5S Floor Marking Best Practices

5S Floor marking best practice - Feature Image - Learn Lean Sigma

In lean manufacturing, the 5S System is a foundational tool, involving the steps: Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. This methodology is more than cleaning and organizing; it represents a complete approach to redefining workplace organization, optimizing workflow, and enhancing the overall environment. Central to this system is the role of floor marking during the ‘Set in Order’ phase. As you look to implement 5s floor marking, you should consider the best practices of 5S.

The 5S System

the 5S Cycle, Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardise, Sustain

The 5S system is a key basic tool of lean manufacturing, which contains five steps: Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. However, it’s crucial to understand that 5S is more than just a cleaning and organizing regimen; it’s a holistic approach to workplace organization that optimizes the entire workflow and environment.

The Five Pillars of 5S

  1. Sort (Seiri): This step involves removing unnecessary items from the workplace. It’s about decluttering and ensuring that only essential items are kept.
  2. Set in Order (Seiton): Here, the focus is on organizing the remaining items efficiently. This is where floor marking comes into play, delineating specific areas for different items and activities.
  3. Shine (Seiso): This step is about cleaning the workspace. It’s not just about aesthetics; a clean workplace is safer and more efficient.
  4. Standardize (Seiketsu): Standardization ensures that the first three S’s are consistently applied across the entire organization. It’s about creating uniform procedures that everyone understands and follows.
  5. Sustain (Shitsuke): The final step involves maintaining and reviewing the standards. It’s about instilling discipline and ensuring that the 5S principles become a part of the daily work culture.

To understand 5S in more detail, take a look at our 5S Guide.

Role of Floor Marking in 5S

In the 5S system, floor marking is particularly crucial in the ‘Set in Order’ phase. It provides visual guidance that helps in organizing the workspace efficiently. By clearly marking areas for storage, work-in-progress, and finished goods, for example, floor marking helps ensure that every item and person has a designated place, reducing clutter and confusion.

5S Floor Markings - Learnleansigma

Why Implement 5S Floor Marking

5S overall has a wide range of benefits, and the specific benefits of floor marking are similar. It’s all about maintaining a visual workspace that communicates expectations, dangers, and information at a glance. Benefits include:

  • Improved Safety: Clearly marked walkways, hazardous areas, and emergency exits enhance safety.
  • Reduced Waste: A well-organized workspace minimizes movement and time wasted looking for tools or materials.
  • Enhanced Productivity: When everything has its place, workflows are smoother and more efficient.
  • Visually Appealing Workspace: A well-marked floor contributes to a cleaner, more professional-looking environment.

Best Practice 1: Planning and Layout

Planning and layout are essential in implementing effective 5S floor marking. The goal is to enhance both safety and efficiency in the workspace without causing disruptions during the implementation process.

Key Aspects of Planning to Consider

  • Assess Traffic and Workflow: Before marking, observe the natural flow of foot traffic, machinery paths, and the overall layout of the workspace. This observation helps in understanding the most used paths and critical areas.
  • Minimize Disruptions: The plan should aim to minimize interference with daily operations. For instance, marking can be done in stages or during off-peak hours to avoid significant disruptions.

Image Source: CWHayden

Guidelines and Considerations

When designing a layout for 5S floor marking in a workspace it is essential to create an environment that is both safe and efficient. The first principle is visibility. Floor markings need to be distinctly visible from a distance, ensuring that all employees, regardless of their location in the workspace, can easily see and understand them. This visibility is crucial for safety and efficiency, as it guides workers in navigating the space, identifying hazards, and understanding workspace organization at a glance.

The second guideline is simplicity. The designs of the floor markings should be straightforward and intuitive. Overly complicated patterns or an excessive number of markings can lead to confusion, defeating the purpose of creating a clear and easily navigable workspace. Simple lines, shapes, and clear text can convey the necessary information without overwhelming employees. This simplicity aids in quick recognition and comprehension, especially important in high-traffic or complex work environments.

Consistency in the use of patterns, colors, and symbols is another critical factor. Consistent application across the entire workspace fosters a sense of uniformity and predictability. It helps in creating a universal language within the facility, allowing for employees, even those new to the space, to quickly understand and adhere to the intended organizational and safety protocols.

Effective layout examples demonstrating these principles include:

  • Clear Walkways: Walkways should be distinctly marked, clearly separating them from work areas. This separation ensures safe and efficient pedestrian traffic flow, reducing the risk of accidents and improving navigation.
  • Designated Equipment Storage: Marked areas designated for equipment and material storage help maintain organization. These markings reduce clutter, optimize space usage, and enhance operational efficiency.
  • Emergency Access Routes: Clearly marked emergency routes and exits are vital for safety. These markings should be unmistakable and easily identifiable, ensuring quick and safe evacuation in case of emergencies.

