Teams Should Conduct Their Own 5S Audits: Part One

We all know that an important part of sustaining 5S is auditing or assessing the status of 5S at any given point in time.  The internet is full of 5S audit forms.  In many cases, audits are carried out by “outsiders”…folks from outside the department that’s being audited.  It’s kind of like being back at school where we turned our test in and got back a grade.  If the grade was good, we were relieved.  If the grade was bad, we huffed indignantly, sure that the teacher had it in for us.  5S audits shouldn’t be like that.

Operators should conduct their own 5S audits and reviews.  I’ve found there’s not a better way to teach and reinforce the principles and practice of 5S.  That’s not to say that teams conduct their own reviews with no input or support from management.  I tell operators that they’ll be conducting their own audits and that management (and I) will “calibrate” with them.  That means that there will be discussions about the scoring and the criteria.  I’ll illustrate what I mean with this example from the audit I use.  The following is one of nine categories on the audit.


All machinery and equipment is wiped down and clean.  No dust, grease, or oil on any  machinery or its electrical, water, air fittings and connections.  All motors, gearboxes, valves, control panels, electrical panels are clean. Everything is in good operating condition.  There is no obsolete or unused equipment or machinery in the area.

Here’s the scoring rubric:

1- Unacceptable;
2 – Barely acceptable, much work needed;
3 – Fair but needs improvement;
4 – Good, improvement still possible;
5- Excellent

Typically, I’ll have the operators and managers audit the area and I will, too.  Then we talk about the score and their reasons for the scores they developed.  I often find that the self-auditors grade themselves lower than I will.  I find, too, that they will consider things that I didn’t in their scoring.  In all cases, it’s the discussion that leads to learning and motivation.