Remember those G.I. Joe cartoons from the 80’s where at the end of each episode one of the Joes would teach us a life lesson (about nutrition, honesty, school, etc.)? Before rolling the credits the child receiving the lesson would say “Now I know!” followed by the Joe saying “And knowing is half the battle!” G.I. Joeeee!!
(Come on – you definitely sang it in your head, especially if you’re a child of the 80’s.)
When it comes to implementing 5S – really, the first tool of lean – sort is half the battle. Getting through the sort phase gets you halfway to significant improvements, for two reasons.
First, by getting rid of a great load of stuff that’s cluttering your life and work space you begin to create flexibility and functional space as well as starting to minimize how much in liquid assets (aka cash) is spent on unnecessary stuff.
And second, every great journey begins with a single step – this is the first step in attacking the inertia to “change for the better.”
So what is sort? It’s the process of removing what is not immediately needed from what is immediately needed in a work area.
Well, okay, how do we define “immediately?” For simplicity’s sake, it’s probably easiest to create categories of need like so and treat them each differently:
Used shiftly/daily (high frequency)
Used once or twice per week (low frequency)
Used once per month (rarely)
Used less than once per month (almost never)
Items that are used with high frequency should be kept in immediate view or reach. Make sure these items are not difficult to obtain, otherwise time is wasted on repeated searching, walking, reaching, and motion. These items will likely be incorporated in point-of-use storage.
Those items used weekly should be kept not too far away – perhaps in an adjoining room or closet – but out of the way to prevent clutter in the immediate working area. These items should be easy to take from storage and to put back when done being used.
Items used about once per month should be kept far away – if they’re kept close to a working area they’ll likely be taking up valuable operational space. Keep these infrequently used items together far away from not only the immediate work area but also most other work areas.
If you have items that are used less than once per month (such as once per season or less), you should really consider whether it’s feasible to even keep such items at all. Are these items expensive to replace? How much is lost if these items are disposed of? Are these items obsolete or broken/unable to be repaired? Can the items be salvaged or sold off? Having such items on the premises if they can be sold off or recycled could provide liquid assets (read: cash!) that is unusable in the form of unused equipment or items.
Use these guidelines to figure out what to do with every – every – item in the area. Tools, tables, hardware, supplies, equipment, raw materials, finished products, fixtures, and all other movable and immovable items are all to be evaluated and considered.
Physically separate all of these items, by category, away from the workspace. A process that works well for identifying what isn’t needed in an area is tagging. When an item isn’t going to be kept in a work area, use a tag for communicating to others that the item will be taken away.
When the separation portion of the sort step has been completed, don’t put the items not immediately needed back! Low-frequency-of-use items (again, once or twice a week but not daily/shiftly) that are to be stored near the process shouldn’t be returned to the storage area until proper locations have been identified and laid out…part of what will be discussed in the set-in-order step of 5S.
Anything in the almost-never-used section should be evaluated for whether those items should be kept at all. Be diligent and be honest – if you really won’t be using something, do the right thing and get rid of it. If some of the items are considered capital equipment, get accounting and finance involved – there might be depreciation or asset tags that need to be considered before disposal.
Where can the first step of 5S be applied at a stadium? Everywhere!