Posted by: JC Gatlin | November 4, 2009

The 5S System on the Construction Job Site

Before real problem solving can begin… Before you can truly identify and eliminate waste… You must master 5S.

 What is 5S?

Okay… don’t let the text book definition scare you: “5S is a mnemonic for a workplace organization methodology that uses a list of five Japanese words which, translated into English, start with the letter S.”

In other words, 5S is a method for organizing a work area, especially a shared work area (like a construction office or the jobsite), and keeping it organized. Done right, it will improve efficiency on your jobsite by eliminating waste, establishing work flow and reducing in-adherence to standards.

The 5S’s on the Construction Jobsite

  • Sort: Going through all the boxes of materials, blue prints, permit boxes and driveway barricades in the construction office and keeping only what is essential. Do you really need those boxes of hardware? Does your inventory of permit boxes and driveway barricades exceed your planned starts for the next 9 months? What can you redistribute to another community that needs it, return to a Building Partner, or simply just throw away.

Sort Cartoon

  • Set in Order: Focuses on efficiency. Don’t confuse this with sorting or sweeping; the intent is to arrange any inventory or scraps left on the jobsite in a manner that promotes work flow. Is there a designated place for the left over rebar? Is there a standardized location for Homeowner color kits? Clearly mark and label designated areas – whether it’s a “broken & excess block area” on the jobsite or a shelf used only for color kits. For everything there is place and everything should be in its place.

Set in Order Cartoon

  • Sweep Daily: Systematic Cleaning or the need to keep the jobsite neat as well as safe. At the end of each day, the jobsite is straightened and any leftover materials placed in designated areas. This includes extra rebar, lumber, block, hurricane straps, AC duct work, and so on. Unusable materials must be placed in the dumpster. The key point is that maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work – not an occasional activity initiated when things get too messy. Sweep daily doesn’t mean on the third day when the Building Partner has completed his job; it means today and EVERY day after that.

Sweep Daily Cartoon

  • Standardize: Standardized work practices — or operating in a consistent and predictable manner — will eliminate innumerable sources of waste on your jobsite. If the Construction Professional is practicing 5S on the jobsite, every Building Partner knows exactly what his responsibilities are to sort, set in order and to sweep. So how does the Construction Professional achieve standardization? By reviewing Standardized Work Instruction Sheets (SWIS sheets) with the crew, posting Hot Spot Sheets in the work area, marking reminders on FTQ inspection sheets, and talking to the crew when they’re on the your jobsite.

 5S standard cartoon

  • Sustain the Discipline: Maintain and keep the standards you set, even when it’s easier not to. There will be many times that you’re going to want to simply look the other way. Don’t do it. Once the previous 4S’s have been established, they become the only way to operate on your jobsite. Maintain the focus, and do not allow a gradual decline back to the old habits. Hold your Building Partners accountable for completing the job (including your 5S system). But you must be disciplined as well.

5S Sustain

© November 2009 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.   twitter-logo



  1. Wow! This is so true, but some just don’t get it!

  2. I liked very much and I would like to ask for your written permission to use integrally and translated into local language for my factory’s 5S&Kaizen magazine.
    Thank you very much in advance.
    Viorel Andrei

  3. Learned alot here & now we’re implementing the same at our project site

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