Your desk or workspace is a mess! Papers, files, tools and supplies are scattered like the aftermath of a windstorm. It’s frustrating, crippling and embarrassing. And yet we try and convince ourselves: “I’ll get to it tomorrow.” The task of “getting organized” seems insurmountable. So we take the path of not doing anything.

But what if effectively cleaning up your workspace created an opportunity to be more productive and efficient? Implementing the Lean practice of 5S is a game-changer for any individual, team and organization while saving significant time and money.

Although often applied in warehouse and manufacturing organizations, the 5S practice is valuable in all office settings, including healthcare and retail organizations. The 5S concept was developed in Japan as one of the techniques that enabled Just in Time manufacturing. It is a tool used to create an efficient, yet sustainable, workplace through visual management, waste reduction and process control.

It’s best if an entire team or department implement 5S practices. As a result, everyone is informed, engaged and supportive of the efforts. So, how do you get your work area organized? It’s as easy as following these 5 steps:


5S: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain



The first step is often the most difficult – or most fun – depending on your affinity for organization. For those who are sentimental or attached to items in their workplace, this may be difficult. For those who like order, structure and cleanliness, this step, as well as the whole process, will be refreshing.

Get rid of unnecessary things that do not add direct value to your job or team projects. It is critical to the 5S process to remove waste or unnecessary tools, personal items, clutter or anything that would inhinder your daily work.

The team should designate a “Red Tag” area for all unnecessary items that don’t add value to the system or process.

In a warehouse or manufacturing setting, examples of these types of items would be tools brought from home, used boxes, duplicate tools, variation in tools from one station to the next, or more-than-needed items like extra computers and printers.

In an office environment, unnecessary items can include: excessive printed papers and files, file cabinets, documentation without revision control, printers that lack scheduled maintenance, ink cartridge replacements and other workspace clutter that does not add value to the internal workspace and workflow.


2. SET IN ORDER: Everything has a place

After sorting all value added and non-value-added items, identify and designate places for each of the value-added items. The goal is to make it easy to access and return items that are used frequently and part of your job. All items must be labeled and placed in designated areas – from tools to paper clips.

The focus of the “Set in Order” phase is to easily identify where things are and where items should be placed when finished using them. At first, this phase can appear excessive. However, all efforts to identify permanent locations for items with a label maker or floor tape is absolutely necessary to define where every item should rest or be stored.


3. SHINE – Make everything clean and neat

This is the phase that everyone likes the most. Outside of a 5S process, this is the phase where most people start! When you ask someone to “clean up,” it usually starts with a bottle of spray cleaner and paper towels. Following the crucial first two steps, people are most familiar with this activity. Get some tough degreaser, glass cleaner, rags, sponges, paint and anything else that will help your team to spruce the place up and make is SHINE!


4. STANDARDIZE – Make it the same everywhere

In this step, create procedures to support the established changes and how to follow the 5S process. Creating written procedures will create a foundation for you and your teams to continue the great work done so far.

First, it will send a clear message that everyone will be accountable to maintain the 5S process. Second, it provides a platform for training new employees. Third, it provides a baseline for further improvements to aid in creating an environment of Continuous Improvement. Fourth, the procedures should be used for auditing to make certain the process is maintained.

To provide your team’s success, develop simple ways to standardize things with visual cues, such as color coding and label identification. The easier the process is to follow, the greater likelihood that the process will be adopted and maintained.


5. SUSTAIN – Provide training and include in Daily Escalation

To ensure sustainability of the 5S implementation, provide training to every employee. The training is beneficial for three reasons: One, it provides teams the information they need about the program; two, it creates the opportunity for everyone to ask questions and get clarity on the process; and three, the training provides leadership teams the ability to hold everyone accountable for maintaining the 5S process.

Once the training is complete, include maintenance of the 5S process as part of your Daily Escalation protocol. To sustain this effort, it must be discussed frequently. It should be given the same level of significance as other topics that impact the business.

Lastly, to assure sustainability of the 5S process, create an audit infrastructure to maintain compliance and efficiency of workplace organization.

In conclusion, keep in mind that the purpose of the 5S process is to decrease the time it takes to perform simple tasks through effective workplace organization. The benefits of implementing a 5S process are greater than most may think. The long-term workplace organization and reduction of wasteful operations and excessive materials will have a significant impact on operating cost and efficiency of any business.

If you or your organization would to learn more about the tools associated with Process Improvement and how to build a Continuous Improvement infrastructure, contact RTG Solutions Group today. We will ensure you and your teams gain the education and understanding necessary to infuse your organization with proven results-oriented methodologies. Contact us here.

“A vision cannot be realized without the ability to execute.”

Khris K. Bhattan
President, RTG Solutions Group
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