5S in the 1.5 meter society


One of the main characteristics of 2020 is the social distancing society. A few months ago, the coronavirus emerged and a global pandemic developed. After the first weeks and months of working from home, the society slowly becomes active again. There are also many companies and organizations that would like to propagate their mission and vision again and want to start their activities again. But the social distancing society makes this a lot more complex. How can companies ensure that they can pick up the pace again and take into account the distance of one-and-a-half metres? 5S can offer possibilities here.

What is 5S

First of all, what is it? 5S is a method to organize spaces and workplaces in an orderly way. An organized workplace contributes to four important aspects: safety, quality, efficiency and employee satisfaction. Usually a lot of waste can be found in companies, such as waiting for or searching for information. Or not having all tools and materials at hand. The use of 5S ensures that these wastages are minimized. Less waste then contributes to a more efficient process. 5S can therefore realize efficiency on the one hand but also secure it on the other hand.

An important fact to realize is that people need to be involved. In order to roll out 5S in the best possible way, it is essential to involve people. This ensures that people get ownership and can therefore familiarize themselves with 5S.

5S can be divided into five consecutive steps:

  1. Sorting
    First of all, we evaluate the state of affairs and start sorting. Everything that is hardly or not used is selected and gets a red label. Questions like 'What do we use a lot, little or never?' are central in this process. This also includes all self-evident things, such as documents that remain in a digital folder. This step mainly ensures that more space is created, something that will become an important commodity in our new society.
  2. Shining
    Then there is a focus on cleaning. This includes the cleaning of all objects on the one hand, but also the prevention of contamination on the other hand. We realize this by eliminating incidents and malfunctions. Think of the elimination of sources of contamination. Shining also takes on a new dimension in the other social distancing society. Think of the number of touches, the frequency of disinfection and the prevention of contamination at all.
  3. Set in order
    Then the essential tool or other material is given a suitable fixed place. The shop floor is also organized in such a way that everything can be found quickly and easily. Hygiene and ergonomics are also taken into account when looking for a suitable place for the material.
  4. Standardizing
    When the first three steps have been completed, agreements are made about these three steps. They are standardized and this is determined visually. This visualization should ensure that the first three steps will be secured.
  5. Sustain
    In de laatste fase ligt de focus vooral op de waarborging van de eerste vier stappen. Veel bedrijven en organisaties gaan hier vaak de fout in. Het onderscheid van het wel of niet lean zijn, is afhankelijk van hoe deze fase wordt uitgevoerd. Dit is daarom ook wel de moeilijkste fase. Essentiële aspecten van deze fase zijn aandacht van management en zelfdiscipline. Om dit op de beste manier te realiseren, hebben wij een 5S & Safety App die werkt in een browser, op tablet en mobiel. Deze app wordt gebruikt om afwijkingen te registeren, deze afwijkingen op te volgen en de presentatie hiervan makkelijker te maken. Het zorgt ervoor dat er geen dubbel werk is. Het grootste voordeel is dus dat alles maar één keer gedaan hoeft te worden. Door deze app wordt deze borgingsfase ook efficiënt uitgevoerd. Efficiëntie over efficiënt werken, wat wil je nog meer?


As mentioned, society is changing enormously now. Companies and organizations are of course also subject to this. The 5S workplace organization is an incredibly important and good method to work more safely and efficiently. 5S is in essence the basis for a stable organization.

In view of the new measures surrounding the coronavirus and the creation of the other social distancing society, the workplace organization becomes even more important. Some people see the coronavirus and its consequences as a kind of reset. We have returned to people's basic needs, such as safety and security. This applies to individuals, but it will also apply to companies and organizations.

By having to keep a distance of one and a half meters, people will have to make even better use of valuable workplace space. So a workplace full of stuff that doesn't belong there is actually undesirable, right? The workplace should be as tight and organized as possible. In fact, this means that in many cases 5S will decide whether or not companies can operate.

But this also offers challenges. Michael Ballé, a lean management connoisseur and writer, spoke on Lean.org about how the whole idea behind lean is to learn to change and adapt to new and challenging circumstances. In addition, he also indicated that we need to implement the new methods right now so that they can be used calmly but effectively without people clashing with an entirely new workplace.

This can already be seen in society. An example of this is supermarkets. Many supermarkets have already made changes: you can only enter with a trolley, you have to keep a distance of one and a half meters at all times and there are plastic partitions for the cashier in many supermarkets. The supermarket is, as it were, set up in a new way in order to do shopping as effectively and efficiently as possible in view of the corona virus and the social distancing society. Even the visual aspect of lean can be seen: arrows hanging in the air or stickers on the ground indicate exactly where people need to stand in order to keep the right distance.


If companies and organizations do not adapt to their environment and close their eyes to it, it can even become dangerous for them. They will then stand still and no longer be able to respond to the demands that their environment places on them. If they do not keep asking themselves whether their processes have added value, waste can creep in mercilessly. Good things tend to act as a smokescreen for these wastages: they do not stand out. But at the moment when things are not going so well, then the realisation comes that there are a lot of wastages present. The danger of this is that it is then difficult to get things back on track if countless wastages are carried along.

Bedrijven die henzelf wel constant de vraag stellen of hun processen van toegevoegde waarde zijn, onderscheiden zich op basis van hun basisstabiliteit. Die stabiliteit is te realiseren aan de hand van de 5S method. Door constant te focussen op de verspillingen en of de processen van toegevoegde waarde zijn, ontstaat er minder een interne crisis wanneer de omgeving verandert. Hierdoor is het makkelijker om een oog te houden op de markt en de buitenwereld, en merken organisaties sneller wanneer de omgeving verandert.

The aforementioned changes and adjustments that supermarkets are making are a signal of a new way of working in the future. Precisely 5S can offer opportunities to implement these changes effectively. Whichever way you look at it, the social distancing society is a fact. We have to move on, but we want to move on too. And in order to guarantee the safety of employees, the application of 5S only offers possibilities. With a focus on stability and the drive to combat waste, companies will be better armed against sudden changes in the environment.

Dennis van de Bunt
Co-founder 5S-company and 5S specialist

Want to stay informed? Contact Dennis via Dennis.vandebunt@5scompany.nl

This text was written in collaboration with Rocher Koendjbiharie.

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