6S System To Success


  1. Sort: Clearing the work area
  2. Set in Order: Designating locations
  3. Shine: Cleanliness & workplace appearance
  4. Standardize: Everyone doing things the same way
  5. Safety: Creating a safe work environment
  6. Sustain: Ingraining the 6S‘s into the culture

The 6S’s lead to improved processes and ultimately:

  • Reduced set-up times
  • Reduced cycle times
  • Increased floor space
  • Lower safety incident/accident rate
  • Less wasted labor
  • Better equipment reliability

Sort: Clearing the work area

Any work area should only have the items needed to perform the work in the area. All other items should be cleared (sorted out) from the work area.

Set in Order: Designating locations

Everything in the work area should have a place and everything should be in its place.

Shine: Cleanliness & workplace appearance

Not only should the work area be clear, it should also be clean.

Cleanliness involves housekeeping efforts, improving the appearance of the work area, and even more importantly, preventive housekeeping – keeping the work area from getting dirty, rather than just cleaning it up after it becomes dirty.

Standardize: Everyone doing things the same way

Everyone in the work area and in the organization must be involved in the 6S effort, creating best practices and then getting everyone to “copy” those best practices the same way, everywhere, and every time. Work area layouts and storage techniques should be standardized wherever possible.

Safety: Create a safe work Environment

Cleanliness and organization helps improve practices, but safety helps us maintain awareness that will help identify safety hazards and keep staff members safe. This is the most recent “S” in the original 5S system and is an essential part of any business environment.

Sustain: Ingraining the 6S’s into the culture

It’s tough to keep a 6S effort, or any improvement effort for that matter, going. The 6S‘s involve a culture change. And to achieve a culture change, it has to be ingrained into the organization – by everyone at all levels in the organization.


  • SORT


Dispositioning Items

Ideas for using 6S Tags and dispositioning items during the Sort phase:

No 6S Tag
  • Used at least once every two days.
  • Do not remove the item from its place of use.
6S Tag, Type A
  • Used about once a week.
  • Remove it from the direct work area but store it close to the work area.
6S Tag, Type B
  • Used once a month.
  • Store it somewhere accessible in the facility.
6S Tag, Type C
  • Used once a year or less frequently.
  • Consider storing it outside or moving it off-site.
6S Tag, Type D
  • No longer needed.
  • Remove: sell, return, donate, or discard.

Sorting:  What to do with Items No Longer Needed

Suggestions for disposing of items deemed to be no longer needed during the Sort phase:

Sell it

  • If equipment or tools are no longer needed, your company may be able to sell them on the used equipment market.

Return it for credit

  • If raw materials or supplies are no longer needed but they are within their useable shelf life, your company may be able to return them for credit minus a restocking charge.

Give it away

  • If your company cannot sell the equipment, tools, or supplies, consider donating them to a school or not-for-profit organization for tax credit.

As a last resort, throw it away

  • If it is a raw material, be sure to check with your safety and environmental staff to determine the proper and safe way to dispose of it.

6S Sort Checklist

What: Examples of items to sort out

  • Too much” stock, supplies, & materials
  • Supplies and tools no longer needed
  • Obsolete materials or parts
  • Obsolete or damaged tooling & fixtures
  • Anything that will not be used in the next 48-hours

Where: Examples of places to check

  • Along walls, partitions, & columns
  • In corners
  • On mezzanines
  • On top of all flat surfaces
  • Under desks & workbenches
  • Desk & workbench drawers
  • Inside cabinets
  • Any stack or pile
  • Bulletin boards, schedule boards
  • Tool boxes



Storage Proximity

Considerations for determining storage locations during the Set in Order phase:

If the item is used several times a day:

  • Store “on the equipment” if possible.

If the item is used at least once every two days:

  • Store in the work area.

If the item is used about once a week:

  • Store close to the work area.

If the item is used once a month:

  • Store somewhere accessible in the facility.

Storage Options

Options to consider when selecting or designing storage devices during the Set in Order phase:

The Floor

  • For some large or heavy materials, tools, or equipment, the only logical thing to do is store them on the floor.
  • Designate a dedicated space for the item, mark the space on the floor, and use it only for that item.

Racks and Shelving

  • Racks and shelving allow the effective use of cubic feet rather than just square feet used for storage by making vertical space available.
  • Labeling shelves and first-in, first-out practices are important to ensure that the shelves are effective 6S aids.

