5S is a methodology for organizing the workplace. It is based on a five step process. The initials stand for five Japanese words that do not have exact translations, but a common attempt is:
SEIRI Sort: eliminate clutter and discard items that are not needed regularly. Items not immediately required are 'red tagged' and moved to a holding area. After a period of time the items that have not been used are discarded, or removed to a separate store.
SEITON Set in Order: organize the work area. This can include shelves, cabinets, shadow boards and so on. Everything should have a place, and it an item is missing it should be apparent.
SEISO Shine: Clean the work area. Cleaning should then become a regular activity.
SEIKETSU Standardize: Determine the 'best practice' and standardized it
SHITSUKE Sustain (or Self Discipline): Continue to keep the workplace clean and organized. Everybody should get into the habit of doing their '5S' duties daily, leaving their workplace clean and tidy when they knock off.
5S is an excellent starting point for process improvement. The organization gets a significant efficiency benefit for little cost, it also encourages ‘systems thinking’. Managers and employees may be resistant at first, but nobody can argue with the logic because we all know that keeping up with the 'housekeeping' saves time in the long run. This can be the foundation for a systems approach.