By Rachael Davies, Continuous Improvement and Development Manager with CLIC

At this time of year our thoughts often turn to getting things sorted, we make plans for what we would like to achieve this year whether it is a resolution to be healthier, wealthier, and happier, we set goals to achieve an improved version of me. For some of us our resolution is to be more organised, consume less and create less waste to protect this lovely planet of ours. We can also do this at work.

This year for a lot of staff working in support services we will be changing our working environment. This provides an opportunity to take stock of what materials / resources we have stored up over the years and identify what we need moving forward. The good news is that there is a tool that can help us to do this, 5S Workplace Organisation is part of the Cumbria Production System (CPS) Toolkit it enables the identification of value and waste and to create a working environment that supports effective time management and use of resources.


So let’s plan what to move and where to put it when we get to our new destination...

The 5S approach is a structured process which involves five key steps to create an ideal work environment for you and your team; sort, simplify, sweep, standardize, sustain. Safety is considered at all of the five key steps to ensure that people and the work area are safe. The implementation of the 5S approach helps create a working environment where things are easy to find and there is room to store everything you need, exactly where you need it. Importantly the implementation of the 5S approach helps create order, reduces waste and maximises safety.

Beginning with the first S – sort using a three colour post it system the participants decide what they want to keep (green post-it), place in storage (amber post-it) and get rid of (red post-it).

The second S – simplify requires the team to work together to decide on where items are going to be kept. The aim of this is to ensure that every item within the workplace has a place.

The third S – sweep visually and physically keeping the workplace clean and clutter free.

The forth S – standardise agree on what needs to be done to maintain an orderly, clean and functional work area.

The fifth S – sustain everyone in the team must take ownership of maintaining the workplace as agreed. Checks are carried out so 5S becomes part of the everyday routine.

If you follow these steps you will:

  • Reduce time spent on searching for things/information
  • Make better use of time
  • Identify issues/problems before they happen
  • Provide a foundation for future improvements
  • Take control of your work environment so that it is properly set up to support you
  • Put a system in place to ensure that everyone understands the standards set as a team and that those standards are not only maintained but continually improved
  • Support your team to take responsibility and ownership of their working environment, creating feelings of empowerment in their roles


Find out more about 5S in the CPS Toolkit.


Below is a short 5S video. The video uses the terminology of ‘set in order’ for the 2nd step of simplify, and ‘sweep’ for the 3rd step we refer to as shine - please be assured that this is just a different way of labelling the same activity:

If you would like to have a conversation regarding how you can apply this tool please contact us: info@theclic.org.uk