What is 5S?

5S is a component of Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing. The main goal is to make the work area organized to optimize performance. It requires all unneeded items to be removed from the work area and everything else to be organized in the most efficient manner. Once the work area is properly organized it must be sustained to ensure top performance is maintained.

While it was originally put into use in manufacturing environments it can also be employed in office environments or anywhere work is performed.

The components of 5S are as follows:

  1. Sort
  2. Set in order
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

Why Implement 5S?

With the above facts in mind, we can look at why 5S is a good method for helping manage your time and getting your workspace organized.

First, let’s consider time management. How many times have you come into your office only to become frustrated by the pile of stuff you have laying on it. It makes it difficult to find what you are looking for. Getting anything done requires you to spend time putting things in order. And a messy desk causes you stress and anxiety.

So, getting your desk in order can help you begin to prioritize the items on it. Once the items on your desk are prioritized you can get to work getting things done.

Second, 5S is a precise methodology that tells you exactly what you need to do to get organized and stay organized. By following the 5-steps of the process you will great rid of the clutter and create a system of sustainable organization. This will help you manage your time and your stress level.

Getting Started

Now that we know what 5-S is and why its important let’s talk about getting started. You need to set time aside to start. Don’t allow for any interruptions. Dedicate yourself to completing the 5-S process.

Before beginning take pictures of your work area. All workspaces, inside drawers, shelves, and desktops. These pictures will serve as a reminder of where you started. When you look back it will be important to remember why you did this work and what you want to avoid.

Next, make sure that you have a space to take items you do not need but others may have a use for. Also, have garbage bags and cleaning supplies available.

Once you have your time scheduled and all items required it is time to get to work.

Sort

To begin the process you must sort everything on your desk, in your desk, and around your desk. You will make three piles:

  1. Garbage
  2. Good but don’t need
  3. Keep

Garbage is just that. It is junk that serves no purpose to you or anyone else. This includes old paperwork that is no longer required to be kept. Broken tools and office supplies. And any other junk that no longer has a useful purpose.

Good but don’t need – this is stuff that you no longer need but others in the office may be able to use. Maybe it’s an old textbook, some guides, office supplies, or any other still functioning item that you no longer need. If you have not used it for 6 months consider getting rid of it.

Keep – an item that you have used in the past 6 months or need to keep as a part of your job.

Set in Order

Now that you have sorted through all the clutter you are ready to begin to set things in order. The key point to remember is that you want to find a place for everything and everything in its place. This is key.

Organize your work area so that items you use frequently are nearest at hand and items that get used less frequently are put in a place where they can easily be found when needed but stored neatly out-of-the-way.

It is a good idea to make use of file organizers, storage containers, and labels. If you are putting something in a drawer put a label on the outside of it so you know what’s in it.

Shine

So, you have sorted and set everything in order. Now it is time to make it shine. Simply put you are going to give everything a good cleaning. Get our your cleaner and rag and start in.

As you are cleaning look for the causes of clutter and dirt and come up with ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place. If your desk gets cluttered because people are always putting paperwork all over your desk, then get an inbox and clearly mark it so people know to put paperwork in it.

Remember, you are going to want to sustain the cleanliness so consider taking 5 minutes once a week to clean your work area.

Standardize

Standardization is about making things stand out visually. You want to be able to quickly look at your work area and notice if something is out-of-place. You can do this by using shadows for things like a stapler, tape dispensers, and other work tools. In your drawers, you can have organizers clearly labeled. If you have bookshelves you can label them to clearly show what books go where.

Additionally, you can take pictures of your work area after it has been cleaned and standardized so you have a visual tool of how you want to maintain your area. This can be posted as a reference to use in the sustain step.

Sustain

The final step is to sustain your efforts. To do this put a half hour to hour block on your schedule at the end of the week. I suggesting scheduling it for the last hour of the day at the end of the week. Make sure you put it on your calendar and block this time.

Once a week you will pull out your sustain picture and ensure that your work area looks like the picture. If it doesn’t use this time to get it back in order. Then pull out your cleaner and rag and clean all areas.

To see an example of an office 5S implementation check out this short YouTube Video.

Concluding Thoughts

Ultimately, you are only as effective as you are organized. If you take the time to get your work area organized and make it a priority to sustain it you will have a much better chance of making better use of your time. It is hard to feel in control of your time when you are stuck under a pile of clutter.

By implementing 5S you will have a systematic method for getting your work area organized and keeping it that way.

Once you have your work area organized you can move on to the next step in managing your time – your calendar.

If you haven’t read the first article in this series on time-management check it out here.

Go to Part 3 in this series.