5S Resource Center


Clearing the area means organizing the workplace so that it is a more effective, more efficient place to work.

  • It involves sorting out what is not needed to perform the required work in the work area.
  • If it’s not needed, remove it.

Use the 48-Hour Rule

  • Instead of keeping things around that might get used someday, apply the 48-hour rule to everything in the work area.
  • The 48-hour rule says: If it is not going to be used in the work area within 48 hours, it does not belong there.

The steps used to identify what is and is not needed in a work area and then to clear the work area of the unnecessary items are:

  • Define what is needed.
  • Define what is NOT needed.
  • Disposition the items.
  • Take action: Sort out (move out) what is not needed and move in what is needed (and is not there now).

Define what is needed

  • When considering what is needed in a work area, don’t just look at the core equipment and tools used. Consider the materials, supplies, and even the paperwork.
  • This is also a good time to evaluate the proper quantities of items to keep in the work area.
  • Defining what is needed in a work area is not something that can be done effectively by one person working alone; use a team representing all that work in the area.

Define what is NOT needed

  • After the team has identified what needs to be in the area, focus on all the other items currently in the work area.
  • If an item is not needed to make the product, support the operation of the equipment, or for safety reasons, then it probably should not be kept in the direct work area.

Disposition the items

  • Once items that are not needed in the work area are identified, it’s time to disposition them and determine where they should be stored.
  • Tag items to be removed; use a standardized set of usage-based guidelines to disposition items to be removed.
  • Whenever possible, use data to determine the frequency of use, do not guess. The less frequently an item is used, the farther from the work area it should be stored.

Take action

  • Once items are dispositioned, it’s time to take action to clear the work area and move tagged items to a temporary holding area.
  • The holding area should be an accessible place where others not on the team can examine the items, confirm that they do not need to be kept in the work area, or discuss why they think an item is needed in the work area.


  • The goal of the first of the 5S’s, Sort, is to have only what is needed for the job in the work area.
  • The Sort phase applies to all work areas, manufacturing departments, service processes, and offices.