Best Practice 2: Color Coding and Signage

Color coding and signage enhance the effectiveness of floor markings by conveying specific messages through colors and symbols.

5S Floor marking examples

Color Coding

  • Yellow: Yellow is commonly used for marking walkways, aisles, and traffic lanes. It’s a universal color for caution and is highly visible, helping in directing traffic and pedestrian movement safely.
  • Red: Red markings typically indicate hazardous areas, items that need attention, or places that have specific safety-related importance. It could be used to mark fire equipment locations, electrical panels, or spill-prone areas.
  • Blue: Blue is usually used for indicating equipment or materials that are under repair or in need of maintenance. Blue can also be used for outlining work-in-progress areas.

Signage and Symbols

  • Enhancing Understanding: Combining colors with signage and symbols makes the message clearer. For instance, a red area might have a sign indicating ‘High Voltage’ or ‘Flammable Material’.
  • Universal Symbols: Using universally recognized symbols (like the emergency exit symbol) ensures that even those new to the workspace can understand the markings without needing extensive training.

Best Practice 3: Material and Durability

When it comes to floor marking, the choice of materials is a critical factor that impacts the longevity and effectiveness of the markings.

Tape vs Paint

5s Floor marking tape

Tapes: Adhesive tapes are a common choice for floor marking due to their ease of application and flexibility. Floor marking tapes are especially useful for those who are still learning 5S floor marking with some trial and area of locations for materials walkways etc. They are ideal for environments where changes are frequent, as they can be easily removed and replaced. Tapes come in various widths, colors, and durability grades, suitable for different traffic levels and types of usage.

Their convenience, however, may sometimes be offset by a shorter lifespan compared to paint, especially in high-traffic areas. In my experience, they do not last very long in locations where you may encounter frequent forklift use or other heavy-duty manual handling equipment. They may also not stick well or at all in certain environments that have wet or oily floors. They will also not be GMP compliant for food processing factories.

You can by these types of specialist tapes with extra tack from places such as Creative Safety Supply.

Paint: Paint is often chosen for its durability. Once applied, painted floor markings can withstand heavy traffic and harsh conditions better than tape. However, painting requires more preparation, such as cleaning the floor thoroughly and sometimes applying a primer. Modifying or removing painted lines is more labor-intensive, requiring scraping or repainting. Paint is a good choice for areas with a consistent layout or where long-term durability is a priority.

Paint can be an issue in areas with grease or oil, and extra work will be needed to prepare the surface to ensure it lasts. Paint can also sometimes be a problem in food manufacturing areas, as over time the paint can flake and risk going into food products.

You can buy these types of floor marking paints and application tools from companies like Denios.


Best Practice 4: Employee Involvement and Training

Involving employees in the floor marking process is important as it can significantly enhance the effectiveness of the 5S system. When employees participate in planning and applying floor markings, they develop a deeper understanding and a sense of ownership over their workspace. This involvement can lead to better compliance and upkeep of the markings.

Education is key. Employees should be trained on the meanings of different markings, colors, and symbols. Understanding what each marking signifies and why it’s important ensures that employees adhere to the guidelines, which enhances safety and efficiency. Training sessions can also be an opportunity to address any questions or concerns, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Encouraging a culture where employees feel comfortable providing feedback and suggestions on the floor marking strategy can lead to continuous improvement. This approach not only empowers employees but also ensures that the floor marking system evolves in line with the changing needs of the workspace. Regular feedback and discussion sessions can be instrumental in refining the strategy and maintaining a high level of workplace organization and safety.


Embracing the 5S methodology through effective floor marking is a journey of transformation, not just for the workspace but also for the people who work in the area. From the strategic application of color coding and signage to the careful selection of durable materials, each step in the process plays a crucial role in enhancing safety, reducing waste, and boosting productivity. However, the true essence of this transformation lies in the involvement and training of employees.

Their participation and education are instrumental in fostering a culture of safety, efficiency, and continuous improvement. As they gain a deeper understanding and sense of ownership, the 5S floor marking transcends from being mere guidelines on the floor to becoming an integral part of a living, evolving work environment. This journey, enriched with employee engagement and adaptability, paves the way for a workspace that is not only functionally optimal but also visually coherent and universally intuitive.


Picture of Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website learnleansigma.com, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

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