5S Your Workspace - How to Implement Lean Practices In Your Business

business resources lean out Jan 15, 2019

Time = money.  And I guarantee there is hidden time and money within your current business in the form of waste.

Also known as muda, waste is the killer of productivity and efficiency.  There are many forms of waste.   For this post, we are going to focus on wasted time, which in turn results in wasted money.

  • How much time do you and your team spend searching for things?  Whether it be physical inventory to pack and ship an order, or digital assets like looking for that perfect picture for Instagram.
  • When you do inventory, does it take you waaayyyyy longer than it should?  Because you can't find things, or items are spread out.
  • When you create new products, how long does it take you to find what you need?  Is everything easy to access in close reach or do you have to take a lot of extra steps (physically or virtually)?
  • When a new member joins your team, is it quick and easy for them to come up to speed and find what they need to do their job?  Or are there are only a couple people who know where things are and how to do things?

One of the most effective ways to eliminate waste?  5S your physical and digital workspaces!  If you aren't familiar with the lean workplace organization method known as 5S, it simply means that:

“Everything has a place & everything is in its place.”

There are 5 steps in this lean form of visual management.  Each starts with the letter S in Japanese - 1. seiri, 2. seiso, 3. seiton, 4. seiketsu, and 5. shitsuke.  These roughly translate to 1. sort, 2. set, 3. shine, 4. standardize, and 5. sustain.  After working with numerous clients over the past 2 decades to implement 5S systems into their businesses, I have found it helpful to add 2 additional steps - 6. make it safe & secure, and 7. make it sexy.

The results and efficiency gains are impressive!  Integrating these 7 steps is a great way to start to lean out your business.

Step 1: SORT (seiri)

Sort through all items in a particular location and remove all unnecessary items from that location.

This may mean re-imagining the layout and organization of your current workspaces - physical or digital - so that you move things as close as possible to where they will be used.


Keep only the necessary items in a particular location in order to:

  • Eliminate distractions
  • Decrease time spent searching
  • Reduce the amount of items
  • Simplify inventory and inspection
  • Increase safety by eliminating obstacles
  • Increase the amount of available and useful space


  • Evaluate all items to determine if their presence is useful or necessary in that particular location
  • Remove unnecessary items from the location
  • Repeat for each physical and virtual space


  • Have bins for various actions, such as throw out, recycle, donate, sort & relocate, etc.
  • To avoid building unnecessary clutter, take action on each bin as quickly as possible.
  • It can be really helpful to map out your workflows to see which spaces should go next to one another. If you have a physical product, where you store finished inventory and where you pack and ship are examples of stations that benefit from being close to one another.


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Step 2: SET in order (seiton)

Put all necessary items in their optimal place.

Each item you use has an optimal place.  Based on function and workflow, identify where each item should be placed and clearly label it.


Put everything in the optimal place in order to:

  • Make the workflow smooth and simple
  • Make it easy to find and access necessary items
  • Find ways to visibly display where items should go; use photos and other visual cues such as colors or taped off areas of the floor
  • Minimize the time it takes to find items


  • Arrange work stations in such a way that all supplies and equipment is in close proximity, in an easy to reach spot and in a logical order adapted to the work performed
  • Place components according to their uses, with the frequently used components being nearest to the workplace
  • Arrange all necessary items so that they can be easily selected for use
  • Assign fixed locations for items
  • Use clear labels, marks or hints so that items are easy to return to the correct location and so that it is easy to spot missing items


  • Have fun with labeling the items in your workspaces.  For my jewelry business, we print pictures of each jewelry style, along with the product name and sku, and place the sticker on the front of the storage bins.  We group like-items together, so all necklaces go on one shelf, and they are arranged by type with all chokers together, all pendant necklaces together, all y necklaces together, etc.  With clear organization and printed labels, it makes it easy for anyone to find, and easy to onboard new employees to help pack and ship during peak sales periods.


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Step 3: SHINE (seiso)

Clean and inspect your workplace, tools, and supplies on a regular basis.

You want to keep everything looking and functioning at its best.  Have systems in place to both protect your space and equipment and to regularly clean and maintain it.


Keep each workspace clean in order to:

  • Protect products and equipment
  • Prevent deterioration and loss
  • Ensure safety
  • Keep the space easy to work in
  • Make problems easy to visually see


  • By location, clean your workplaces, tools, and supplies
  • While cleaning, inspect the workplaces and equipment and look for issues or improvement opportunities


  • End each work day with cleaning up the workspace and equipment that were used.
  • On a regular schedule, perform more in depth cleaning of every work area.  Weekly is a good place to start and can be a great way to end a work week. Blast some tunes, pour your fave adult beverage (if you’re not cleaning sharp objects ☺), and get your cleaning on.


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Step 4: STANDARDIZE (seiketsu)

Standardize all of your processes for sorting, setting, and shining your workplace.

I consider this to be one of the most important time saving steps in the entire process so be sure to give this step the proper amount of focus and attention!

