How 5S can help your shop

5S is a method for organizing workspaces and entire shops to be more efficient, effective, and safe. 5S started in Japan as part of the Toyota Production System, and it’s one tool used in lean manufacturing. However, you don’t need to implement lean manufacturing or know anything about the Toyota Production System to use 5S in your shop. The 5 S’s are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. All of them together can help you make your shop run more smoothly and efficiently. 5S can also help your shop prevent the spread of COVID-19.


The first step to making any space more efficient is to figure out what actually needs to be there. Are there tools or machines that employees use daily? Less often? If there are items employees don’t use daily, does it make more sense to store them in a specific area like a tool room? Are there some things in workstations that are never used and should be gotten rid of? At the end of this process, workstations should only have things that are necessary and used frequently. Everything else should be stored in a place that’s still easy to access.

One way to cut down on junk at a workstation is to use digital files instead of papers. With an ERP system, employees can view schedules, job routers, reports, and more on a screen instead of passing around papers. ERP systems can be run on computers, tablets, or as apps on smartphones. With an ERP system holding these necessary files, employees can have more free space at their workstation. This way they’ll always have the most up-to-date information in front of them.

In addition to these benefits, having fewer things at a workstation can also make it easier to clean. Beyond that, if employees aren’t passing around papers, that eliminates a potential vehicle for germs to pass between employees, which includes COVID-19. If shifts have been shortened or changed, making employees’ workspaces more efficient will also help them to do their best work, even in less than ideal circumstances.

Set in Order

After you’ve sorted everything at a workstation, you’ll be left with things an employee uses frequently. The next step is to figure out where to put these things. It’s important to consider ergonomics and cutting down on unnecessary motions when placing things in a workstation. For example, be sure not to put anything out of an employee’s reach. Consider also grouping items typically needed for the same tasks together. One of the goals of 5S is to get rid of all types of waste. So you want to consider eliminating the waiting time, motion, and unnecessary transportation whenever possible.

Using an ERP system can also help with this step of 5S. You can look in the system to see common routes of similar jobs, particularly the jobs your shop does often. With this information, you can figure out what jobs each workstation is likely to do most often and put any tools or other things necessary for those jobs within the closest reach for the employee using that workstation.

Setting things in order can similarly help your shop with its COVID-19 efforts. For example, as you develop and tweak your cleaning plan, you can see if there are objects or places that need to be cleaned more than once a shift. These changes can be grouped together as part of this step, making it easier to clean them more efficiently. Cleaning things more quickly can also make sure your employees can get the tools they need faster.


This part of 5S, cleaning to a shine, has become more important with COVID-19 impacting the world. Keeping things clean and in order can also help with efficiency. Employees will be able to see right away if there is a problem with their tools or workstation if they are keeping things clean and orderly. As part of this step, if they see a problem, they can fix it right away. So, employees will make sure everything in your shop is in good condition.

A good ERP system can also help with this step. Most pieces of equipment or machinery in a shop need regular maintenance. An ERP system can schedule reminders for when this maintenance needs to happen. You can set a schedule to recur as often as you like. If you find that you need to change how often a machine gets regular maintenance, you can change the reminder in the system.

Most likely, your shop is already cleaning more than usual because of COVID-19. This step of 5S simply highlights the importance of regular sanitization. If employees are more aware of how everything needs to be cleaned, they will put more thought into how easy it is to clean tools and other things when they put them away. This extra thought on your employees’ part makes it easier for your cleaning crew to clean and sanitize and lets them work more efficiently.


This step makes sure everything gets organized the same way in your shop. Your shop won’t be as efficient as possible if each workstation is arranged with a different idea behind it. Part of this step is assigning regular tasks to employees, which may include creating schedules and posting instructions. Everyone in the shop will know what to do and when to do it to keep your shop organized, clean, and as free of all kinds of waste as possible.

With ERP software, you’ll be able to see and adjust the schedule for the entire shop floor. One benefit of improved scheduling is that you can build in time for your employees to standardize or clean at the end of the day. An ERP system will also help to make your shop more efficient and will free up time to make improvements.

There are many new things your shop may have to think about because of COVID-19. If your shop provides masks to employees, who ensures there are enough masks? Who makes sure there’s enough hand sanitizer? These and related tasks can be built into this step in 5S to make sure they’re covered just as capably as everything else.


The last ‘S’ is about making sure that improving your shop isn’t a one-time experience. Ideally, 5S would become part of your shop’s culture from the people on the shop floor to the folks in the office, to the owner. Carrying out the tasks assigned in the “Standardize” step will help keep these improvements running in your shop. It’s also helpful to train new hires in 5S and to keep looking for ways to cut down on waste. As your shop changes, technology advances, and the world changes, your shop’s needs will probably change. 5S provides different options to meet those needs.

ERP software can help keep your shop on track with improvements you’ve decided on as well as measuring those improvements. A good ERP system can quickly and accurately create reports on just about anything in your system. Was one of your 5S items focused on improving the percentage of jobs shipped on time? ERP software can show you exactly how much your shop has improved.

It is uncertain how long we will have to take precautions to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Putting preventative actions in your plan for 5S ensures your shop continues those actions for as long as they’re necessary. As we find out more about this virus, and as the world continues to change, 5S gives your shop the framework to change your shop’s precautions as needed.

Bonus: Safety

There is a bonus sixth ‘S’, safety. Many argue that safety is a byproduct of implementing the other 5 S’s in your shop, but some like to make it its own separate heading. To implement this ‘S’, eliminate risk wherever possible in your shop. This may include things like marking dangerous intersections in the shop, labeling cleaning equipment with the appropriate hazard signs, or moving things in the shop to make them more ergonomically friendly. It can be easier to remember the more sudden hazards. But smaller hazards can also build up over time, like puddles on the shop floor, or unnecessary strain in an employee’s arms.

ERP software may not have a direct impact on your shop floor that labeling safe walking lanes will, but it can still help. For example, you can track employee hours in a good ERP system, accurately and in real time. If employees are only supposed to do a hazardous job or be in a hazardous place for a set amount of time, your ERP system can track that as it’s happening, making it easier to prevent employees from being in these situations for too long.

COVID-19 prevention is all about safety, so that fits perfectly with this final ‘S’. It’s also a good reminder that not all hazards in a shop are as serious as physical injury. An infected employee might not show symptoms for up to 14 days, but that would still be a hazard in your shop. It’s important to act to prevent that situation as well.

5S can give your shop reduced costs, higher quality, increased productivity, greater employee satisfaction, and a safer work environment. In these times, it can also help your shop protect your employees from COVID-19. And a great ERP system can help make all of this happen. It’s never easy to make changes to your shop and how it operates. But implementing 5S can give your shop the framework to ensure you’re following all necessary guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and make your shop more efficient. Sustaining change is difficult, but 5S has that built into its framework to help your shop continue to grow.

Want to find out how an ERP system can help your shop make incremental improvements?

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