5S Methodology in Warehouse Management

5s Red Tag SignNo one is sure exactly how the 5’s methodology began.  But in the 1970s, Japan’s premiere automotive company, Toyota, was notably the company that set the standard. Just like Sun Tzu’s the Art of War, the principles derived from the 5S methodology can be applied in many ways to achieve efficiency. Warehouse management is just one aspect of your business that could benefit from these principles.

Sort or Seiri – In organizing your workplace and home, the first thing to do is to sort. In home improvement, you separate stuff you need, stuff you can throw out, and stuff that can be donated or sold in a garage sale. In sorting your warehouse inventories and company assets, the same principle applies. Discard all the items that you no longer have any use for to clear valuable space for incoming materials or products in need of storage. Keep only what you need and set priorities through processes like FIFO (First In First Out) or LIFO (Last In First Out).

Tools you need:

  • Red Tags and Red Tag Boards – Systematically remove items in your warehouse with approval of the supervisor to ensure items discarded are reviewed.
  • Equipment Tags – Tag machines and equipment in need of repairs with status tags that indicate machines in need of repairs and those that are OK to use.

Streamline (aka Straighten or Stabilize) or Seiton – Streamlining or organizing the warehouse is probably the most challenging aspect of 5S. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. You have to figure out how your warehouse processes flows and how you can eliminate waste in terms of time and resources.

Tools you need:

  • Warehouse Signs – Put up instructions and reminders to alert and guide workers in your warehouse.
  • Floor and Aisle Markers – Clearly marked areas and paths are essential in improving foot traffic. It eliminates confusion and workers will know exactly where they are and where they need to go.
  • Labels and Inventory Tags – Identify the content in each storage space to avoid wasting time looking for specific equipment or tools.

Shine or Seiso – Maintain good housekeeping in your warehouse. Leaks and spills should be taken care of immediately as these are unnecessary hazards that may cause slips and falls. It’s important to maintain cleanliness in the facility to be able to clearly evaluate where efficiency is lacking.

Tools you need:

  • Janitorial Supplies – Use heavy-duty industrial cleaning tools and supplies to save cost in the long run.
  • Spill Kits – Always have a professional spill kit ready. Choose the best spill kit that’s right for your workplace.

Standardize or Seiketsu – Consistency in implementing your new system is the key to improved efficiency. It’s essential to have a work manual that documents the standards implemented. Regular training sessions also help workers deal with not just the regular work but also how to react in situations like breakdown of equipment, chemical spills, and emergencies.

Tools you need:

  • Work Posters or Charts – A simple visual guide that summarizes the work flow. It could be used to locate where the different work areas and equipment are located.
  • Training Manuals and Videos – To set standard practices, new workers have to undergo training. Regular refreshers are also recommended for workers assigned to new tasks.

Sustain or Shitsuke – It’s easy to slip back to old habits without proper monitoring and evaluation. Conduct regular evaluation or even surprise inspections to make sure workers are following the new standards.

Be open to change when a new standard or policy is not working out. 5S, after all, is not about complacency but rather the continuous striving for perfection.


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