Quintessential Quality

Quality Feng Shui

A couple weeks ago we got new office furniture at work.  I was out of town when the furniture was delivered and installed, but someone was kind enough to swap out the desk and cabinets in my office while I was out.  While I appreciate the hard work and heavy lifting, my helper didn’t exactly leave me with the most organized workspace.  Most of the items from my desk drawers and cabinets had also been moved or placed in storage boxes.  I finally had some free time yesterday so I embarked on a 5S office project!

What’s 5S, you ask?  5S is what us cool quality peeps call the workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words which are seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke.   Translated to English the words equate to sorting, straightening, shining, standardizing, and sustaining. Those of you with a keen eye and expert grasp of the English language will notice all 5 words start with the letter “S.”  And since 5S is a tool used in lean manufacturing, it only makes sense that we eliminate all those wasteful extra words and just shorten it to 5S.

The theory behind 5S is that the words describe how to organize a work area for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the nice new space you’ve created.

I began my 5S office transformation by first sorting all of my stuff.  I kept everything that I use on a regular basis and threw away a lot of junk that I’ll never need.  I also went through all my files and pulled out old paperwork that was ready to be archived.  My sorting philosophy was like that of the cleaning crews on Hoarders, trashing anything and everything that wasn’t useful.

The next step in the process was straightening.  I placed my desk, hutch, file cabinets, and trash can exactly where I wanted them.  Drawer dividers were installed in my desk drawers and my pens, stapler, paper clips, and calculator were each assigned a home.  I labeled all of the drawers on my file cabinets and placed paperwork into hanging folders, also neatly labeled.  Finally, the things I use the most like my computer, radio, and printer were all set up in easily accessible areas on my desk.

After all my stuff was sorted and straightened, it was time to shine.  I vacuumed the floors to pick up the debris that had fallen behind the desk.  All the surfaces were then dusted and wiped down with Windex.  I even took the time to clean my keyboard and mouse.  What does shining have to do with quality? Well, a clean well organized office can quickly show when things are going wrong.  Anything out of the ordinary will be obvious and will point you in the direction of an opportunity to improve.

As part of my new 5S office, I have created an inbox on the corner of my desk.  The rule is all new paperwork that needs to be completed or reviewed can only go in the inbox.  I have also set another rule that my inbox must be empty by the end of the week.  These rules are what make up the standardize phase of 5S.  Having rules and following them will keep things organized.

The last step of my 5S office project is to sustain it!  I’ll want to step back every once in a while and audit myself to make sure I am keeping up with my organization and following my rules.  The compliments I receive from my coworkers about my gorgeous and functional office will also encourage me to sustain my system.

As you can see, 5S is a very versatile method that can be used anywhere from manufacturing to your bedroom closet.  How will you use 5S to improve your life?

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