The 30-Day rule in a 5S Event

The Lean 5S event is one of the most powerful in the Lean arsenal! This event is used to change perception by changing the way an environment looks and feels.
It literally transforms an area into a more organized, friendly area. It is often called the “Gateway to Improvement” because it is very difficult to Improve a surrounding that is chaotic.

Picture yourself walking into a supermarket to get 10 items. It is the only supermarket in a 50 mile radius so you are confined to use this store. You walk in to get your 10 items and there is no rhyme or reason to why any item is in an aisle. Everything is placed randomly. There is no signage telling you what is down any aisle. To find these 10 items, you will probably have to walk down all the aisles multiple times. This would be very frustrating!

Now picture the same supermarket but in a different environment. You walk in and it looks much like the super markets that you are used to. The items are sorted in each aisle logically by family or type. There are signs telling you what is down each aisle to keep you from travelling into an aisle that does not add value to your shopping experience. Each item is labeled. This is a much less frustrating scenario. In this scenario I do not have to commit the waste of “searching” to the degree that I would have in the previous scenario. These are some of the benefits of a 5S event.


Performing the 1st “S”, Sort:

The Mantra of the first “S”, Sort is “Get rid of what does not belong”.

This is the “S” that will regain space. If you’ve ever seen the comedian George Carlin’s comedy rant called “stuff”, you’ll understand most individuals (as well as organization) obsession with collecting things.



“One of the greatest benefits of the first “S”, Sort is that it should gain you between 35%-75% of space on your first 5S event.”


“Sort” uses the “30 Day Rule” as a general rule. This rule states: If you haven’t used it in 30 days, get rid of it. This is a general rule that does not apply literally. High dollar items and items used for insurance purposes are usually exempt. This is where you are going to get the pushback of JIC (Just in Case). We tend to have a hard time letting go of even trivial things. Because we have an obsession with “stuff”, we can occupy a lot of space quickly.

In Lean terms, “getting rid of it” means to disposition it, unless it is truly trash. We call this “Red Tagging” because we red tag everything that we disposition. We disposition item to a disposition area. Each item is red tagged with a value to be written off as well as a final disposal date.

Dispositioned items are then advertised to the organization and given away; relocated to other sites that have use for the item; or sold. If the item has not been removed from the disposition area within the “disposal date” on the tag (usually within 30 days), it is removed to a second hand store (like the Salvation Army) or disposed.


We have been called into many organizations that were in the planning phases of expanding with new multi-million dollar structures. After a five day 5S Event, they stopped the expansion project because they had found enough space existing in their present facility.

Next time we will cover the 2nd “S” in the 5S event, “Set in Order”