The 5S Approach: Why the "Shine" Step Really Matters

Spring is right around the corner, and it brings thoughts of better weather, flowers, singing birds and, of course, spring cleaning. Ugh. It’s a rare breed that enjoys spring cleaning, but both your workers… and your accountant… will appreciate the end result, so let’s get mopping.

5S workplace organization comes from the Japanese “seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke,” or translated into English – sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain. Whether or not you embrace the 5S approach in your plant, you can create benefits from step three – shine. Unfortunately, even many of the organizations that fully employ 5S to organize their facilities and streamline their efficiencies have a tendency to gloss over this step. Or they only do it once, so they miss some of the real benefits that result from cleaning.

First, a clean plant is also an organized one. Even if you don’t go through the first two steps of 5S, you will improve your overall organization as you go through the cleaning process. Organization leads to greater efficiency and lowered stress – no time wasted looking for things. Efficiency always improves the bottom line, so your accountant is happy, and lowered stress always boosts morale, so your employees are happy.

Next, cleaning leads to inspection. You may uncover cracks, leaks or missing parts on equipment or machinery, all the things that lead to breakdowns that inevitably occur at the worst possible time. Additionally, clean tools and clean machines simply work better. Dirt and debris may also cause quality defects. Worse, dirt and debris may also cause slips and falls or more catastrophic injuries.

If you haven’t cleaned in a while, it’ll probably seem like a daunting task, and it’s easy to use “production” as an excuse to ignore it. “We’re too busy to clean.” Not so fast. Workplace cleanliness is everyone’s responsibility, from the president’s office to the shipping dock. The CEO or managers can hardly insist on cleanliness if their own work areas are strewn with papers, files and reports. An organized office workspace is as important to efficiency as a clean shop floor.

Begin setting aside time to clean. Depending on the state of your facility, you may need to initially set aside several hours to make any headway, but don’t stop there. Continue the process. Schedule cleaning times as you would any other process. As your plant improves, you’ll be able to reduce the time needed to clean and re-organize and will probably be able to maintain your results with a five-minute cleaning blitz by each employee at the end of every shift.
Determine your targets, both equipment and workspace. Ensure you have the tools and cleaning agents you need to do the job right. Create a specific schedule and assignment sheet – who’s responsible for what and when. Include everyone. Establish areas to store and organize cleaning supplies. Make certain cleaning supplies are always easy to find, use and return. That’s right – your cleaning supplies have to be organized too.


Rinse and repeat. Your commitment to a clean facility is a commitment to efficiency. Your commitment to efficiency is a commitment to your bottom line. Make everybody happy and shine on.