Lean Principle - 5S Habits for Building a Productive Work Environment

5S is a foundational concept for creating a productive work environment and continuous improvement. The 5S process is to productivity what eating a healthy breakfast and exercising is to your health - daily consistency will change your life.

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Field Productivity: Lean Principle. 5S Habits and Building a Productive Work Environment.


The concept of 5S is about the daily habits and tools to create a productive work environment that is continuously improving.

  1. SORT: Only keep what you need (material, tools, information, etc.) in the work area and inventory. When in doubt, move it out. Use the Red Tag technique as part of your sorting process. 
  2. SET IN ORDER: May also be called straightening and the work is organizing everything into its place. Productivity starts with having a defined place for everything and putting everything in its place.
  3. SHINE: Clean and inspect the work area including the tools, equipment, files, etc.in the work area.
  4. STANDARDIZE: Standards are the basis for all training, feedback, and improvement. Standards often start with simple checklists as Atul Gawande describes very well in The Checklist Manifesto where he draws connections between best practices in construction, airlines, and hospitals. Forward to 12:30 in the video. 
  5. SUSTAIN: Moving from one-time tasks to routine habits, management, and ultimately into the culture of the company. Continuously improving safety, quality, and productivity are as much about culture as they are about process and management. Charles Duhigg describes both the science and tools in The Power of Habit


5S can be applied to your kitchen, garage, service van, work truck, gang box, storage container, desk, computer, warehouse, etc. Wherever your personal work area is you can apply 5S.


If you do it once as if it were a major project, then it won’t do anything besides put you behind schedule. 

If a 600-calorie breakfast + 30 minutes of stretching and exercise is a good morning routine, then you would never say: 

“Once per month I’ll workout for 15 hours and eat 18,000 calories so I can save time all month.”

  • Make 5S a habit for yourself.  
  • Engage your team.  
  • Align the times when you do your 5S.  
  • Share your results - good and bad.
  • 5S isn't just for the shop or jobsite - it's for the office down to your computer and mobile phone.
  • 5S isn't just for work - it will make a huge difference at home too.


Learn more from Paul Akers and 2-Second Lean which is a great very short read with lots of pictures available in both English and Spanish.



Labor Productivity
Field labor is the often the biggest variable on a construction project - making it the biggest risk and opportunity....

Related Training
Labor Productivity
Field labor is the often the biggest variable on a construction project - making it the biggest risk and opportunity....

Resource - 2 Second Lean
Dozens of practical and fun ways to save a few more seconds each day. 3 minutes per day of additional productive time on tools (ToT) equals about a 1% labor savings - or $10K for every $1M in job cost labor. Helps develop a continuous improvement culture.
Lean Principle - 8 Categories of Waste
The first step in improving labor productivity in construction is improving everyone’s ability to see the waste. Waste can then be broken down into 8 major categories. Like colors these are often interrelated.
Setting Standards and the Feedback Loop
Set the standard. Train to the standard. Certify to the standard. Plan the work to the standard. Execute to the plan and the standard. Check against the standard. Make prioritized improvements to the standard, training, planning, and execution.