For facility operations managers, launching a 5S lean manufacturing program can reduce waste and optimize productivity through better workplace organization. With each S (Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain) accounting for a separate 5S stage, the process can seem intimidating, but it does not need to be. Using industrial labels for organization and identification that are designed to be applied and removed, as well as customized, can help to optimize each stage of the process.



During the first 5S stage, Sort, clutter and unneeded items are removed from the work area. What remains is only the parts, tools, machines, and supplies necessary for daily use on the manufacturing or warehouse floor. In this stage, temporary labels can be put on items as the facility’s staff sorts through them. For best results, it’s important to use labels that won’t fall off and yet don’t cause damage or leave behind residue when they need to be removed.

Designated areas for sorting could include: Leave, Relocate, Dispose/Recycle, or TBD (to be determined). Leave is for items that can stay where they are with no changes needed, while Relocate is used for any item that needs a new home because it would be more logical or efficient. Dispose/Recycle applies to unneeded items that can be discarded or recycled.

The last designation, TBD, is for items that you are not sure of yet. Mark these items as TBD and then wait a month or so. When you use one of these items, consider how it’s used or who uses it to determine its permanent home. If you haven’t used it during that timeframe, consider discarding the item.


Set in Order

The second stage, Set in order, locates parts, people, tools, and equipment in the most efficient, ergonomic positions, so operators do not waste time or effort searching for needed items. To improve workplace efficiency, identification labels can be integrated to identify and classify parts, tools, and equipment so items are easy to find and everything has a home. Racks, shelves, and cabinets also make sense to label, as do smaller portable items like bins, totes, and toolboxes, which help with organization.

Color coding labels can add another level of organization to items. With labels that are printed on a laser or inkjet printer, it is easy to include color, icons, or even photos. This makes it easier to quickly identify items and determine where they belong.

Adding barcodes to labels can further improve efficiency for larger facilities, because scanning a barcode is much faster and more accurate than manual entry. This is vital for activities like inventory counts or pulling orders for shipment.

This approach works with traditional one-dimensional (1D or linear) barcodes and for two-dimensional (2D) barcodes, which hold far more data in less space. While 1D barcodes typically encode data such as location and department, 2D barcodes can contain not only website addresses but also images and voice.



The third stage, Shine, ensures the workplace stays free of clutter, grime, and malfunction, which helps to prevent serious work breakdowns or slowdowns. In this process, cleaning and inspecting through cleaning is critical. However, labels that are not durable can become torn or otherwise unreadable, which is a particular problem with barcode labels.

It is also possible to keep track of machine maintenance with inspection labels so routine maintenance isn’t forgotten. This helps to prevent costly downtime and improve safety by reducing malfunction-related accidents. Make sure there is a process in place so that whoever is responsible knows which machines they need to inspect, and how often.

A good inspection label will include areas for marking the date and the name of the person who conducted the inspection. To reliably perform through the Shine stage, it is important to use ID labels that are designed to withstand daily wear and tear, dirt, grease, oil, chemicals, and wash downs while providing good barcode readability.



During the fourth stage, Standardize, the most efficient work methods are systemized with clear standards. Schedules, checklists, and standard operating procedures are a key part of this process. Without standard operating procedures and clear processes, a facility will not run consistently and smoothly, even if everything is labeled accurately.

Wherever possible, it is helpful to put procedures and checklists on labels posted near work areas. Placing labels on work area equipment provides employees with a recurrent reminder of standard operating procedures, so no one can say “I didn’t know.” This is especially critical for reminders or instructions, since labels are less likely than sheets of paper to get lost or damaged.



The fifth stage, Sustain, trains and maintains company standards and procedures until they become habits and are consistently followed. Because 5S is a continuous process, however, organizations will reorganize or improve processes throughout the year, as well as accommodate changes in data, format, and regulation.

As such, easily removing old labels and printing custom, updated labels can be important. Otherwise, employees might waste time scraping old labels off, or using heat guns or even razor blades. As they may be reluctant to update labels if it is difficult to get the old ones off, they may make do with sub-standard situations.


5S Label Solutions

Ideally, industrial labels for organization and identification are easy to adhere and durable enough to endure harsh conditions, yet come off cleanly when necessary and leave no trace. Industrial labels used for signage and identification must be more durable than those used in an office, but they should remove cleanly when they need to come down. The key to accomplishing this is an adhesive that holds well but can be removed when needed. Achieving that balance is harder than it sounds.

As the result of this effort, new labels were developed that have an exclusive, proprietary construction specially engineered to stick securely yet remove cleanly without damage or residue from a wide variety of industrial surfaces.* Sign labels can be used on walls, doors, and glass without worrying about damaging the surface. ID labels are designed to be used on plastic and metal surfaces, making them readily usable on machinery, racks, shelves, cabinets, totes, and bins, even if the surface is highly textured.

These “labels used as signs or identification” are made of durable, industrial-grade material that resists water, chemicals, and abrasion. Unlike office labels with a paper substrate, the topcoat of the industrial labels is waterproof and chemical resistant, while its polyester substrate is a durable, scuff-, and tear-resistant film.

Available in a variety of sizes, the labels print on standard laser or inkjet printers, enabling custom, do-it-yourself labels for signs and identification. Free online software allows customizable printing utilizing OSHA/ANSI-compliant and 5S templates.**

Employees can create and print their own informal, official, or compliant labels from pre-designed templates or create them step-by-step at their desk. To accommodate warehouse settings, the software’s barcode generator enables the addition of text, graphics, serialized numbers, or barcodes in a few steps. The combination of a bright white label material with superior ink/toner anchorage further enables accurate barcode scanning, even at extended distances.

Industrial settings involve the use of various pieces of equipment, as well as supplies, racks, and more. The ability to conveniently print new 5S sign and identification labels in minutes—while being able to cleanly remove the old—can go a long way toward keeping facilities efficiently up to date while minimizing hassle, mess, and cost.

For more information, visit