  • Establish processes and schedules to ensure the 7S practices occur regularly
  • Make everything visible and easy to understand
  • Establish a common set of tools, systems, equipment, and storage


  • Incorporate the 7S steps into your workflow and make them a part of your daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly routines
  • Ensure everyone knows their responsibilities and the expected timing of performing the sorting, organizing, and cleaning


  • Think to the future when purchasing storage.  Buying something that will grow with your business is ideal whenever possible.
  • Truly standardize.  This is where you may need to make an initial investment but it will be so worth it. When I first started my business, I had my jewelry supplies in so many different types of containers.  Nothing stacked.   I now have 1 type of container that beads and small raw materials go in, and 1 type of container in varying sizes that finished inventory goes in.  I have shelving units that are adjustable and on wheels so I can adjust them as my product line shifts and expands and so I can easily move them when I find better ways to optimize our physical space.
  • Find your key suppliers and then get smart about how and when you purchase.  You can frequently get discounts for being a 1st time customer, buying in bulk, or during key sale events such as Black Friday.  For example, we get a lot of our storage from Uline.  We know they have sales certain times each year so we try to anticipate demand and stock up whenever they have a sale.
  • Keep a database of all of your regular vendors and suppliers to make it easy to reorder product.  Have a visual cue when it is time to reorder.  For example, we maintain a list of suppliers in our work management tool, Monday - it includes details about all of our products and direct links to purchase.  For our bubble mailers, we insert a sheet of paper in the stack of mailers that says REORDER ME when we hit a certain quantity remaining.  We include the name of the vendor on the sheet of paper, so it is super easy for anyone to see when we are running low on supplies and to quickly find the necessary info to reorder.


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Step 5: SUSTAIN (shitsuke)

Sustain the processes you developed by building them into the daily habits of your team.
  • Ensure that the 7S approach is followed, and continuously reviewed and refined


  • Train your current team on the process and build the steps into their ongoing activities
  • Make sure your system is included in the onboarding of any new employees or freelancers
  • Incorporate a regular review of your processes to ensure that they are being followed AND that they are effective
  • Solicit feedback from the people actually using the system - they will have the best ideas for improvement
  • Kaizen - make small continual improvements to optimize the process
  • Establish a process for addressing issues when they arise; understand what caused them to avoid them recurring in the future


  • Post signs in the workspaces that highlight important daily activities such as a sign on the exit door asking "Did you remember to....?"
  • Make sure everyone knows where the 7S process and other processes can be found; we use OneNote to document all of our processes and Real Time Board to visualize our workflows
  • Build a regular review of your 7S activities into your quarterly planning and retrospective


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Step 6:  Make it SAFE + SECURE

Protect your workplace and your company by making safety and security a priority.

This added step 6 is all about keeping your physical and digital workspaces safe and secure.  Although safety and security are built into some of the other 5S steps, I find it valuable to call them out as their own step so they get the proper focus and attention.  This step applies to your physical workspace, your digital assets and data, and your intellectual property.

  • Keep your physical space safe and secure to prevent accidents and harm
  • Protect your digital space from cyber security attacks
  • Claim your intellectual property


  • Inspect your physical space and look for items that could cause harm - tripping hazards, items above head that could fall and are not properly secured, faulty equipment, etc.
  • Ensure proper password management; choose safe and hard to hack passwords and never send passwords via email or write them down in a visible space
  • Keep antivirus software up to date
  • Be cautious when opening attachments and clicking links from unknown sources
  • Secure your wifi and use a firewall
  • Don't share accounts with employees, especially temporary staff
  • Protect your digital assets by establishing ownership and value - this may mean securing registered copyrights, trademarks, or patents
  • Be sure to have an NDA in place with everyone who works with your company - from employees, to freelancers, to vendors
  • Backup your systems regularly


    • One of our can't-live-without tools is Last Pass.  We have it generate passwords to improve security.  Best of all, we can control who on our team has access to which tools and accounts, all without ever having to share or write down a single password.


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Step 7: Make it SEXY

Make your space sexy and reflective of your brand colors and vibe.

Organized does not need to mean boring and unimaginative.  My general rule of thumb is 80-90% functional and basic and 10-20% fun and sexy.  Add color, texture and character where it counts!

Of all the 7S steps, I find my clients love this one the most!  When built on a solid 5S foundation, this step is like the icing on the cake, the fringe on the dress, the sparkle on the jewelry - you get the idea!  It is the perfect finishing touch and best of all, it helps to get the team excited about 5Sing your studio and maintaining it.  Plus this step involves every female business owner's favorite S word - shopping!  So what's not to love? ☺

  • Make your space reflect your brand and incorporate character
  • Balance out the functional with fun!


  • Identify the areas that would most benefit from a little sex appeal
  • Find items that will add character without impact functionality, safety, or sustainability


  • Small changes make a big difference!  For example, in your office, get decorative folders and binders for important documents instead of the standard manila folders and white binders.
  • Limit the decorative sexy elements to the spaces you use most and spaces your clients see.  There is little value in making the storage closet filled with cleaning supplies in the back room sexy, but getting decorative bins for sorting mail can make an otherwise boring task that much more enjoyable.
  • Keep it simple.  One of my favorite ways to make things sexy is through paint!  Paint your walls or even the floors of your various workspaces bright cheerful colors.  Bonus points if the colors match your branding!  Then focus on small accents - things like decorative push pins for your cork board or holders for your pens and markers.  That can be all you need to add some character, color, and sex appeal to an otherwise bland space.

I love these fun push pins by TCHW available on Amazon


And these decorative file folders by Best Paper Greetings available on Amazon

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Want to implement 5S in your business?

Follow the steps in this post to start leaning out your business and eliminating waste which costs you valuable time and money.   Please share your results in the comments below, or let me know if you have any questions as you go through each step.

If you want help 5Sing your space or if you want to go deeper, I offer virtual and in-person 5S sessions.  Reach out to learn more and schedule a session.  XX

by Crista Grasso

Crista Grasso is the go-to strategic planning expert for leading global businesses and online entrepreneurs when they want to scale.  Known as the "Business Optimizer", Crista has the ability to quickly cut through noise and focus on optimizing the core things that will make the biggest impact to scale a business simply and sustainably. She specializes in helping businesses gain clarity on the most important things that will drive maximum value for their clients and maximum profits for their business.  She is the creator of the Lean Out Method, 90 Day Lean Out Planner, and host of the Lean Out Your Business Podcast


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