Waste in the Workplace and the 5S Method

Jan 11, 2021

Waste in the Workplace

“Work smarter, not harder” – remember hearing that phrase your entire life? Me too! Another one I love to live by is “be productive, not busy.” Lean is a concept focused on eliminating waste, saving time, improving quality, and increasing value. Lean principles and values place heavier importance on people than on processes. Lean thinking aims to allow everyone to achieve their maximum potential. This thinking can be applied both personally and professionally. Lean is primarily for identifying and eliminating waste. “Waste” in this case is considered to be any process, workflow, or activity that takes extra unnecessary time or resources. Eliminating waste in your own personal tasks or in a workflow can increase productivity tremendously.

There are a few different kinds of waste: 

  • Waiting: time waiting for tasks to be assigned, completed, or awaiting information.
  • Overproduction: doing more work than is necessary.
  • Transportation: information or resources moving through too many unnecessary processes.
  • Unnecessary motion: unneeded time spent looking for information, tools, or resources.
  • Unnecessary processing: adding unimportant features or functions to tasks.
  • Defects: completed work that does not meet quality metrics and therefore needs to be redone or corrected (thus wasting time.) 

One of the methods utilized to reduce waste and increase efficiency (both personally and professionally), is the 5S method. This method helps to eliminate the different types of waste listed above. Using these 5 steps can help reduce waste and increase efficiency within an organization, but it can also improve personal productivity. The 5 steps include: 

  1. Sort – sort what is needed in the area from what is not needed.
  2. Straighten – arrange items so they are ready for use and keep things in the same place so they are easily located.
  3. Shine – clean the workspace and equipment.
  4. Standardize – learn about the best practices and adapt them to your own workflow.
  5. Sustain – maintain these standards and improve daily. 


Implementing the 5S method in your daily life can help you to be more productive and less busy. It can help you to work smarter and not harder. Most workplaces do not have a culture where front-line employees can make determinations about workflows, quality, and processes but if you find that there is waste in your workplace, mention it to your supervisor/manager. Lean concepts and lean behaviors are typically infectious once implemented. If you keep a tidy workplace, actively solve problems, and make your daily tasks easier, it is likely that others will respond by adopting your practices, thus being more efficient and improving quality!


Need assistance identifying the waste and implementing the 5S method for yourself? Reach out to your Workzbe team to start getting it done!