Flow Racks

  • Gravity flow racks are excellent to ensure FIFO (first-in, first-out) inventory practices are followed.
  • Flow racks can be designed for either cartons or pallets.


  • Cabinets can be both good and bad for organizing a work area. They are good for storage. They are bad in that they can be used to “hide things.”
  • It takes discipline to ensure a cabinet is a valuable 6S tool and does not detract from the effort.


  • Carts are ideal for moving things into the work areas when needed and then out of the way when not needed.

Storage Bins

  • Storage bins are available in all sizes, from small desktop containers to large, rolling bins.
  • Using different colored bins to designate different tasks or product families provides a visual check to help make sure a bin is not out of place.

Portable Equipment

  • Any equipment that can be made portable should be. This will allow it to be rolled into the work area when it is needed and then rolled back to its home when the job is done.
  • Do not forget to designate the area for storing the portable equipment when it is not in use.

Custom Storage

  • Even unusual shaped and sized items can be organized.
  • After reviewing the item, a maintenance professional can often design and build a custom storage system for those items.

Central Cribs or Storeroom

  • Using a centralized storeroom as the designated storage location is rarely as effective as it may seem at first.
  • Instead of a central crib, why not consider keeping equipment and supplies in satellite storerooms in the area where they are needed?

Shadow Boards

  • Shadow boards provide a visual place to store hand tools and gages. It is easy to see at a glance what is missing from the board as well as what should be placed where on the board.

Hanging Tools

  • One method to organize tools in work areas is to mount them from retractable reels above the work area. This keeps them out of the way when not needed, but keeps them right at hand for when they are needed.

Location-Specific Designated Storage

Tips for designing and defining designated storage spaces:

Designated Space on the Floor

  • When items are stored on the floor in the work area, make sure the allocated storage space is not in the way; keep the designated spaces out of the workers’ travel paths, material-handling aisles, and away from electrical equipment.
  • Designate the space by outlining the space with colored tape or paint and labeling the space.

Kanban Locations

  • A kanban is a signal to trigger replenishment of inventory. The kanban can signal it is time to pull inventory from storage or to start the next production run.
  • Kanban space options include full boxes, peg boards with a specific number of openings or slots, and totes with predetermined quantities.
  • Kanban spaces for raw materials, work-in-process, or finished goods should be clearly marked.
  • Consider adding signs above the kanban areas that note the item or items and maximum quantities that should be stored in the space.

Safe Placement

  • When designating locations, take into account the weight and size of the object.
  • There should be easy access to the storage location, especially to items that are frequently used. Make sure there is enough room around the object to access it safely.
  • To avoid potential injuries, heavy items (approximately 25 pounds or more) that are accessed manually should not be stored too high or too low.
  • Safe placement also involves the safety of the equipment itself. For example, a sensitive electronic instrument should not be stored alongside a fork truck aisle unless protected by a bollard. And flammable materials should be stored in a safety cabinet or flammable storage area, not out in the open.

Aisles and Access-ways

  • Painting aisles and access-ways or doorways is useful to show where not to store things.
  • If the aisles are going to be used for egress, make sure they are wide enough and meet local and federal regulations.

Locations for Waste Containers

  • Space in the work area should be allocated for peripherals such as trash cans, waste carts, cutting fluid or coolant drums, and even cardboard scrap.
  • Designated locations for waste containers must be convenient to the work area if they are to be used the way they are intended, but they must not in the way of the work.

A Place for Paperwork

  • Designated locations for process-related paperwork, both for permanent paperwork such as work instructions and for “transient” paperwork such as travelers or routers are also needed.
  • Permanent paperwork should be stored near where it is used.
  • It’s a good idea to store transient paperwork in a plastic sleeve right on the parts or equipment if possible.
  • Paperwork such as data collection forms and SPC control charts should also have designated locations. One technique is to use stands for this type of paperwork at each work area.

Storage Don’ts

Things NOT to do when arranging and designing storage locations and devices:

Don’t Use Worktables as Storage Tables

  • A worktable is not a good storage area.
  • Tables in many work areas seem to become magnets for clutter. Consider removing tables in the work area unless they are needed to perform work.
  • If a table is needed, it should be sized for the work being done on it. Do not allow space that could be used for storage. Sometimes it’s best to replace a table with a stand.

Don’t Allocate Too Much Space

  • Be careful not to allocate too much space when designating locations.
  • Remember that open areas in any operation tend to get filled up; most of the time the open area gets filled with things that aren’t needed in the work area.
  • Err on the side of using less space rather than more space unless safety considerations are involved.

