How to build your 5S audit template

Written by Timo Kronlöf

The lean 5S method is a powerful tool to improve quality, productivity and safety. The 5 steps of 5S are Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke, which typically translate into English as sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain.

When starting a 5S program, the first three steps are usually the easiest. In short, these are about getting rid of unnecessary items and cleaning up the working areas. However, when it comes to the last two steps, Seiketsu (standardize) and Shitsuke (sustain), things get more challenging. It is very easy to fall back to old habits and once again start littering working areas with unnecessary items. Standardizing and sustaining requires attention for the long term.

One useful way to keep up the high level is through 5S auditing. Auditing forces people to revisit the first three steps of 5S on a frequent basis and to confirm the condition of the audited area. To make auditing easy, you can introduce short checklists. The auditing shouldn’t take much time in itself because there’s no direct value for the end customer from those audits.

Building your first 5S audit template

Here are some tips on how you can get started:

  1. Choose either one general list that involves all of the most relevant issues, or divide your work area in smaller parts.

  2. Take ideas for the audit list from your peers, from other people in your organization or other stake holders such as your software provider. Involve a range of people from the beginning.

  3. Start creating the audit template from the most relevant and challenging issues. For example, if cleanliness is the most important issue, add questions in regards to that aspect first.

  4. Make sure the checklist is short and simple. The rule of thumb is to limit the number of questions to 15.

  5. Use as direct and easy-to-understand language as possible. If there’s a need for more complex instructions, add them in a different document, or if you’re using software, hide the instructions under buttons.

  6. Give it a go. Don’t waste time polishing the list - start using it and make continuous improvements if necessary.