5S: Straighten (Set in Order)

5s set in order

The straighten step establishes designated locations for everything.  This ensures that tools, materials and resources can be found easily when they are needed, and are arranged in a way that is conducive to the work to be done.

The challenge with the Straighten step lies in determining the best location for something.  Some items are obvious.  They are small and essential to an activity in a work cell.  For example, operators often need a tape measure to setup machines and to check quality.  The tape measure should have a location close to the operation where the tape measure will be easy to grab and use.  Alternatively, a machine may require a forklift to install and remove tooling.  It is impractical to park a forklift next to every machine.  A centralized parking area should be established.

As you choose locations for items, label the locations to make it obvious where things belong.  There are a number of labeling techniques that are effective.

  • Printed Labels: Placing a name tag in every location indicating what item goes in the location is very common.
  • Tape:  Colored tape or painted lines, placed in a work station or on the floor, can identify the proper location of items.  This is very effective with staging locations, for example, painting lines where a pallet of materials should be dropped off in a work cell is a great way of ensuring that material handlers deliver pallets to the best location for the operator every time.
  • Signs:  Overhead signs are an effective tool for helping people identify areas or groups of locations.  For larger equipment, such as forklifts, or material staging areas, overhead signs can also be effective.
  • Shadow Outlines:  Shadow outlines are a very effective way of organizing tools.  This is common with peg boards.  Every tool is outlined, often in black marker.  This provides a simple picture that is easy to identify when a tool is missing, and ensures that tools are always placed back in the same location.
  • Photos:  An effective way to show the proper setup of a work cell is to provide a photo of the cell.  This posted photo can be a guide to anyone trying to restore an area to the ideal setup.

The goal of the straighten process is to create a visual environment where anything out of place immediately jumps out to an observer.  The more contrast you can create between proper organization and disorganization, the better people will adhere to the organization.

An added benefit of the straighten process is that it greatly accelerates the training process of new hires.  By establishing a clear standard for where everything goes and creating visual feedback, a new worker will quickly learn proper behaviors.  The worker will also have the benefit of the visual feedback to help identify the proper location for items if the worker forgets where something goes.

Don’t forget to take “before” and “after” photos to document your continuous improvement efforts!