Don’t Waste the Worker’s Time

  • When organizing work areas, be careful not to set the storage up in a manner that would waste the worker’s time trying to get at the items.
  • For example, if the worker would have to wait for a fork truck to unstack items, then don’t stack them to begin with. And don’t put items on the top shelf in an office if the office workers will need to take time to locate a step stool or step ladder to get access to them.

Signs & Labels for Storage Locations

Tips for using signs and labels to identify what is stored in specific storage locations:

Label the Locations

  • When setting in order, label the designated locations and storage containers.
  • The information contained on the labels will be easier for all employees to understand when the format for the labels is standardized.
  • When storage locations might change, consider portable labels. For example, magnetic labels work well on racking in storage and warehouse areas.
  • For consumables, another alternative is to use kanban cards as the labels by having them mounted in plastic sleeves at the location. When the reorder quantity is reached, the kanban card can be removed from the sleeve and then be used to reorder the item.

Communicate Information with Labels

  • Labels can help communicate information at a glance.
  • For example, color-coding the labels so that the storage locations and types or classes of inventoried items can be quickly matched saves time.

Use Visual Labels

  • Labels containing words or code numbers are good but sometimes pictures are even better.
  • Consider putting a picture or schematic of the item on the label to create a visual label that clearly communicates the item stored.


Color Coding

  • Color-coding tools makes it easier to know where they belong and when they are out of place.
  • Consider color-coding peripheral equipment such as chutes, dies, and fixtures that go with specific pieces of equipment as well.

Set in Order Checklist

Set in Order: Rationale & Techniques

  • The more frequent the use, the closer to the point of use the item should be stored.
  • Arrange equipment, tools, & supplies in the sequence of operations.
  • Base storage amount on cubic feet, not quantity.
  • Use color-coding.
  • Designate locations for specific items.
  • Use labels & signs to identify stored items.


Set in Order: Storage Options

  • The Floor
  • Racks and Shelving
  • Flow Racks
  • Cabinets
  • Carts
  • Storage Bins
  • Portable Equipment
  • Custom Storage
  • Central Cribs
  • Shadow Boards
  • Hanging Tools
  1. SHINE

Tips for Cleaning the Workplace

Tips for cleaning the workplace in the Shine phase:

What needs to be cleaned?

  • Actually, everything will need to be cleaned, but the 6S team should take the time to specifically list out what will be cleaned.
  • Use your list to determine what cleaning equipment and supplies will be needed and who will do the cleaning.
  • Cleaning the work area does not just mean the process equipment and area directly around it. It means the whole area including the floors, the walls, and even the ceilings and the lighting fixtures.
  • Even areas under and on top of equipment, areas which are not normally seen, should be cleaned. These areas are often overlooked or ignored.

Cleaning Tools

  • The proper tools are needed for housekeeping just like the proper tools are needed to do the “real” job.
  • Housekeeping equipment and supplies should be kept in designated locations near where they will be used.
  • Set up a kanban system for cleaning supplies.

Cleaning Schedules

  • Continual cleaning of a work area is the best approach.
  • If an area “gets dirty” faster than it can be kept clean, find the reason (root cause) and correct it.
  • Set scheduled cleaning times and responsibilities for common areas.

Cleaning Responsibilities

  • A formal schedule is best for establishing who will do what and when they will do it. A posted checklist is a good tool for creating the schedule; use the checklist to indicate responsibility and record the completion of housekeeping assignments.

Maintaining Workplace Appearance

Tips for maintaining the appearance of the workplace in the Shine phase:

Painting the Workplace

  • Painting is a key part of Shine. Of course, before the area can be painted, it must be clean. Consider painting the walls, ceiling, equipment, and if appropriate, even the floors.
  • Establish a painting scheme. Different work areas don’t need to have the identical colors, but they should have the same color scheme.


Proper Lighting

  • It’s hard to “shine” when the work area is dimly lit. Even a clean area can look dingy under poor lighting.
  • Ensure that the work area is bright enough. Natural light is best; consider adding more windows to the work area. If it’s not practical or cost-effective to add natural lighting, add more lighting fixtures or consider replacing bulbs and reflectors.

Dealing with Clutter

  • Most of the clutter should have been cleared out and organized in the first two phases of the 6S‘s, Sort and Set in Order.
  • Things that are often overlooked include postings on the walls or bulletin boards and hoses or wires running along the floor.

