organized workspace

The 5 “S’s” to Success: A Client Story

Supply Chain

By, Ray Scott – Senior Partner

Do you have an operation, office, or storage area that resembles a lost-and-found? Do you need to dig through a pile of “stuff” to find what you need? If you’re a client of Experience on Demand, you can apply the five S’s to organize the area – and keep it organized.

What Are the 5 S’s?

Basically, 5S is a process that leads to “a place for everything, and everything in its place” – on steroids!  The process includes these five steps:

  1. Sort
  2. Set in Order
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

The result is an organized, well-labeled workspace containing only the items needed to do your job well each day. The “standardize” and “sustain” steps help maintain that organization.

Process at Small Storage Warehouse

We helped a company that had a small warehouse with various MRO products such as cleaning materials and chemicals. Over time, they accumulated a lot of material, much of it only used once but kept around forever. (Sound familiar?)

We began the process with an opening “education” meeting, explaining the 5S steps and enlisting help from all areas of the company. Employees from the warehouse, management, operations, sales and finance all took part in the 5S training process.

Before 5S

Before 5S

After 5S

After 5S


For the first step, “Sort”, we established red/yellow/green spaces on the floor. Red meant the item was to be pitched, yellow required further input, and green was standard, regularly-used items. We took everything off the shelves and put it in one of the three categories.

There was surprisingly little disagreement on the sorting, once we agreed on ground rules. For example, anything that had not been used in the past 18 months was a “red” item. We obtained a 20-foot disposal carrier and filled it with many of the red items. A number of items were also donated to a local homeless shelter. The “yellow” items were reviewed by Operations and Sales, and put into either “red” or “green” areas.

Set in Order

This step was all about finding a home for the remaining green items. Some older storage units were removed, as the space was no longer needed, and some shelving was moved to allow better access.  We then grouped items by type, and the most frequently used items were placed on shelves at a comfortable height and easy to reach.

Some new storage was used for special items such as push brooms, ladders, and hoses; these items and others were hung on hooks from walls, leaving the floor uncluttered.


This was a two day effort to thoroughly clean the area, including removing old labeling, sweeping and cleaning the floors, dusting all shelves, and making sure all remaining items were visible on the shelves.


For this stage, the location for each item was clearly labeled with the name of the item and the maximum quantity that was allowed on hand, then stocked with the items from the “green” area.  Everything found a home by the end of the process. The change was very visible, especially to the warehouse personnel who were used to tripping over things or moving one item to reach another.


The first four steps took place over a two week period. The final step is often the hardest – how do we maintain the gain?

We rearranged the workstations within the warehouse so that mops, brooms, cleaners, and rags used in cleaning the warehouse were hung up and easily accessible. We removed some unused items on a desk and set up specific spots for incoming and outgoing paperwork. We also instituted daily, weekly and monthly task lists, and an audit checklist (administered by the supervisor and posted each week) to see that the system was maintained over time.


The result was a better organized, cleaner and less cluttered warehouse. In addition, by involving many employees in the effort, there was a renewed appreciation for the work of the warehouse personnel and pride in keeping the new standards in place. The warehouse staff took ownership of the new methods and the audits helped remind all employees of the proper procedures to follow.

If you are interested in learning more about 5S, and how it can help your warehouse, storage, operations or even office environment, contact Ray Scott.