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Both 5S and Six Sigma stand out as clearly defined improvement processes with several similarities. Because these two strategies share some basic principles, many believe that 5S and Six Sigma are simply different iterations of the same methodology. Six Sigma and 5S are separate methods of improving efficiency—and Cornerstone Consulting has experts in both disciplines. Here is a look at what the two strategies entail, how they differ, and which one might better suit your goals. 

In business, there are always opportunities to improve efficiency and eliminate waste. Two popular methods for doing this are 5S and Six Sigma. 5S focuses on eliminating waste and inefficiencies in the workplace. This methodology can be applied to every department and action that takes place. On the other hand, Six Sigma is a process improvement strategy that eliminates defects by implementing standard processes, identifying problem areas, and more. 

So, which is the better method? It depends on the situation. If you want to improve overall efficiency, 5S may be the way to go. If you are trying to eliminate defects specifically, Six Sigma may be a better fit. 

Both 5S and Six Sigma are excellent methods for improving efficiency. Implementing either of these strategies can help you achieve greater success in your business endeavors. As a result, it's critical to evaluate your needs and goals before deciding which one is right for you. 

What is 5S? 

In its simplest form, 5S is a system for organizing a workspace to be more efficient, effective, and safe. ‌The five elements of 5S are:

  • Sort
  • Set in Order
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

When implemented correctly, 5S can help organizations improve safety, quality, and productivity while reducing costs. 5S is also essential to Lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System.  

The five steps include:  

5S sorting involves removing all unnecessary items from the workspace. This step helps reduce clutter and makes it easier to find what you need. 

Set in order means organizing the workspace so that everything has its own place. This step helps ensure that people can work efficiently without searching for tools or materials. 

Shine refers to keeping the workspace clean. A clean workspace is not only more organized and efficient, but it also helps prevent accidents. 

Standardize means creating standard procedures for how to do work. This step helps ensure that everyone works the same way and that tasks are completed consistently. 

Sustain refers to maintaining the gains made through 5S implementation. This step includes establishing continuous improvement processes to sustain 5S benefits over time. 

Those who complete 5S Lean Training are well equipped to implement efficiency-increasing measures in their own workplace.  

What Is Six Sigma? 

Six Sigma is a production method that aims to standardize the production process so that everything produced falls within the manufacturer's specifications. The idea behind Six Sigma is that by standardizing the production process, companies can produce a higher quality product with fewer defects. In turn, this standardization leads to lower costs and happier customers. To achieve Six Sigma compliance, companies must undergo a rigorous certification process.  

A Six Sigma compliant company has a production process that is both standardized and highly efficient. The guidelines are that, out of every million attempts, only 3.4 units are defective. This method was first developed in the world of statistics, where the sigma symbol represents a standard deviation. Once a company is certified, it must maintain compliance through regular audits. 

Reaching Six Sigma compliance is no easy feat. It requires a thorough understanding of the production process and what causes defects. Companies must also implement systems and controls to reduce or eliminate these defects. However, the benefits of becoming Six Sigma compliant are clear. Fewer defects and less waste lead to increased customer satisfaction. When done correctly, Six Sigma can be a powerful tool for improving quality control and saving money by reducing waste and defects. 

Reaching Six Sigma compliance is a long and challenging journey, but the end result is an extremely efficient production process with few defects. 

‌Most practitioners of Six Sigma recognize eight distinct types of waste:

Whenever you manufacture a product or service that fails to meet customer specifications, you create a defective item. Some experts even believe that the average firm loses around 5% to 30% of gross sales due to the costs linked with poor quality. 

If you misjudge your supply and demand, you can overproduce. This leads to wasted resources in managing the overflow, either by discounting it or by storing it. 

Bottlenecks in your manufacturing process can generate waiting waste. This type of waste can be in the form of equipment or labor that is not being maximally employed. 

Non-Utilized Talent 

Team members who are not engaged or trained in your processes can generate waste as well as those who are under or over-employed. 

Excess transportation of tools, equipment, or information can generate wasted time and effort as well as inefficient route planning if technicians must travel between locations. 

We live in an age of just-in-time everything. That means anytime you have inventory, you have an opportunity to reduce the waste costs associated with managing it. 

The movement of team members, information, parts, and equipment can generate a great deal of small waste that can quickly add up over time. 

Extra Processing
Any action that does not contribute to producing your end-product or service may generate waste. Identifying those unneeded processing steps can save time and resources.  

A trick for remembering the Six Sigma steps: Combined, the first letter of each waste type spells "downtime."  

5S vs. Six Sigma? 

Both approaches have benefits and drawbacks, and the answer to whether one is better than the other depends on your organization's specific needs and goals. Here's a quick rundown of each methodology to help you decide which is suitable for you: 

Six Sigma 

  •  Benefits of using Six Sigma include its focus on quality control, which can lead to increased efficiency and decreased waste. 
  • Six Sigma also relies heavily on data and analytics, which can help you make better decisions about your processes. 
  • One downside of Six Sigma is that it can be costly to implement, as it requires special employee training and often necessitates outside consultants. 
  • Another potential drawback is that it can be inflexible, as its rigid methodology may not work well for all organizations. 


  • The main benefit of using the Five S approach is that it is relatively simple and easy to implement. 
  • Five S also focuses on organization and cleanliness, which can lead to a more efficient workplace. 
  • One downside of Five S is that it does not place as much emphasis on quality control as Six Sigma does. 
  • Another potential drawback is that the Five S approach can be time-consuming, as it requires employees to spend time decluttering and organizing their work areas. 

So, which methodology is right for you? It really depends on your organization's specific needs.  

How we work with you 
In today's economy of big changes and uncertain times, it is more important than ever to keep your operations organized without operational bloat. Whether we are talking about a 5s or Six Sigma program for you, it will help you implement more control and focus on your organization.  

Let's Connect and Learn about your Project 
In today's business world, the status quo just does not cut it. You must constantly innovate and evolve to stay ahead of the competition. But how do you do that? One way is to invest in business intelligence (BI) solutions (Six Sigma – 5S). Cornerstone Consulting can help you make better decisions faster by helping you get a 360-degree view of your business, customers, and operations. We can also help you see patterns and trends you might otherwise miss. Whether 5S or Six Sigma, schedule a Free Consultation so we can learn more about your business and current challenges. 

Schedule a Free Consultation

Together we can pave the way for accelerated business growth, greater efficiency, and a better bottom line. We will show you how to make data-driven decisions that will take your business to the next level.

CCO cannot and does not provide legal advice. It’s important to consult with qualified counsel before adopting any new policies. It’s also your responsibility to determine whether legal review of work product is necessary prior to implementation.