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Red Tag

Vishwadeep Khatri

Message added by Mayank Gupta,

Red Tag is a simple tag to identify products or parts whose usage on the shopfloor (or near the work area) is unclear. Red tags are typically used in the Sorting phase of 5S methodology. It helps team get rid of unwanted items and keep the work area clean and ordered.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Anuj Bhatnagar on 19th Jan 2023.


Applause for all the respondents - Anupam Goswami, Vikas Choudhary, Anuj Bhatnagar, Dheeraj Bhardwaj.


Q 533. What is a 5S Red Tag? How does it help in continuous improvement? What is the criteria of removing a red tag from an item?


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday. 

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A 5S red tag is a tool used in the 5S method of workplace organization and management. It is a systematic approach to organize and maintain a clean and efficient work environment.


The five "S"s stand for Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.


The red tag is used to identify items that are not needed or are in the wrong place, and it serves as a visual cue that they should be removed or relocated. These items are tagged with a red label or tag and then removed or relocated to a designated area. The red tag is used as a visual prompt to identify items that are not needed in the work area, which helps to reduce clutter and improve efficiency, which are key components of continuous improvement. This also helps to keep the work area clean and organized, which improves productivity, safety, and quality.


Additionally, the red tag serves as a visual cue to think about the purpose of the item and check whether it is needed or not. This questioning process is a way of continuous improvement, by encouraging to think critically about the workplace and identify ways to improve it.


A red tag is used to identify items that are not needed or are in excess in a work area. The criteria for removing a red tag from an item are as follows:

  • The item is needed for the work process and is being used regularly.
  • The item has been repaired or reorganized and is now in good working condition.
  • The item is being used as a spare or for backup purposes.
  • The item is being used for training or demonstration purposes.
  • The item is being held for a specific project or future use.
  • The item has been assigned to another area or department where it is needed.


It is important to note that the decision to remove a red tag from an item should be made by a designated team or individual and should be based on clear criteria and documented in a log or database.

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5S Red Tag


This is used in the “Sort” phase of 5S, a continuous improvement methodology originating from Japan. While going through items, it helps classify something as not necessary or needed basis below criteria:

·         Does this item really have use in that area

·         Is it being effectively used

·         Frequency of use and by which members/ team

·         If removed, what is the impact

·         Does it get in the way of other activities


5S Red Tag can result in continuous improvement for the teams. Its an effective visual management tool which helps changing behaviour of simply dumping items in a corner, creating “waste”. Such items could also be unsafe, defective, extra, obsolete or unused items. In fact, this is a recurring activity to remove waste, just like we clean our house and dispose of items of no value to create space for more valuable items. It would help reduce inventory, improve utilization of space, reduce retrieval time, improve productivity or even monetary benefit from selling off.

Such items once tagged (and where possible placed in a “local red tag area” for a period) tells everyone that this is intended to be moved out. This results in a discussion on the item, thereby removing personal bias in identify value in an item.

Finally, it gets moved to a “central holding area” if collectively found as waste for that team. Objective is to find another place or team which could find use for this item before it is disposed of. The tag contains details including

·         Item type / classification along with description and quantity

·         When it is to be moved out of local red tag area or was moved to central holding area and by whom

·         Reason for Red Tagging

·         Area from where it was moved

·         Duration for which it is being held (generally a month or till when its decided that the item can add value to the business)

·         Suggested action (dispose, store, reduce inventory, sell/ transfer, etc)

These details are also updated in the 5S Red Tag Register to avoiding reliance on someone’s memory or a need to redo the activity.

For success, a POC or owner should be designated for the holding area with responsibility of:

·         Continuously monitoring the area

·         Reviewing value add for the item

·         Ensure maintenance of 5S Red Tag Register including status of the item

·         Review the typical duration an item can be put in holding area

·         Dispose/ recycle or sell off based on set duration, to avoid accumulation


If any team picks out the item with the Red Tag from the local red tag area or the central holding area, then they would need to find a permanent area for that item. Thus the Red Tag can be taken off when either the appropriate area or use for the item is found or it is disposed off/ recycled/ sold.

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5S Red mark are used in the  SORT process in your 5S or 6S program. During the process workers sort through objects in the area and use 5S Red mark to classify objects. Objects are red tagged to exclude what's unwanted or doesn't belong in your workspace. Unwanted objects are  also moved to a red label area.

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5 Red tag tool used to clean and organize workspace to optimize efficiency. These are specifically used for the sort process in the 5S program. when processor sort through items in an area, they will use red tag to classify them. which means if anything not required for in a specific area, will be classify as "red tagged".


The red tag are generally indicate that when it was brought to specific location and how long it should stay. Please refer below sample format.

Red Tag format.PNG


Create a log maintained by the Red tag area manager. 


Rules to Red Tag-

1. Dispose of anything if possible before red tagging.

2. Consideration when RED TAGGING items.

  • Obsolete- Sell, Store Offsite, Donate or Discard.
  • Defective- Return to Supplier or Discard.
  • Scrap-should Move to designated disposition area, Red tag or discard.
  • Trash/Garbage- Recycle or Discard


Example- Pallets may be immediately removed to a designated area but chemicals must be properly located or disposed of... 


Criteria to Removing Red Tag from an Item


  • it can move to different area that uses that item
  • sell the item
  • Recycle the item.


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