People often remark that what prevents them from getting a space organized is that they do not know where to start. I’d like to introduce you to a system referred to as 5S. Years ago Toyota wanted to reduce the cost of producing a vehicle so they studied every part of the manufacturing process. Their goal was to remove any thing that wasn’t necessary in turning out a high-quality car. They studied the number of steps an assembly line worker took in doing each and every task. They studied their inventory levels. And they paid attention to clutter. What they ended up with is what is now referred to world-wide as the Toyota Production System (TPS).
5S and the 7 Areas of Waste (to be addressed in a future newsletter) are two processes which Toyota created and focused their attention on. 5S is a 5-step process that walks you through getting an area organized, de-cluttered and operating at optimal efficiency. Learning to maintain an area is also a big part of 5S.
Here’s a graphic illustrating the 5 steps of 5S, beginning with SORT.
S #1 –Sort – When in doubt, move it out.
Choose an area that needs organizing. For the purpose of this article, let’s discuss your desk surface.
What items are sitting on your desk that don’t belong there? Perhaps you’ve got things that need to be returned to another department or personal items that need to go home with you tonight. Chances are you also have things sitting on your desk that need to be filed, recycled or tossed. Remove anything that doesn’t belong there. Think of your desk as expensive real estate. Only items that add value to your daily routines and tasks deserve to sit on your desk and take up space.
S# 2—Straighten – A place for everything.
It’s time to assign a “home” for the things stored in and on your desk. You’ll use items more often and find them faster if they are stored in the same place every time you get done using them. Toyota’s term for storing things where you need them is Point of Use Storage (POUS).
S #3–Sweep – To be Lean, you must be clean.
Your office’s cleaning crew probably vacuums and empties your garbage. It’s doubtful they do much dusting. A clean office space will encourage you to maintain organization so take a close look around. Do you have dust bunnies hiding amongst a tangle of cords under or behind your desk? Do you have a layer or two of dust on the pile of stuff stored on top of your filing cabinet?
On occasion, using a simple wipe or damp paper towel, wipe down the flat surfaces of your office. Use a can of air to clean out your computer keyboard and monitor.
S #4–Standardize – Routines become habits.
An important tool in the Standardize process is signage. Labels are visual indicators of what is stored in a particular cabinet, shelf or file. They also retrain the brain to begin using a space differently. Labels/signs are especially important for common-use areas where several individuals use a space. They can direct people to the proper place for finding (and putting away!) equipment or supplies.
S #5–Sustain – Make it simple to sustain.
You will always have “stuff” streaming into your office. So it’s important to be proactive in each of the steps outlined above. Removing clutter (Sort) and returning items to their designated areas (Straighten) will contribute to a daily routine that eventually becomes second-nature.
Fight the urge to procrastinate. Each day before leaving the office, take 5 minutes to do a quick Sort and Straighten. When you walk into your office the next morning, you’ll be glad you did.