What Benjamin Franklin can teach us about 5S


I have a feeling Benjamin Franklin would love the 5S methodology. He was a very orderly guy. In fact, the well-known 5S phrase, “A place for everything and everything in its place,” is widely considered to have come from Ben Franklin.

Many of his personal habits have been used by people all over the world since the 1700s. For instance, his method of planning was adopted by Hyrum W. Smith, in 1984, who founded The Franklin Planner Company. Executives took to the planner like a duck to water. It helped many order their day and prioritize goals.

Benjamin Franklin quote, "An investment in Knowledge always pays the best interest."

How many 5S-like practices can you spot in Benjamin Franklin’s practices?

Benjamin Franklin also had a very interesting practice that started with a list of 13 virtues:

  1. Temperance: “Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
  2. Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
  3. Order: “Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
  4. Resolution: “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
  5. Frugality: “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
  6. Industry: “Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
  7. Sincerity: “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
  8. Justice: “Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
  9. Moderation: “Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
  10. Cleanliness: “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.”
  11. Tranquility: “Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
  12. Chastity: “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
  13. Humility: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

The notebook

Franklin kept a small book with 13 pages. On the top of each page, he listed the days of the week. On the left, he listed each virtue. He evaluated himself at the end of the day. Next, to each virtue he had failed to follow, he’d place a dot in the box. The goal was to minimize the number of “dots,” so as to indicate he was living a “clean” life, free of vice.

Each week, Franklin would focus on one virtue, placing that virtue at the top of the chart, along with a short explanation of its meaning. After 13 weeks (approximately 3 months), he had progressed through all 13 virtues and then would start over again.

Did you notice the 5S-like behaviors?

  • The virtue “Order” reminds me of “Set in Place.” After all, he is credited with that nugget of wisdom.
  • “Frugality” and “Industry,” not to be idle is the goal of 5S, to help you increase productivity and eliminate wasted time.
  • “Cleanliness” is our “Shine” phase.
  • Franklin employed visual assessment with his 13-page notebook, and did you catch it?…
  • He would audit, audit, audit!
  • He scheduled a period time to focus on each of his virtues and when he had worked on all of them, he started over – a perfect example of the continuous nature of “Sustain.”

The tools you need to be like Ben.

Chances are, your business is going to need more than a 13-page notebook to implement a 5S program. We carry products that can help you sort, organize and clean your workspace for greater productivity. We carry floor markingtool control solutionscolor-coded cleaning tools, and more. So many ways to bring order into your world… even old Ben would be proud of them.

At The 5S Store, we too are committed to order and efficiency. Why not check out our stock so you’re ready for the future. Perhaps grab one of our starter kits to kick things off right! For more 5S tips and ideas, give us a shout. We’ll make sure you get answers.


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