Effective Dust Collection

  • When using powders or friable materials, dust collection systems are a must.
  • Proper dust collection devices prevent work areas from getting dusty and dirty.

Minimizing Spills

  • Equipment that uses cutting fluid, coolant, and hydraulic fluid “always” seems to have leaks or spills.
  • There are methods for preventing spills; one low-tech approach is to put a pan under an entire piece of machinery to collect and contain spills and drips.
  • One of the keys to minimize spills is to repair leaks immediately after they start.

Routine Maintenance

  • Preventing housekeeping problems involves performing maintenance as necessary. If equipment starts leaking, stop the leak. If dust starts blowing around, find the source and fix it.
  • Don’t just use tape or other temporary fixes; follow the temporary measures with permanent fixes to the problem to prevent recurrence.


  • In manufacturing facilities and at building entryways, keeping carpeting looking acceptable is a difficult job. While regular cleaning and chemical guarding of the carpet will make the areas look better, consider installing darker, mottled carpeting in hallways and areas accessed from the plant or from the outdoors.
  • One technique to determine what color carpeting would hide dirt the best is to place small pads of white carpeting at the entrances to the office areas from the plant. Then, after a few weeks of traffic, take the now-dirty pads to a commercial carpet facility and have them match the color.

Preventive (Shine) Measures

Tips to help keep the workplace “Shining:”

Root Cause Analysis

  • Treat cleaning and organizing the work area as a process improvement problem. The same root cause and problem-solving tools used for quality and productivity problems can be applied to improving workplace organization and appearance.
  • A key to preventing recurrence of housekeeping issues lies in root cause analysis of the problem. Root cause analysis involves collecting and analyzing data to find out what is at the root of the “dirty equipment or work area” symptoms.


Mistake-Proofing Solutions

  • Once the root cause of recurring housekeeping issues is found, identify a solution that mistake-proofs the problem and prevents the work area and equipment from getting dirty in the first place.

Prevention in the Design Stage

  • New installations should be designed with housekeeping in mind.
  • Prevention ideas that focus on seemingly unimportant housekeeping issues can lead to significant improvements in appearance over the long term.



Standardize, the fourth of the 6S’s, involves putting the systems in place to ensure that everyone does things the same way.

  • The methodology for Sorting needs to be standardized, the approach to Set in Order needs to be standardized, and Shine especially needs to be standardized.

In order to standardize:

  • Roles and responsibilities must be clear and consistently applied.
  • Training will be necessary to ensure all know how to apply 6S techniques and “copy exactly,” or apply them the same way.
  • And, as with any improvement initiative, the effort must not be allowed to become static but must continuously evolve and grow.

Roles and responsibilities:

  • Roles in a 6S effort are straightforward. Leaders must set the tone and lead by example.
  • Managers and supervisors must commit to the initiative, provide time for the workforce to develop and implement 6S changes, provide guidance with those changes, and support the 6S changes.
  • Members of the workforce must embrace 6S principles and practices and help implement the 6S‘s in their work areas.

6S training:

  • Universal indoctrination in general 6S techniques is needed to help build a common 6S vocabulary and skill base.
  • As the 6S‘s are adopted work-area by work-area, each area will develop unique approaches and methods; anyone working in a specific work area must receive training in those work-area-specific methods.
  • And, just like with any new skill, practice makes “perfect.”

Copy exactly:

  • Standardization is about creating best practices and then getting everyone to “copy exactly,” using the established best practices the same way, everywhere, and every time.
  • Implementing a “copy exactly” mentality involves establishing standardized rules.
  • Visual factory techniques including color-coding, checklists, and labeling help reinforce a copy exactly approach.

Continuous improvement:

  • It works best when the approaches used to improve 6S techniques and practices are standardized as well.
  • For example, if an organization does use a common problem-solving process, time spent communicating new ideas and spreading lessons learned to other work areas will be saved.



Creating a Safer Work environment

Safety can be applied as a separate S in the 6S program. However, Safety is a key factor in EVERY STEP of 6S and should be implemented in conjunction with the other 5 steps in the system. Building safety awareness into all activities is the primary focus of this 6S step. Zero accidents and injuries will be more likely when accident prevention, identifying and eliminating hazards, and reporting safety issues becomes an integral part of your 6S program. We should always be conscious of what could be a safety hazard and how to prevent it.

