Although the first step of the 5S methodology is Sort, it often receives the least amount of thought or attention. The process of sorting may seem similar to that of spring cleaning – waffling over whether an item should be kept, donated, or thrown out. While it may seem tedious, it is very important to thoroughly sort all of the items in, and around, the work area. The Sort step builds the foundation for the remaining 5S processes, the key here is to determine necessity.
Include Appropriate Personnel
First and foremost, make sure to include workers that actually use the space in the sorting process. They will have the best insight into frequency of item use, work processes, and necessity. This resolves the problem of accidently removing needed items and equipment from the work area. Schedule time to observe the work station in full use. Note any items that are not used in regular processes.
5S Necessity Determination
The next step is to determine if the items found in the area are necessary for work processes or safety. All personnel involved in the sorting process should agree on the meaning of necessity to avoid confusion. At a bare minimum, many organizations define necessary as an item that is used every shift or must be in close proximity for safety reasons. While most items may have a range of usage frequency, it is a simple way to start.
- Identify each item
- Determine item use
- Evaluate frequency of use
Red Tag Events
To speed up the sorting process, organizations can use red tags to identify and designate items that are being considered for work space removal. Red tags are available through most industrial supply stores and online. The tags have checkboxes to designate the item category, reason for removal, and resulting action. Teams find that they make the process easier and decrease the chance of lost items.
All items that will remain in, or in close proximity to, the work area will be dealt with in the second step, Set (also referred to as Straighten). This leaves the task of what to do with the unnecessary items, to avoid wasted space. If an item is needed (but not relevant to the location), designate a central storage location. Obsolete items can be sold, given away, or thrown out. Any defective items may warrant a call to the supplier, keep these items in another location until the issue is resolved. If you are unsure of the item use, set it aside and ask the appropriate personnel (note where the item has been moved to).
The 5S Sort process may be time consuming, but it is worthwhile. By removing unnecessary items, it will be easier and faster for personnel to find the items that they need to complete work.