Introduction to 5-S®


5-S is the first step towards TQM.  Over the last century, the Japanese have formalised the technique and name it as 5S Practice.  Prof. Sam Ho * has improved and defined its terms in English/Chinese and developed the world's first 5-S Audit Checklist which was used for training in Malaysia under an Asian Development Bank Quality Expert assignment in 1993-94 at SIRIM.   In 1998-2000, a US$600,000 grant has been given to the author to train up 2,500 5-S Lead Auditors in Hong Kong, the first of its kind in the world.  By now, over 20,000 people have been trained, with over 100 organisations representing 50,000 people certified as 5-S Registered Organisation.



English ®*


Points *

Typical Example * (from the 50-points)





Throw away rubbish





30-second retrieval of a document





Individual cleaning responsibility





Transparency of storage





Do 5-S daily


TQMEX*:   5-S* + L5S* è (ISO 9000 / 22000 + ISO 14001 + OHSAS 18001 + 5S-6s*) è APBEST*

* Developed © & Registered ® by the Author   

5-S   =              Structurise, Systematise, Sanitise, Standardise & Self-discipline [Ho 1994; www.hk5sa.com ]

L5S   =            Lean 5-S from HK5SA   [Ho 2007;  www.hk5sa.com/icit ]

5S-6s =           Using 5-S as a tool for 6-Sigma [Ho, 2004; www.hk5sa.com/icit ]

APBEST =      Asia-Pacific Business Excellence Standard Award  [Ho, 2005, www.apbest.org ]


5-S® in Detail


The following sections will explain each of the constituents of the 5-S practice in appropriate depth to enable practitioners to get the maximum benefit from its implementation, yet not making it too complicated to understand.

S-1:   What is Structurise ?

S-2:   What is Systematise ?

S-3:   What is Sanitise ?

S-4:   What is Standardise ?

S-5:   What is Self-discipline ?


How to Implement the 5-S®?


5-S implementation requires commitment from both the top management and everyone in the organisation. It is also important to have a 5-S Champion to lead the whole organisation towards 5-S implementation step-by-step. If you decide to be the 5-S Champion of your organisation, the following steps will help you to achieve success.


Step 1: Get Top Management Commitment and be Prepared

You have to sell the idea of the 5-S to the most senior executive of your organisation. Moreover, and like any other quality programme, it is no good to get just his lip-service. He needs to be 100% committed; not just in announcing the start of the 5-S practice in the promoting campaign, but committed to give resources for training and improvements. Then you need to get prepared yourself.

In promoting the 5-S activities, the important thing is to do them one at a time and to do each thoroughly. Even the little things have to be taken seriously if they are to make any meaningful impact. This process can be stratified as follows:   

  1. Make a decision and implement it (e.g., the decision to get rid of everything you do not need, the decision to have a major housecleaning, and the decision to have 5-minute clean-up periods).
  2. Make tools and use them (e.g., special shelves and stands for things, instructional labels, and placement figures).
  3. Do things that demand improvements as prerequisites (e.g., covers to prevent filings from scattering and measures to prevent leakage).
  4. Do things that require help from other departments (e.g., fixing defective machinery, changing the layout, and preventing oil leakage).


Step 2: 5-S Training

The 5-S activities are all directed at eliminating waste and effecting continuous improvement in the workplace. Right from the beginning there will seem to be lots of 5-S activities to be done. As you go on, you will notice that there are always additional 5-S problems to solve. They are not insurmountable, though, if considered and solved one at a time.


It is essential in the 5-S activities that you train people to be able to devise and implement their own solutions. Progress that is not self-sustaining -- progress that always has to rely upon outside help -- is not real progress. It is important that your people know, for example, how to use the computer to do charts and graphs, even if it is not part of their job description. They need to study maintenance techniques. And oddly enough, the more problems they are capable of solving, the more problems they will spot.


Training should also include section-wide or company-wide meetings where people can announce their results. Not only does this provide incentive, but the exchange of ideas and information is often just what you need to keep everybody fresh.


Step 3: Draw up a Promotional Campaign


Step 4: Keeping Records

It is important to keep records not only of decisions made but also of the problems encountered, actions taken and results achieved. Only if past practice has been recorded people will have a sense of progress and improvement over time. There are a number of tools for keeping records, these are:   

  1. Digital Photographs
  2. "Problem" Mark
  3. Quantification
  4. Museum Rooms
  5. DVDs


Step 5: Evaluation

As with so many other things, it is very easy to get into a routine with 5-S activities -- particularly because they demand constant everyday attention to routine details. At the same time, because the individual tasks appear minor even though they have great cumulative impact, it is easy to think that you can put them off. Everybody is busy, and it is difficult to make alert 5-S activities a part of the daily routine. Workplace evaluations and other means are needed to keep everyone abreast of what is happening and to spot problems before they develop into major complications. In essence, you need to devise ways that will get everybody competing in a friendly but no less intense manner. Your evaluation tools are the key and it is as simple as using the 5-S Audit Worksheet as your evaluation criteria.


Patrols and Cross-evaluations
Two other techniques that you can adopt to promote the 5-S activities are patrols and cross-evaluations. Patrols can go around to the various workshops and offices and point out problems. This is similar to 'managing by walking around', but the patrol members do not even need to be management personnel. They simply need to know what to look for and have the authority to point out problems that need to be worked on. They simply need to know what questions to ask.


Cross-evaluations are a variation on this theme in that they involve having teams working on similar problems offering advice to other teams. One advantage of doing this is the exchange of ideas and mutual learning.


The objective of the evaluation is to ensure that the 5-S implementation will lead to a conducive total quality environment.



* © Prof. Sam HO  PhD(Mgt.), FIQA, EQA Assessor, Mob: +852-9128-9204,  samho@hk5sa.com

u      Creator of the 50-point 5-S Checklist,

u      Founder Chair of the HK 5-S Association with over 20,000 members world-wide,

u      Director of HKSAR Government sponsored 5-S Campaign, certified over 100 companies in HK/China,

u      Consultant and Trainer for over 100 firms for ISO 9000 & 5-S implementation,

u      Oshikawa Fellow of the Asian Productivity Organization (86-87),

u      Asian Development Bank Quality Expert to the Malaysian Government (93-94),

u      Chairman of the 1st-14th "International Conference on ISO 9000 and TQM - ICIT" (96-09),

u      Professor of Strategy & Quality, Luton Business School, UK (96-97),

u      Research Associate, Judge Institute of Management, Cambridge University, UK (96-97),

u      Guest Speaker, Said Business School, Oxford University, UK,

u      Professor of Strategic & Quality Management, International Management Centres, UK,

u      Visiting Professor in TQM at Uni. of Paisley (UK), RMIT (Australia) & Vaxjo (Sweden),

u      Distinguished Professor in Business Excellence, Zhong Shan University (1st in China),

u      Founder Chair, Asia-Pacific Business Excellence Standards (APBEST) Academy,

u      Author of over 100 papers & 20 books, including "TQM: An Integrated Approach", translated into 5 languages