The 5 S’s… According to Someone Who Didn’t Even Know What the First “S” Was!

By: Katie Beaver


As someone who had absolutely ZERO experience in 5S, I can officially say that it has changed my life. Okay, maybe it hasn’t changed my entire life, but it has certainly caused me to re-think the way I organize things. I like to think of myself as a pretty organized person. I mean, I don’t have my clothes color coordinated in my closet or anything. BUT, everything has a place and everything should be in its place. Right? Wrong.


Until I came to work at TMAC, I just thought I was organized. After the company moved to a different building on campus, our director started throwing around the term “5S” because all of our junk was just thrown into our new workroom. 5S? What are the 5 “S”’s? Sob, Shout, Swear, Strangle, Surrender? At least, that’s what it felt like at first. Come to find out, the “S”s stand for something else:


Set in Order


5S seemed insane. I hated it. Every week I dreaded organizing our workroom. It seemed so stupid. The people we work with are engineers. ENGINEERS. Why can’t they look around the room like everyone else and find what they need? That’s when it clicked – EVERYONE is wasting time trying to find what they need from the workroom. No one should have to spend half of their lunch hour trying to find paperclips. And if you were unlucky enough to be housed in an office near the workroom, people were wasting your time asking you to help them find the paperclips they were looking for! It was getting out of hand – our director INSISTED that we begin utilizing the methodologies of 5S. The entire admin team was mandated to spend one hour each Monday in the workroom… together. After about 10 minutes of goofing around, there wasn’t really anything left to do besides organize stuff.


The first “S” was the easiest for us. Sort. We put all of the books together, all of the binders together, all of the printer paper, paperclips, marketing materials, etc. We also took this as an opportunity to get rid of everything that somehow made it to the new office in the move that shouldn’t have (trash, broken items, someone’s reindeer book-ends…). We felt accomplished, not only because everything was in piles, but they were organized piles.


The next week, we were on track to take on the next “S”, Set In Order. We arranged everything as logically as we could to make items easier for everyone to find. We utilized labels (brightly colored labels) and masking tape to draw borders around commonly misplaced objects. This made it easier to notice if something was not put back in the correct spot. Of course we also put two giant gorilla feet in front of the copy machine so everyone knew where to stand while making copies…


Shine was next. Everyone busted out their cleaning gloves and polished the entire workroom. Some of us even wore face masks with funny looking stickers that looked like mouths. For some reason, it made it more fun to look completely ridiculous while we were cleaning.


In order to Standardize the workroom, we labeled each of the shelves and tried our hand at creating a room diagram. The problem with our diagram was that it was not specific enough. We used very broad terms that could be interpreted differently. We are working on addressing this currently.


Sustain. Oh, sustain. The most difficult “S” of all. Even as practitioners of Lean, we still struggle with this. We are now making it a point to set aside time once per month to make sure that we maintain the workroom. We let it go for a while and may have to repeat some of the previous steps to get it where we want it. But, it will all be worth it in the end.


Going through the 5S process with my team gave me a whole new perspective on the organization of physical objects. I now can see how 5S can be applied everywhere from office buildings to homes to even restaurants. Having the correct mindset (and labels) can reduce the time you spend looking for things. It can also make ordering supplies easier because you can clearly see what you are out of. Now that I’ve been through it, I am a huge fan of 5S. From someone who absolutely dreaded the process…


…Life just doesn’t make sense without it now. TRY IT! TMAC can help!


1 Comment

  • Sabrina Forgie

    This just made me totally understand why we do what we do. Being the “new person” I just thought that maybe you were all super organized people. Its a relief to know that this is a actual, practiced process! I dont feel so alien now 🙂

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