Keep it Clean!

Cleanliness is the key factor of the Shine step of 6S and will have an immediate impact on safety. Removing all clutter and trash consistently from in walkways, aisles, work stations, offices, carts, and even low traffic areas or the building exterior will reduce the risk of injury due to accidents caused by hazards that are in unsafe positions or in pathways. This focus should also be applied to the restrooms and breakrooms to reduce health and wellness safety factors.

Hey! That is a Hazard!”

Identifying and eliminating hazards is essential in creating the safest possible work environment. All broken or damaged equipment should be removed from use, tagged out and reported immediately to a Supervisor or Manager. The equipment should not be used again until it has been repaired or replaced.

Assign a Safety Committee

Every company should have an assigned Safety Committee that does a regularly scheduled review and Safety Audit. A Safety Audit should be performed to identify, label and deal with Hazards. This report should be turned into management, pointing out hazards based on level of severity, highest to lowest.



Sustain is perhaps the most difficult phase of the 6S’s.

  • You would think that after going through the trouble of Sorting, Setting in Order, Shining, Standardizing, and Safety that the Sixth S, Sustain, would be easy.
  • But, unfortunately, Sustain is perhaps the toughest of the 6S‘s.

Communication is necessary to reinforce the 6S’s.

  • Sustaining requires keeping everyone involved, continually reinforcing what and why the 6S‘s are important.
  • Communication becomes the spotlight for a 6S initiative. Keep reinforcing the message and emphasizing roles and responsibilities.
  • Sustaining the 6S’s requires leadership, commitment, and allocation of the time and resources necessary to keep the effort vital.
  • Recognition for jobs done well becomes the fuel that keeps the effort dynamic.

Preventing backsliding:

  • Audits can serve as on-going checks on 6S activities.
  • A teamwork approach builds a common effort toward achieving a common goal.
  • Soliciting ideas for improvement will generate ideas to improve and help sustain the 6S effort.
  • And reacting immediately to problems is a must or the organization can quickly slide back to old habits.

Sustaining the 6S effort takes a lot of work. It takes commitment and involvement by everyone to keep the effort going and to prevent the organization from just sliding back into the old ways of doing things.


Step 1: Start with the Leadership Team

  • As with any improvement effort, implementation of the 6S‘s must be driven from the top of the organization.
  • Only Top Management can create the environment needed and give the effort the visibility and importance it needs for long term viability.

Step 2: Build the Infrastructure

  • The 6S effort should fit within an organization’s existing improvement structure.
  • Divide & conquer by establishing 6S subcommittees for Communications, Training, Project Support, and Best Practices.

Step 3: Launch Communications

  • Conduct short, focused, and frequent communication sessions with all employees on the what, why, how, when, and who of the 6S initiative.
  • Deliver the message in several formats including group meetings, using the organizations’ intranet or website, bulletin board postings, and internal newsletters.

Step 4: Train Teams in 6S Techniques

  • Develop a plan to train everyone in basic 6S concepts and then supplement the generic training with just-in-time training in work-area-specific practices.
  • Note that the initial teams may need to be trained in problem-solving techniques and root cause analysis.
  • Additionally, there may be a need to provide training for the leadership team in communication skills, recognition strategies, and facilitation skills.

Step 5: Begin 6S Pilots

  • Select areas that need the 6S‘s (and that you project will be successful in adopting 6S practices) as pilot areas. What is learned in the pilot areas will be used to help develop a full roll-out plan.
  • The first pilot work areas to receive 6S treatment should be ones with high visibility. For example, select work areas in which nobody wants to work because they are so congested or dirty.

Step 6: Establish Best Practices

  • Creation (and use) of a Best Practices Database can help multiply the impact of 6S successes by providing the means to share successes throughout the organization.

Step 7: Develop a Full Roll-Out Plan

  • After completing the initial pilots and before involving the rest of the organization in the 6S effort, step back and evaluate how the pilots went.
  • Get ideas from members of the pilots about how to strengthen the 6S process and use those ideas to develop a roll-out plan. A comprehensive roll-out plan defines the sequence of events, establishes roles, responsibilities, and performance measures.

Step 8: Continually Evaluate & Adjust

  • As with any process, as lessons are learned, make improvements to the 6S effort.
  • Modify and strengthen the infrastructure, select new tools to add to the “arsenal,” develop improved methods to measure and communicate progress, and challenge work areas to constantly improve.

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