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From Cluttered to Organized: How a 5S Kaizen Event Can Make a Difference

Allan Ung

From Cluttered to Organized: How a 5S Kaizen Event Can Make a Difference

"The man who moves a mountain begins by

carrying away small stones."



In today's competitive business environment, it is essential to continuously improve the quality of products and services. The 5S kaizen event is a powerful tool for process improvement, enabling organizations to reduce waste, improve efficiency, and enhance productivity. In this blog, we will discuss what a 5S kaizen event is, the objectives and benefits of conducting one, select an area and those to avoid, understand the kaizen event rules, and how to plan and conduct a step-by-step 5S kaizen event. We will also look at some common pitfalls to avoid and best practices to follow.

What is a Kaizen Event?

Before discussing what is a 5S kaizen event, let us first understand what a kaizen event is. A kaizen event is a focused and structured improvement activity aimed at addressing a specific process or problem in a short amount of time, typically lasting from a few days to a few weeks. The purpose of a kaizen event is to bring together a cross-functional team of employees to identify and eliminate waste, improve efficiency, and enhance quality. The goal of a kaizen event is to make significant improvements in a process or problem by using a structured approach that emphasizes teamwork, data-driven decision-making, and continuous improvement. During a kaizen event, team members work together to identify the root causes of problems, develop and implement countermeasures, and evaluate the effectiveness of the changes. The ultimate aim of a kaizen event is to create a culture of continuous improvement within an organization that drives ongoing improvements in processes, products, and services.

Kaizen Event vs Rapid Improvement Event

Kaizen events and Rapid Improvement Events (RIEs) are both focused improvement methodologies, but there are some key differences between them. Here are some of the key differences:

Scope: Kaizen events are typically smaller in scope and focus on improving specific processes or functions, while RIEs are broader in scope and aim to improve larger systems or value streams.

Duration: Kaizen events are usually shorter in duration, lasting from a few days to a few weeks, while RIEs can last from several weeks to several months.

Team size: Kaizen events involve smaller cross-functional teams of around 5-10 people, while RIEs involve larger teams of around 15-20 people.

Focus: Kaizen events focus on improving existing processes, while RIEs may involve developing new processes or technologies.

Methodology: Kaizen events typically use Lean tools and techniques, such as 5S, value stream mapping, and continuous improvement cycles, while RIEs may use a broader range of problem-solving methodologies, such as Six Sigma or Design Thinking.

Frequency: Kaizen events are often conducted on a regular basis, such as monthly or quarterly, while RIEs are usually conducted less frequently, perhaps once or twice a year.

In summary, while both Kaizen events and Rapid Improvement Events aim to improve processes, they differ in their scope, duration, team size, focus, methodology, and frequency. Understanding the differences between these methodologies can help organizations to choose the most appropriate approach for their improvement goals.

What is a 5S Kaizen Event?

Now, let us turn our focus to the 5S kaizen event. A 5S kaizen event is a process improvement initiative that combines the principles of 5S (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain) with the kaizen methodology of continuous improvement.

The 5S Principles

The 5S Principles

5S is a framework for organizing and maintaining a workplace that is safe, clean, and efficient, while kaizen involves making small, incremental improvements to processes and systems over time. The combination of these two approaches in a 5S kaizen event creates a powerful tool for process improvement.

Objectives of a 5S Kaizen Event

The primary objective of a 5S kaizen event is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a process or system by eliminating waste and reducing errors. Other objectives include:

1. Creating a safer and more organized workplace

2. Enhancing employee morale and engagement

3. Increasing productivity and throughput

4. Reducing cycle time and lead time

5. Improving quality and customer satisfaction

6. Enhancing profitability and competitiveness

Benefits of a 5S Kaizen Event

Conducting a 5S kaizen event can bring numerous benefits to an organization, including:

1. Increased efficiency and productivity

2. Improved quality and customer satisfaction

3. Reduced lead times and cycle times

4. Enhanced safety and cleanliness of the workplace

5. Greater employee engagement and job satisfaction

6. Reduced costs and increased profitability

Selecting an Area for 5S Kaizen

When selecting an area for a 5S kaizen event, it is important to choose an area that will have a significant impact but not pose too many difficult problems in the beginning. This will help to ensure that the event is successful and can provide the foundation for future events.

Each event is a learning experience, and the knowledge gained from previous events can make the next event smoother and easier to run. As people gain more experience in running events, it will become possible to tackle more complicated problems.

To select the best event to start first, it is important to develop a selection criteria that considers the potential impact of the event, the level of difficulty, the available resources, and the level of support from management and employees.

By selecting the right area for the kaizen event, organizations can set themselves up for success and build momentum for future events.

What to Avoid with Initial Kaizens

When selecting initial kaizens, it is important to avoid projects that involve out of control processes, unreliable or incapable equipment, interdependent processes, or a process that may soon become obsolete. These types of projects may be too complex or require too much effort to achieve meaningful improvement in a short amount of time.

