Five Memorable Phrases to Sustain 5S



As a manufacturer, you should be keenly aware of the importance of 5S methodology for improving workplace performance through standardization. The ultimate goal of any 5S initiative is the successful implementation of the fifth step, SUSTAIN. To ensure this, it's critical that the actions in the first four steps (SORT through STANDARDIZE) are aligned with maintaining the gains.

Here are five quotations (one for each of the steps) to remember throughout the 5S process:

This timeless saying is attributed to the first parent who EVER had a child with homework. The important part here is for the team to do their homework about their designated area. This will help ensure that the purpose, mission and goals are clearly understood.

An effective first step paves the way for the entire activity to succeed. Without it, many mistakes likely will be made during the sorting process since necessary items will be removed, and items that are not maintained properly might be misused.

This phrase was first uttered by Paul Marcarelli in a Verizon commercial back in 2002. It’s a great reminder that setting up an area during a 5S event is an interactive process. In order for team members to be the most productive in their work environment, they need to be asked on a regular basis about what works best for them. Otherwise, the area will immediately begin to morph back into its original setup, since team needs were not taken into account.

A key point, and title of the 2006 book by Michael Cohen, this saying perfectly calls out one of the mistakes often made during the SHINE step in 5S. Quite often, the team is so busy removing the dirt, grime and other contaminants from the work area that they forget to identify the sources of them. Tool changes, equipment condition, maintenance activities, material drop off and pick up, and many other activities can contribute to the area falling below the standard. If these other sources of general disarray are not considered, the area teams will lose motivation quickly since they will see themselves as maids, not as area owners.

First used in training by the United States Navy in the 1960s, this phrase summarizes the key criteria needed to standardize during a 5S implementation. The most brilliant plan—if complex, time-consuming, and onerous—is doomed to failure before it even starts. Keep standards visual, expectations achievable and audits simple and timely.

This quote from the 1996 movie, “Jerry Maguire,” reminds us that people are more likely to buy into what they see as having value to them. As two of the main characters learn, there are some things that may not seem to have great worth in the beginning, but turn out to be of the utmost importance and value later. In the end, this idea is what sustaining is all about; helping the area teams achieve a level of workplace standardization that creates an environment that is safe and more enjoyable, a job that is made easier by the benefits of 5S and the level of ownership necessary to sustain it.

Your business needs 5S structure to perform at its peak. Future success can hang by a thread when required and established standards are not met and maintained. The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) can help your manufacturing facility work more efficiently and drive growth. To gain a better understanding about our full range of consulting services, click here or email at


Chuck Werner, Lean Program Manager and Six Sigma Master Black Belt
Chuck Werner has 27 years of experience in manufacturing, most of it as a Tier I automotive supplier. He achieved his certification as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt in 1996 and his Master Black Belt certification in 2011. Additionally, Chuck is a certified ISO/QS9000 Lead Assessor, Training Within Industry (TWI) Master Trainer and is certified in OSHA Compliance and Accident Reduction. To read his full bio, click here.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Continuous Improvement, Lean Principles