By: Audrey Thomas, CSP
When it comes to being disorganized, is it any surprise that paper continues to be one of the biggest problems that plague people at home and at the office? Before organizing (and hopefully filing) those piles of paper sitting on your desk, you’ve got to get your existing filing cabinets ready. Even if your current filing system isn’t bursting at the seams, it’ll still a good idea to sort through and remove any unnecessary papers in order to make room for future storage needs.
5S is a systematic approach to keeping an area neat and organized. Originally designed by Toyota, it is now adapted by industries world-wide in both manufacturing and offices settings.
Applying the Lean Office 5S technique to this project breaks down into these 5 manageable steps:
Sort – Slow and steady is your mantra when doing this step. Start at the front of your drawer and begin to sort through, one file at a time. This might seem too time-consuming for you so use a timer and limit your session to just 15-20 minutes a day. Slow and Steady progress will prevent any type of burn-out, especially if you’re facing a lot of files. Use a brightly colored piece of paper as a marker in your file drawer so you know where to pick up the next day.
Straighten – If your filing cabinet has hanging file folders, chances are you have plastic tabs identifying the file name. Reposition these tabs so they are directly behind one another vs. having them in any type of staggered positioning. Referred to as Straight-line Filing, this actually allows you to find a folder more quickly.
Sweep –Take time to “clean-up” as you go. If you’ve got files with broken tabs, replace them now. If some of your manila file folders are tattered or just plain worn out, replace with a new supply that is crisp-looking. (If you use Manila file folders inside hanging files, use Interior Manila file folders as they are designed to completely nest inside a hanging file without sticking up. This makes for a very neat-looking file drawer.)
Standardize – Be consistent in how you label your individual files and file drawers. If you’ve got a label maker it will be much easier to create that “standardized” look. Also, file only what is absolutely necessary. If you have the document electronically, do you still need to make a copy for your filing cabinet?
Sustain – Keeping your filing cabinet neat, orderly and easy-accessible is the name of the game moving forward. If your filing system is quite extensive, create a File Index in Excel which will allow easy updates. Print this Index and hang it on a clipboard on the side of your filing cabinet so you (and others) can easily reference it when filing items. Keep a supply of 8-10 empty hanging files and Manila file folders in the front of your filing cabinet. This way you’ll have what you need at your fingertips the next time you need to create a new file.