It is also important to avoid selecting projects where improvement is not seen as necessary or where there is not enough buy-in from stakeholders. Without a clear understanding of the benefits of the kaizen event, it may be difficult to sustain the momentum and continue making improvements.

Instead, it is important to focus on projects that have the potential to provide tangible benefits, are relatively easy to implement, and have a high likelihood of success. By selecting the right initial projects, organizations can build momentum, gain confidence, and set the foundation for future improvements.

Kaizen Event Rules

The significance of kaizen event rules is to provide a clear and structured approach for conducting kaizen events that can lead to successful outcomes. These rules help to create a framework for kaizen events that ensures everyone involved is aligned on the objectives, the approach, and the expected outcomes. By following these rules, organizations can ensure that the event is conducted in a disciplined manner, with a focus on continuous improvement and a commitment to teamwork.

Here are the 10 kaizen event rules:

1. Be open to change

2. Stay positive

3. Speak out if you disagree

4. See waste as an opportunity

5. No blame environment

6. Treat others as you want to be treated

7. Ask the silly questions, challenge the givens

8. Creativity before capital

9. Understand the data and principles

10. Just do it!

How to Plan and Conduct a Step-by-Step 5S Kaizen Event

When planning and conducting a 5S kaizen event, it is recommended to follow these steps:

Step 1: Set up a team - Assemble a cross-functional team consisting of members from various departments to work on the event.

Step 2: Define the 5S Kaizen charter - Create a clear and concise charter outlining the goals, scope, and timelines of the event.

Step 3: Decide on event duration - Set a realistic duration for the event based on the scope and complexity of the project.

Step 4: Provide training - Train team members on the 5S principles and techniques to be used during the event.

Step 5: Conduct a pre-event assessment - Evaluate the current state of the process or system and identify areas for improvement.

Step 6: Take pictures - Take pictures of the current state of the process or system to document the starting point.

Step 7: Start physical work for 5S - Implement the 5S principles in the process or system, starting with sorting, setting in order, shining, standardizing, and sustaining.

Step 8: Perform post-event assessment - Evaluate the results of the event and compare them to the goals outlined in the charter. Compare "before" and "after" pictures.

Step 9: Document and close - Document the changes made during the event and close out the project.

Step 10: Present to management - Share the results of the event with senior management and other stakeholders. Include lessons learned.

Step 11: Recognize the team - Recognize and reward the team members for their hard work and contributions to the event.

Employees getting rid of unwanted materials in a 5S kaizen event.

5S Kaizen Event: Discarding unwanted items from the workplace

Pitfalls to Avoid

A 5S Kaizen event is a continuous process of improvement that requires adequate preparation, involving the right people, and leadership support. Failure to involve the right people can result in a lack of buy-in and implementation of changes. Additionally, unrealistic expectations, insufficient documentation, and overcomplicating the process can lead to delays, confusion, and inefficiencies. It is important to sustain improvements and celebrate successes while addressing safety concerns, and using data-driven decision making to address the root causes of problems.

Best Practices to Follow

Here are some best practices when planning and conducting a 5S Kaizen event:

1. Secure leadership support: Ensure that leadership is involved and committed to the success of the event.

2. Involve the right people: Involve people who work in the area being improved and encourage them to take ownership of the changes.

3. Prepare adequately: Provide adequate training and resources to the team, and conduct a pre-event assessment to identify potential obstacles.

4. Set realistic expectations: Set achievable goals and timelines based on data-driven decision making.

5. Sustain improvements: Plan for how the changes will be sustained over time and build a culture of continuous improvement.

6. Use data-driven decision making: Analyze data to identify root causes of problems and prioritize improvements based on impact and feasibility.

7. Document improvements: Document changes made during the event and establish a system for tracking progress.

8. Keep the process simple: Simplify the 5S process to avoid confusion and resistance.

9. Celebrate successes: Recognize team members for their contributions and celebrate successes to maintain motivation.

10. Prioritize safety: Ensure that safety is always a top priority and address any safety concerns immediately.


The 5S kaizen event is a powerful tool for process improvement that combines the principles of 5S with the kaizen methodology of continuous improvement. By following the steps outlined in this blog as well as the best practices and avoiding common pitfalls, organizations can achieve numerous benefits, including increased efficiency, improved quality, and enhanced employee engagement. By sustaining the improvements made during the event over the long term, organizations can continue to reap the benefits of the 5S kaizen event for years to come.

Allan Ung

Article by Allan Ung, Principal Consultant at Operational Excellence Consulting, a distinguished management consultancy based in Singapore. Our firm specializes in maximizing customer value and minimizing waste through the strategic adoption of Design Thinking and Lean management practices. For further details, please visit 


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