5S is Just Not For Us

No 5S Here

Dislike Button with Cursor - Social Media Concept.The saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ still reigns true in far too many facilities. Change is difficult, especially when it comes to someone’s livelihood. I recently toured a facility after their remodel and was unfortunately, not surprised by some of the comments I heard regarding 5S.

I understand that in certain industries, people can be wary of change and in some cases even resist change, but a negative attitude is truly concerning when it comes to this subject. The facility I was touring was a large auto shop that had just undergone a significant upgrade to their facility. As part of the group that helped with some of their supplies (floor tape, label makers, and safety signage), I wanted to get some reaction to the new layout.

Most of the reaction was positive regarding the new design. Most felt like their environment had been improved and felt safer as a result, but then I mentioned 5S. That’s when the eyes started to roll and the conversation began to disconnect.

All of the workers I was able to speak with had been there or in the field for many years and while all of them had heard of 5S, none of them wanted anything to do with a new way of doing things. Their immediate wall was obvious and stern, but their reasoning was flawed.

The perception I got was that a 5S approach was unnecessary to their success. Most said they were organized and had a “way of doing things” that worked for them.

Change is OK

It’s a way of thinking that is not uncommon when a group of seasoned employees is presented with a new “way of doing things.” However, changing a culture is not always a bad thing, sometimes it’s necessary to allow for improvement. Organizations that continue to do the same thing while rejecting any change will often find themselves flat-lined and complacent with their results. It becomes ok to just stay above water and keep things floating, the way they are. Which is exactly the attitude I received when discussing 5S with the auto shop employees.

They were fine with their results they were getting, so there was no need for change in their mind. Their idea of success was based off the fact that they were busy and had vehicles rolling in and out consistently. Some of the employees even felt that implementing 5S as a way of standardizing their methods would actually take away from what they were “supposed” to be doing and that their shop was plenty clean already.


It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard 5S mentioned as simply a housekeeping method, but it still hurts to hear. 5S is so much more than a means to keep your workplace clean and organized. It’s a process that allows for continuous improvement and when implemented correctly, is the foundation for your organization’s culture. A culture that doesn’t believe in complacency and understands there’s always room for improvement.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t surprised by the reaction, but the more information I got, the more I realized that maybe it was more of a lack of information they had, rather than a bad experience with 5S. Many fail to understand the true benefits of 5S and what it means to the organization as a whole.

Benefits of 5S

  • Improved Efficiency- 5S takes organization to a whole new level. It eliminates any possibility of disorder by removing all things that don’t belong in your work area.
  • Less Delays- When you have what you need, where you need it, you spend less time looking for your tools and more time working on the work at hand.
  • Reduced Production Time- A properly designed 5S facility will ensure that the handling of items and equipment is done smarter and ergonomically correct, reducing your production time along the way.
  • High Employee Morale- When employees feel involved in the process of rearrangement of their workplace to better suit their needs, their moral increases.
  • Higher Quality- When work becomes standardizes, quality increases along with it.

Depending on your organization, there could be many more benefits to a successful 5S program, but you have to overcome the negativity behind change first. The attitude I received in the auto shop was not uncommon and depending on the culture, may never change regarding 5S or any new process for that matter. It takes strong leadership and a unique skill set to implement change in a culture that resists change. More importantly, you have to understand the audience you’re trying to influence first.

It’s safe to say that for now, the auto shop will continue its current ways. If they decide to change, it will be a challenge, but one that is certainly achievable with the right leadership and employees that are open to the possibilities of 5S.

Free 5S guide

Additional Resources