4s, 5s, 6s, 7s explained

Table of Contents

In lean manufacturing, the concepts of 4S, 5S, 6S, and 7S build upon each other as a progression of improvement practices aimed at creating a more efficient, organized, and productive workplace. Each “S” represents a specific stage in the journey towards operational excellence. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between these stages:


4S (Sustain is left out)

4s audit diagram

Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize: The initial 4S approach is a simplified version of the 5S methodology. It encompasses the first four steps of 5S, omitting the “Sustain” step. This version is often introduced as a stepping stone for organizations that are new to lean principles and are gradually adopting them.


5S (the most common)

5s audit diagram

Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain: The classic 5S methodology is a systematic approach to workplace organization and improvement. If you’d like to read real examples – check out our 5s case studies page. Each “S” represents a specific action that contributes to creating an efficient and organized workspace:

      • Sort: Remove unnecessary items from the workspace to reduce clutter and improve efficiency.

      • Set in order: Organize tools, materials, and equipment in a way that maximizes accessibility and minimizes wasted time searching for items.

      • Shine: Maintain a clean and well-organized workspace to improve safety and prevent equipment deterioration.

      • Standardize: Create standardized procedures and practices to ensure consistency and efficiency in tasks.

      • Sustain: Continuously maintain and improve the established practices through regular monitoring, training, and employee involvement (note – Audit Checklists will help).


    6S  (Safety is added in)

    6s audit diagram

    The “6S” model includes the five steps of the 5S methodology and adds an extra “S” called “Safety.” That’s really the only difference. Safety is incorporated as an integral part of the workplace organization process. This stage emphasizes the importance of identifying and addressing potential safety hazards within the workspace to create a safer and healthier work environment for employees.

    To learn more check out this 2023 article from Manufacturing Tomorrow: link


    7S  (Security or Sustainability is added) 

    7s audit diagram

    The “7S” model further extends the principles of lean manufacturing by introducing two additional “S” elements: “Security” or “Sustainability”. These elements focus on broader organizational aspects beyond the physical workspace:

        • Security: Ensuring the security of data, information, and intellectual property within the organization.



      In summary, the progression from 4S to 7S in lean manufacturing represents a deeper and more comprehensive commitment to the principles of efficiency, organization, safety, security, and sustainability. While the core concepts of sorting, organizing, cleaning, standardizing, and sustaining remain consistent throughout, the additional “S” elements in the later stages reflect a broader and more holistic approach to operational excellence and continuous improvement. It can make a big difference. Organizations may choose to adopt the level of “S” that aligns with their goals, culture, and current level of lean implementation.