this definition is “anyone.”

Why Set in Order is important

Setting in Order is important because it eliminates many kinds of waste production or clerical activities. These include searching waste, waste due to difficulty in using items, and waste due to difficulty in returning items.

Both factories and offices have more than their share of searching waste.

Problems Avoided by Implementing Set in Order

The following list gives examples of the types of waste and the kinds of problems that

are avoided when Set in Order activities are well implemented:

  1. Motion Waste : The person sent to get a tool could not find it.

  1. Searching Waste : No one can find the key to the locked cabinet that contains needed tools.

  1. The Waste of Human Energy: A frustrated worker gives up on finding a needed spare pasrt after looking in vain for half an hour.

  1. The Waste of Excess Inventory: Cores are lying in the floor in excess and it is very difficult to identify it.

  1. The Waste of Defective Products: The storage location of two types of cores are switched without telling the operator, so he picks up the wrong part without noticing and uses it.

  1. The Waste of Unsafe Conditions: Boxes of supplies are left in a walkway, causing someone to trip and get injured.

Definition of Standardization

Standardization means creating a consistent way that tasks and procedures are carried out. When we think “standardization”, we should think “anyone”. Machinery standardization means anyone can operate the machinery. Operation standardization means anyone can perform the operation. To get along together, we even need to standardize our behaviour to a certain extent.

Set in Order is the Core of Standardization

The Set in Order pillar is the core of standardization. This is because the workplace must be orderly before any type of standardization can be implemented effectively.

The Concept of Visual Controls

Understanding where things are kept brings us to the concept of visual control. A visual control is any communication device used in the work environment that tells us at a glance how work should be done. Visual controls are used to communicate information such as where items belong, how many items belong there; what the standard procedure is for doing something; the status of work in process; and many other types of information critical to the flow of work activities.

In any situation, we can implement standardization in such a way that all standards are identified by visual controls. When this happens, there is only one place to put each item, and we can tell right away whether a particular operation is proceeding normally or abnormally.

In the Set in Order pillar, we use visual controls to communicate standards needed to where items belong.


Take five minutes to think about these questions and to note down your answers.

  1. Do I have lots of wastages due to non- implementation of 2S?

  2. Can 2S implementation in my work place will reduce Muda, Mura & Muri?

  3. What are three examples of visual controls that already exist in your workplace?

Third Pillar (3S) – Shine


As we have learnt from the last two issues, implementing 5S begins when you Sort – getting rid of things that is not needed in workplace. This is followed by Setting in order- putting the remaining needed items into order so that they can be easily found and used by anybody. But what good are sorting (1S) and Setting in order (2S) if the materials we use are dirty and the equipment we depend upon frequently breakdown? This is where the third pillar (3S) comes in.

Definition of the Third Pillar (3S)

The third pillar is shine or cleaning. It is the component that emphasizes on the removal of dirt, grime, and dust from the workplace. As such, chine (3S) means that we Keep everything swept and clean.

It is about how to prevent dirt to occur again. That means we need to go to the source of dirt to prevent it.

Cleaning means Inspection

When we clean an area, it is inevitable that we will also do some inspection of machinery, equipment, and work conditions. Because of this, cleaning also means inspection.

It is natural to do a certain amount of inspection while implementing Shine (3S) activities. Once daily cleaning and periodic major cleanups become a habit, we can start incorporating systematic inspection procedures into our shine procedures. This turns “cleaning” into “Cleaning/inspection.”

Even when equipment in the workplace appears to function normally, it may be developing many problems. Generally, when machines or other equipment begin to show signs of minor, sporadic malfunctions, the operators – not the maintenance people – notice it first.

In principle, the people who carry out cleaning/inspection of a particular area should be the same people who work in that area.


Take five minutes to think about these questions and to note down your answers.

  1. What are the top three types of problems in your work area that could be avoided by implementing Shine pillar (3S) procedures?

  2. Do you have a Cleaning standard of your own machines?

  3. Do you practice 3S in your own area?

  4. Do you conduct Cleaning and inspection of your work area?