What is 5S and How Does it Apply in Maintenance

What is 5S and How Does it Apply in Maintenance?

Auteur : David Ball


5S is often considered to be the cornerstone of becoming a world-class organization. 5S is a system used to organize and maintain the workplace environment resulting in improved efficiency and safety, reduced waste, and the elimination of non-value-added activities. The 5S steps are: 


  1. Separate. Sort the “needed” from the “not needed”.
  2. Simplify. Determine a place for everything and put everything in its place.
  3. Systematize. Develop the “visual” process to enable inspection that is obvious “at a glance”.
  4. Standardize. Develop common methods for consistency.
  5. Sustain. Maintain the gain and continue to improve.

The application of the 5S methodology to improve production processes is apparent.  Improved organization on the production floor decreases the time associates spend looking for the tools and information required to execute production plans. Removing unneeded items from the production floor increases floor space and improves process flow. Applying 5S to the production area creates a safe and pleasant work environment. But what about non-production areas? Does 5S have a role when it comes to functional and support areas of an organization?



5S is just as impactful in functional and support areas as it is in production areas. When applied to the maintenance functions of an organization, 5S reduces production downtime, prevents equipment failure, and increases the efficiency and productivity of maintenance personnel. The application of 5S in performing maintenance will have a positive impact on two important asset reliability metrics:


  1. Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)
  2. Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF). 

Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)

Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) is a metric used to measure the average time from when an asset fails to the time that asset is repaired, tested, and available for use again. The application of 5S will help decrease the time it takes to bring a failed asset back on-line by:

  • Spending less time finding the tools and hardware needed to repair the asset.
  • Having spare parts available and easy to locate.
  • Being able to quickly retrieve maintenance manuals and troubleshooting guides.
  • Ensuring maintenance shop machines, equipment, and supplies are clean, organized, and ready for use.

Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)

Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) is a metric used to measure the average time elapsed between when an asset fails and the next occurrence. 5S will help prolong the uptime of assets by: 

  • Increasing the efficiency and productivity of maintenance personnel allowing for more time to thoroughly complete Preventative Maintenance (PM) tasks.
  • Using visual controls to make equipment easy to monitor.
  • Ensuring the proper type of lubrication is used.
  • Freeing up maintenance personnel so they can focus on tasks such as overhauling and improving equipment, training, predictive maintenance, etc.


An organized maintenance shop is an efficient maintenance shop. Shop machines and equipment that are kept clean and in good working order will ensure maintenance jobs are turned around in a timely manner. Organizing maintenance tools, small parts, PPE, cleaning supplies, toolboxes, and other maintenance items improves the efficiency and productivity of maintenance personnel and creates a safer, more pleasant work environment.


Maintenance Shop Before 5S
Maintenance Shop After 5S



The management of spare parts inventory can be vastly improved through the application of 5S practices. Sorting through unnecessary items creates storage areas that are well organized, making the retrieval of spare parts as efficient as possible. Applying visual controls and establishing reorder points ensure that spare parts are available when needed, resulting in less downtime. An organized parts storage area prevents overspending which occurs when needed parts can’t be located.

Organized Parts Storage - an image of organized parts making a more efficient visual workplace through eliminating waste, crucial in the manufacturing industry
Organized Parts Storage


Much like the circulatory system of the human body, lubrication is the lifeblood of equipment. Lubrication reduces friction, serves as a coolant, prevents rust, acts as a sealant, and serves as a cleaning agent. Making 5S a part of your lubrication program helps prevent; the incorrect lubricant from being used, over-lubrication, and lubricants from becoming contaminated. Applying the 5S system to your lubrication program reduces the number of lubricants used throughout your plant and optimizes costs.

Color-coding of lubrication used to speed up work processes and reduce errors through visual cues
Color-coded Lubrication Center


Maintenance areas are not limited to the maintenance shop and parts crib. Areas such as boiler rooms, hydraulic rooms, forklift maintenance areas, electrical rooms, etc. typically fall under the control of a plant’s maintenance department. These areas can also benefit from 5S activities.


A forklift repair shop before using 5s maintenance principles
Forklift Repair Shop Before 5S
Forklift Repair Shop after implementing a 5S organizational system involving cleaning tools, organizing remaining items, and using floor marking tape
Forklift Repair Shop After 5S
Weld Shop Before implementing new practices based around 5s
Weld Shop Before 5S
Weld Shop after using 5S principles to improve organization and simplify routine tasks and work process
Weld Shop After 5S



Ready to unleash the full potential of your maintenance department? Performance Solutions by Milliken can help. Our practitioners have extensive experience implementing sustainable 5S systems. Our team-based approach leverages the power of all associates in building a strong 5S culture.  Contact us today to get started