How to organize service companies with 5S

5s is one of the first lean tools that you need to implement if you want to provide a superb service.

5S is the name of a workplace organization methodology, a tool that is implemented in organizations that would like to be lean. Its name is after the five Japanese words that make up the main steps: seiri (Sort), seiton (store), seiso (shine), seiketsu (standardize), and shitsuke (sustain). It helps to define the first rules to eliminate waste and maintain a work environment that is efficient, safe, clean and quality oriented. It was first popularized by Taiichi Ohno, who designed the Toyota Production System, but is it only applicable to manufacturing industries?

Actually is not, is such a simple methodology that ca be widely applied to any kind of environment, even offices and of course, kinder gardens. The power of 5s has yet to be discovered by service companies because it’s simple and very practical, easy to understand by everyone in the company, no matter the position or education level.

Service companies usually have smaller spaces to work, lots of papers, customers usually visit the place and it gets difficult to measure employee productivity and efficiency, as everyone tends to follow their own pace, there is no machine to keep up the work. 5s can help by:

  • Creating organized places
  • Improving the retrieval time of documents
  • Standardizing prcedures and implementing rules
  • Improving customer service
  • Eliminating waste
  • Improving communication and teamwork
  • Fostering fresh ideas for innovation

It’s especially good for applying in kinder gardens, when even small children can learn to be organized and realize that everything has an owner and a specific place to be.


The pictures show how a 5s wall in a kinder garden could look like. It can help you organize the supplies that each baby needs to be cleaned by using big individual bags or dispensers with name tags, reducing movement and effort while the baby is on the table, and making sure you only use the nappies and products that each of them requires. You can also use pictures to help kids identify where they stuff should be located, not being able to read or not speaking the right language is not an excuse for 5S!

5s kinder garden




I have also applied in an office environment. Paperwork was too much and retrieval was a complete headache. If an audit would came, you would need to retrieve documents from 3 years ago or more (remember that accounting paperwork like invoices usually requires to be kept for 10 years for tax or legal reasons), and you had to do it fast.

What happened is that each team and every analyst would store documents their own way. Some were too careful and included too many details in each folder, and some were extremely simple and included too little information. In the end, documentation was hard to be found and costly, because we have older boxes in offsite storage, and if you needed to bring them back and forth quickly (usually the normal service took around 3 days, but if you needed them fast, it was an extra cost) the expense was higher.

Sort and store

5S helped to organize the paperwork, categorizing each type of documentation based on the team who produced it, the type of documentation, the month and year, and the estimated frequency of retrieval. That categorization would tell the user where to store the documents, how to label them and when they should be moved to another storage location. It was quite automated and error-free because we had uploaded the categories to a database, so every time you would enter the type of document to print the label, it would help you to fill it with pre-entered information. If it was a current document, you would store it at your desk, if it was x months old you would store it in the common area drawers, and if it was older than a year, you would store it offsite. Every drawer was labeled indicating the customer/plant, the month and year. We had calculated how much space we needed each month based on historical data, so we know exactly how many months we had on-site. Having that information we also re-distributed the common area drawers accordingly, so that groups with more documents would have more space available.

Having the amount and type of documents well tightly defined, it was hard for outliers not to meet the requirements or deadlines, because it was easy to tell as they would run out of space anyway and folders would be on their desk uncovering them.


Then we had a routine of cleaning the desk every day before leaving and keeping unfinished documents locked in a temporary folder in or drawers. Even though there was specific personnel for dong the regular clean-up, we would make sure our own desk and drawers should be clean at all times, as visitors would come often and sometimes without notice.


Every month or every three months (depending on the amount of documents every group generated) we had a “filing day”, which was coordinated in advance with the filing room and with the rest of the teams, when everyone in the team would clean their desk and move document out to the common area, and from the common area to the filing room. If it was every three months, we would all move the same three months out, so that we all know which period of documentation was on–site anytime.


The best part of the project was that you were not only able to retrieve faster and easier the documentation within your team, but also if you would move to another team, they had implemented the same system, so everyone knew how to organize and find documents everywhere in the company.

Of course there were new employees and desk movements, so we delivered a refresher training every 3 months, and we had periodic audits in which, for example, we picked to retrieve random documents, we opened drawers to double check content with the labels, or we conducted walkthroughs in the early morning or late afternoon to ensure cleanliness or identify classified documents left unlocked. If there was something out of place, we would leave a card or fill a report to make sure they were well aware when something was wrong.

5s course biztorming

5S is an excellent tool when it comes to generate a quality culture company-wide. You can even use it to help your employees remember birthday and improve team-building. Have you ever tried to implement 5S within your company? Tell us your experience!

Luciana Paulise
CEO Biztorming Training & Consulting

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