Extreme Makeover – Warehouse Edition

March 7, 2014
5S or Workplace Organization is a great place to start your Lean Supply Chain journey.

Historically, the focus for Lean has been on manufacturing, as the warehouse is typically just a “box” on a Value Stream Map.  

In many cases, product is pushed into warehouse and (hopefully) pulled by customers. As a result, the warehouse is the crossroads of conflicting requirements, creating lots of potential for waste.

So it’s not hard to figure out why one of the best places to start a Lean Supply Chain program is by scheduling a 5S or Workplace Organization kaizen event in a warehouse.

The 5S’s describe how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order. They are:

  • Sort - Unneeded items are identified and removed. Only needed parts, tools, & instructions remain.
  • Set in order - Everything has a place; everything is in its place. Visual Scoreboard and other visual controls.
  • Shine - Do an initial spring cleaning. Maybe some painting, and Brillo pad scouring.
  • Standardize - Routine cleaning becomes a way of life. Preventative maintenance is routinely performed.
  • Sustain - 5S is a routine way of life. Root causes are routinely identified and dealt with.

A great example of 5S in action can be found on a video at this link: "Extreme Makeover Warehouse Edition" demonstrating 5S and Value Stream Mapping in an actual warehouse. The benefits were impressive and included:

  • A 40% time reduction in finding items.
  • Crate building time reduced by 50%.
  • Five facilities reduced to three.

The last “S” (Sustain) can be the hardest part of any 5S program. Sustain is the discipline to prevent backsliding. It makes sure that the practices of Sort, Set in Order, Shine and Standardize are maintained. It requires commitment, measurement and recognition. It is about promoting and creating the best environment to meet the challenge of sustaining 5S.

I think that you can see in the video that this company made the event fun and rewarding for everyone (and a good team building exercise as well) which is a great starting point.

The real key to success is to “Sustain” that feeling and to keep the momentum going for the long term…in other words, developing a Lean culture, which requires a lot of support and effort on everyone’s part.

About the Author

Paul Myerson Blog | Professor of Practice in Supply Chain Management

Paul's blog "Lean Supply Chain," has moved. You'll find his latest ideas and commentary on IndustryWeek's IdeaXchange. 

You'll find more articles written by Paul at

Paul Myerson is Professor of Practice in Supply Chain Management at Lehigh University. He is the author of a Lean Supply Chain & Logistics Management (McGraw-Hill, 2012), developer of a Windows-based supply chain planning software (, and co-author of a lean supply chain and logistics management simulation training game by ENNA (

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