5S for Landscapers – 5 Simple Steps to Solving Productivity Problems

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Business Advice

Too many landscape companies face the same problem: too many mistakes coupled with unproductive employees leading to lost profit, missed opportunities, and burnt-out owners and employees. Solution? 5S.


Too many mistakes coupled with unproductive employees leads to lost profit, missed opportunities, and burnt-out owners and employees.


Lean landscaping – productivity tools tried and tested by some of the greatest manufacturing companies in the world, now being used by landscape companies to improve productivity and profit. 

Never heard of 5S? It’s a workplace organization model that has actually been around since the early days of shipbuilding in the 16th century. Ship builders at the time worked in an assembly line fashion to produce as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. Their innovative approach to production allowed them to achieve maximum manufacturing efficiency.

Fast forward to Post World War II Japan, and the assembly line approach was adapted and transformed into 5S – a system that employed the same groundwork for operating at a maximum efficiency as the assembly line model, but that also worked to establish an environment that encouraged continuous improvement. Today the system is still used by businesses all over the world due to its many benefits, including:

  • Reduced waste
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved quality
  • Enhanced company image
  • Increased profit

The Landscape Management Network believes in good systems. A lack of good systems in the green industry means we see many landscape companies operating at around 60% of their potential. That means most companies are billing only 60% of what they should/could be billing, with the right systems in place. By reducing waste, mistakes, pricing problems and other problems, you can see huge increases in sales revenue and profit, and it does so by reducing headaches, not increasing them. Getting “lean” involves making the most of the resources you already have, and the 5S system is a system no good company should be without. 

Click play on the videos below to watch the 5S solution explained!

Click play on the next video to put 5S to the test for yourself!

Solution Explained:


1. Sort

The first step in following the 5S model is to remove or relocate anything that’s not needed for current production. You should sort items by frequency of use. Only keep the bare essentials for a job, nothing that will get in the way.

Your yards and shops are typically good places to start. Identify unnecessary, unneeded, or misplaced items and red tag them. Place these red tagged items in a designated “Red Tag” area in the yard or shop. In one month’s time, go through the Red Tag area and remove the items still lingering as they are no longer necessary. Removal of these items may mean storing them away or throwing them out.   

Trucks should always be kept clean – inside and out and, likewise, your jobsites should always be kept free of clutter and waste. Follow the same red tag procedure. 

2. Set in Order

Set in order means everything has a ‘right’ place. Labels, containers and designated areas make things easy to find – and make people accountable for putting them away correctly.  No excuses.

Arrange the items you do need for production so that they are easily accessible, and everyone knows exactly where they will be found, and where they need to be put away.

All your tools, parts, and materials should have a designated, labeled storage spot. Prepare and label storage areas using paint and color-coded markers. And when thinking of proper storage areas, consider the ergonomics of reaching things.

3. Shine

Shine means we keep our jobsites, trucks, and shop neat and clean. Look at your workspace through your customer’s eyes. Messy jobsites show our customers and their neighbors that we have little or no control. Look at your workspace through your employee’s eyes. Messy shops and offices send the same message to your employees – that the owner lacks control.

Assign someone in each crew to wipe down the inside of trucks each night. A clean, organized shop is important for safety because a tidy workspace will help employees identify problems before they even arise.

Schedule regular cleaning and use inspection checklists to make sure your employees follow through.

4. Standardize

Standardize means that roles and responsibilities are clear.  Employees are trained on the way we do things here. A McDonalds employee handbook is a great example of standardization. Every McDonalds employee in every city across the world knows exactly what’s expected of them, and how to carry out their tasks. Standardize means you need to train your employees on the way things get done in your company. Formalize procedures and practices to ensure familiarization and consistency.

From planting specifications, to equipment inspections, to quality control checklists – if you really want to improve quality and productivity, then you need to communicate people’s responsibilities with crystal clarity. Landscape Management Network’s Systems library was built for this purpose – over 600 forms and checklists – already built for you – so you can give responsibilities instead of job titles. 

Standardization also means that you have to invest in training your staff.  Landscape Management Network professional members have unlimited access to a host of online training courses, ranging from health and safety through to 5S and other lean training built for landscape managers and employees.

5. Sustain

Sustain means that we conduct regular inspections, reviews, and evaluations to make sure 5S practices are being carried out. Employees work to the way they are measured. If you don’t measure organization, you will have a disorganized, and inefficient, company.

Follow up and routinely inspect to make sure that every one of your crews is following the 5S procedures.

Offer rewards for continuous improvement and optimal performance and ensure your crews have some form of management support, either from you or your foremen, to assist and promote the importance of 5S maintenance.

The benefits of 5S will improve every major area of your business:

  • Crews are more productive, improving profit and increasing opportunities for more sales
  • Less lost tools, forgotten items, headaches and required supervision
  • Equipment lasts longer, less repair costs
  • Company maintains a professional image
  • Safer jobsites and work areas
  • Less training for new employees
  • Less problems means happier employees
  • Productive, quality jobs means happier customers
  • All these benefits means a happier boss

Landscape Management Network is a member-based organization helping great landscape contractors build great landscape businesses. Members have unlimited access to software, systems, tools and training that is revolutionizing the industry – and memberships start at just $99/month.  For more information on the Landscape Management Network, visit the website at www.landscapemanagementnetwork.com.

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