What is 5s and how does it work in practice?

A high performing, fully functional workplace is critical for any manufacturing business to run successfully.

Much is bandied around about the power of Lean manufacturing tools, but the reality is they’re truly effective and all based on sound, common sense. Once you understand them, and have refocused your entire team around them, the application of Lean tools in your business is relatively easy and guaranteed to bring good results. The clients we work with have driven up productivity, staff morale and profits by getting Lean.

In this post, we look in more detail at one of the most well used Lean tools: 5S. In particular how it worked in practice for our client; global automotive interiors giant Grupo Antolin.

Creating order out of chaos

Grupo Antolin was facing a number of issues with outside storage facilities. Among the challenges was the need to introduce a more structured organisation of available space, currently wasted by the storage of obsolete tooling and moulds, old packaging, scrap metal, and overflowing storage containers.

The costs of procuring offsite storage facilities together with inefficiencies of processes and too much time being taken to locate stock within the existing storage area were driving down efficiency and profit. Additionally, there were workforce Health & Safety issues and a rather poor impression for customers.

Getting Lean with 5S

In consultation with Cidori, Grupo Antolin selected Improving Operational Performance/Business Improvement Techniques (BIT) Level 2 as one of the efficiency programmes to be delivered to better organise and utilise their outdoor space, funded through their Apprenticeship Levy.

By adopting Lean methodologies, this efficiency programme really worked. But what actually is 5S and what does it achieve?

Simply put, 5S is a methodical way to better organise workplaces and working practices. Split into 5 phases, each stage is named after five Japanese terms beginning with the letter ‘s’.

Seiri (sort) sorting out the clutter within the work area removing anything that’s not needed, and only leaving those that are required for the processes in question

Seiton (set) taking the remaining necessary items and arranging them in an efficient manner through the use of ergonomic principles and ensuring that every item “has a place and that everything is in its place”

Seiso (shine) cleaning the area, the tools, machines and other equipment to make it easier to root out faulty or deteriorated equipment, safety hazards or dirt

Seiketsu (standardise) standardising the processes above to establish and embed common standards and ways of working

Shitsuke (sustain) continually improving using the above stages of 5S so it becomes part of the culture of the business and the responsibility of everyone in it

Six figure savings

Grupo Antolin were quick to enjoy the benefits of 5S.

A future state process was identified which incorporated more efficient scrappage, increased undercover storage and more accountability for outside storage. The work done by the apprentices in this project was key to the success of the overall programme and instrumental in the promotion of the programme – both with the rest of the workforce and the senior management team.

Relocating the off-site storage warehouse facility on-site has saved Grupo Antolin six figures sums – prior to implementation of the BIT programme, outdoor storage facility, personnel and transportation costs were running at £308K per annum.


The installation of an on-site temporary storage structure has led to initial annual cost savings of £192K, rising to £254K per year.

“It is really important to find a good training provider that helps you deliver results that are beneficial to not only the business but to the learners and I feel we have found that in Cidori. We are now going into our 3rd successful year of the programme, each year delivering key results for the business.”
Jessica Rawlinson-Hunt, HR and L&D Advisor at Grupo Antolin

Grupo Antolin’s story is just one example of the project led Business Improvement Techniques (BIT) apprenticeship programmes devised and delivered by Cidori.

Find out more

CIDORI delivers bespoke apprenticeships using Lean manufacturing tools, developed in partnership with RoATP accredited, Ofsted rated ‘Outstanding’, Gateshead College.

For a no-obligation discussion on how your business can benefit from a Cidori bespoke apprenticeship programme please contact:

David Murfitt  dmurfitt@www.cidori.co.uk

01788 851230
07930 493038

Useful links

Gateshead College
Grupo Antolin case study