Unclutter Your Clutter! Introduction to the 5S+1 Visual Workplace

Unclutter Your Clutter
5S + 1 Isn’t Just for the Production Floor

A common myth about 5S+1 is that it is lame, difficult to implement, and is for Production areas only.

The reality is that 5S+1 is awesome, easy to deploy, and is a key component in everything we see today!

Just take a moment and imagine the world without visual signs. What do you see? My guess is that it would be very chaotic, disorienting, and a not-so-happy place to live.

From grocery store markings to traffic signs to sport scores on a Jumbotron, 5S+1 is used everywhere we look!

5S + 1 and Visual Management Systems Are Everywhere We Look
5S + 1 and Visual Management Systems Are Everywhere We Look

What Is 5S + 1? Perception & Association

5S+1 is a 6-step process. It focuses on making an area more efficient by removing unnecessary clutter and laying out items in an ergonomic and safe manner. It uses visual signs to ensure that certain conditions, instructions, and actions are quickly recognizable.

At Creation, 5S+1 is an important element in our Pursuit of Excellence® Journey, because it makes things organized, visual and systematic.

It also helps us deliver faster service to our customers.

Here’s why…

Today, far too often we are all judged by first impressions and sometimes mistaken perceptions.

For example, a cluttered workspace may give the perception of a disorganized, non-productive, low quality factory. This is certainly not the message we want to send to our teammates, partners and customers.

So how can we lessen or prevent a perception of ‘being cluttered’, while reducing distractions and making ourselves more productive?

One quick way is with a little housekeeping, or 5S+1, in our work areas.

6 Simple Steps to De-Clutter

By applying these 6 simple steps we can systematically establish visual management and organize our workspace with ease.

1. Sort

Separate everything, (and I mean, everything), into 3 distinct piles: Keep, Maybe, Donate/Trash.

  • Keep: This pile is for things you really can’t live without and actually use.
  • Maybe: This pile is for the stuff you have trouble getting rid of, or you think you might use later.
  • Donate/Trash: This pile is for things you haven’t used in over a year, no longer need, or that don’t belong in your workspace. We also call this the ‘Red Tag’ pile. This is because it’s literally time to put a red tag on each item and get it out of your workspace. Once your items are tagged, place them in a designated Red Tag area for immediate disposition.

2. Set In Order

In this step it’s time for, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

  • Organize and distribute the ‘Keep’ pile in your workspace. Label and place items neatly throughout your area so that they are easy to retrieve and near where the work is actually being performed.
  • Once you’re sure that you need the items in the “Maybe” pile and that they belong in your work area, store them accordingly. For example, you could put these items into labeled boxes, or file folders in a less-used space in a cabinet.
5S Isn't Just for Manufacturing: Example of a Desk That's Been 5S +1'd!
Which workstation do you think offers you the best chance of being efficient and effective?

3. Shine

  • Clean your workspace and all equipment, and, going forward, make keeping things tidy and organized a priority!
  • At the end of your work day, clean your work area and ensure everything is put pack in its place.

This makes it easy to find things the next day and provides a quick, visual way to know what’s missing.

4. Standardize

  • Create a visual guideline or a checklist to keep your work area organized, orderly, and clean every day (see 5S+1 Office Checklist example below). Try using tape to identify ‘the place’ for different objects, and remember that labels can be used on ‘the place’ as well as on the object.

5. Sustain

  • Share your 5S+1 experience with your teammates. Let everyone know how you’ve implemented the methodology and how it’s helping your productivity.

Ensure your work area never reverts back to the old way!

5 +1. Safety

  • Safety is the “+1” in the 5S + 1 methodology, and was added after the development of the original 5Ss. Having a safe environment in which to work is extremely important, and 5S + 1 can help us do that.
  • Keep your work area safe. Look around for hazards each day. If they exist, eliminate them. For example, are there tripping hazards in your area, like PC cables, chairs etc?

Do you practice 5S + 1? What are your best tips for someone implementing it for the first time? What has worked well for you? What hasn’t?

2 thoughts on “Unclutter Your Clutter! Introduction to the 5S+1 Visual Workplace”

  1. This year, Chicago took the power of 5S into the front office. Chicago conducted a common drive Kaizen, organizing and standardizing all our folders making it much faster to retrieve documents while reducing over space being used. Do not be afraid to take 5s out of the manufacturing floor.

    • Hi Jose,

      Kudos to your 5S+1 Kaizen! Many people avoid this activity because of its “process-oriented approach,” but as the Chicago team has realized, it’s really a simplified way of keeping things tidy! Besides contributing to the elimination of wasteful process steps in the factory; 5S+1 helps unclutter the office by providing a foundation to organize things like files, folders and documents. In retrospect, I consider myself “organized” yet if you saw my garage you would certainly call me messy or even a “pack rat!” Awh, but that’s what I like about continuous improvement; we can all get better!

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