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Is your workplace orderly? When you waste time looking for something, you thought it’s there but you just can’t find it. I guess the answer is obvious.

An orderly home or workplace is believed to be key to productivity. Allow me to share a Japanese method of keeping ones place organized and tidy, 5S.
In a nutshell, 5S stands for 5 Japanese words. These are:


  1. Seiri (整理): Sorting. Refers to the practice of going through everything in the work area and keeping “only” the most important and essential items. The rest are either stored or discarded. This leads to fewer hazards and less clutter to interfere with productive work.

  3. Seiton (整頓): Simplifying. Focuses on the need for an orderly workplace. “Orderly” in this sense means arranging the files, fixtures, equipment and tools in an order that minimizes time wastage and promotes orderly work flow. This attempts to eliminate extra motion.

  5. Seisō (清掃): Sweeping, Systematic Cleaning, or Shining. Indicates the need to keep the workplace clean as well as neat.

  7. Seiketsu (清潔): Standardizing. This refers to standardized work process and practices.

  9. Shitsuke (躾): Sustaining. The first 4S will go to waste if the effort will not be sustained.

Sounds simple but the whole process needs political will to sustain.
If you want this in your workplace, first, get thw support of top management, otherwise, the whole campaign will fail.
Based on experience, the first S can be accomplished easily but entails 2-3 days of work.
We normally do this before Christmas/New Year vacation. Have many boxes at your disposal. Once sorted out, label each to distinguish files, items, tools or fixtures. And another label to distinguish those for scrapping, retention and active use.
The 2nd S calls for a little engineering. An orderly filing system is akin to science. By placing what we needed near us and those that we seldom use farther is in itself engineering.
The 3rd S calls for discipline as it entails consistency.
The 4th S entails (industrial) engineering intervention because this ensures the work flow will result to more output in a given time.
The last S calls for human resource initiative to get the other departments to come up with a program, policy and rewards system to ingrain 5S into the corporate culture.
In a highly competitive environment, having an orderly workplace is value adding.

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