5S is Green – Part I

April 13, 2010

It’s April and Earth Day is the 22nd, so I thought it would be appropriate to have a post on “Lean is Green”. I was asked recently to give a presentation on the “Green” aspect of 5S. I thought that it shouldn’t be hard to create materials for the talk. Thoughts were already racing through my head about the green facets of 5S; how it is good for the environment, etc. What I didn’t fully realize is the powerful impact it will truly have if we all 5S.

I started to think about each “S” and the impact it has on our environment, whether it is local to our work area, facility, town, state, country or planet. A common phrase used in the green movement is “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”. Let’s explore the first three “S’s” and how this can have an impact on what we do. We will cover the 4th and 5th “S” in an upcoming post.


How are our Red Tagged items green? It easily identifies what we have too many of. It shows where there is a waste of resources and reduces unneeded consumption. These extra items are an additional cost to the company; money that could be spent elsewhere for more important things.

Just like using 5S Red Tags for items not needed in the work area, Joe Rizzo from the Jackson Lean Consortium asked us to come up with a tag for Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) items. These EHS Tags are used to identify potential hazards. The tags include an area for “Reasons for Tagging” with check boxes for: defect, expired, not needed, not properly stowed, old/obsolete, unknown material, other. There is also an area for “Disposition” with check boxes for: notify EHS, send out for proper disposition, send to lab for identification, store in flammable cabinet, and others.

Our 5S Red Tag Holding Area is a great way for us to practice “Reuse and Recycle”; that’s one of the main purposes of our Red Tag Holding Area. If you need an item for your work area or department, stop by your 5S Red Tag Holding Area first before you go straight to purchasing. I have seen many holding areas that have perfectly good items that need a home. If you or your colleagues can’t use the items in the holding area, consider donating them to a local charity or homeless shelter. It was easy for us to find things to send to Haiti after the earthquake; every little bit helps.

Minimize – usage of nonrenewable resources, total byproducts, toxic byproducts, byproducts that cannot be reused, and the use of product materials and packaging (including shipping materials) that may be discarded. (1)

Maximizing: the value usage of nonrenewable resources when they must be used, the value usage of renewable resources, the value usage of materials, the reuse of scrap raw materials, the usage of byproducts, and the reuse of product materials and packaging after use.(1)


One of the green benefits of Set-in-Order is that we only have what we need, in the correct amount at the right location. This allows us to carry less unneeded inventory. It also allows us to visually know when to reorder an item. Make sure you have the proper storage area for your EHS items and make sure they are properly labeled. A quick example is a “Flammables” cabinet to store potentially hazardous items.


Everyone knows that Shine means to “Clean & Inspect” (not just clean). So during the inspection portion we can be looking for leaks.

During one Waste Walk (Gemba Walk) in a factory during the summer we noticed that an operator had an air nozzle blowing directly on his drink. When we asked what that was for, he looked at us like we were foolish and said “To keep my drink cool!” I might not have the exact figures, but I remember hearing something like a ¼” air leak will cost the company $10,000 per year. If you have excessive air leaks it will make the compressor run longer and thus, a greater usage of electricity which equals a higher utility bill. I’m sure we could have found a much cheaper way to keep the operator’s drink cool.

Look for fluid leaks like oil, water, hydraulic fluid, etc. Obviously, besides being a safety hazard this is adding undue costs to a company. Besides replacing the lost fluid you may have to consider the maintenance impact. What if the oil leak made the machine run hotter causing premature wear or even worse – a breakdown!

By replacing filters we can keep dust and debris from entering the machines – the machines run better and have a longer life. Or on the flipside, we can keep mist from entering a work area and causing an uninviting environment.

Don’t forget to consider using environmental friendly cleaners or solvents and better yet, prevent dirt build-up in the first place!


5S is truly a Lean and Green initiative. By implementing 5S we are creating the basic framework for a greener organization without using any extra effort. We help our people, environment, our town and our planet by using 5S!

Reference: 1) Lean to Green: Bridging the Gap by Chad Vincent

 What do you do for your Lean is Green efforts? Let me know.

 Stay tuned for Part II where we will cover Standardize and Sustain.

 Thanks – Tony

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