Office 5S Video - How far do you go?

I dragged this office 5S video out of the youtube archives. The Wall Street Journal does an expose on office 5S, the pros and cons. Named, "Cluttered Cubicles Go Lean with 5S Rules," the video focuses on the clean up aspect of 5S and the strict enforcement by the 5S police.

Is Office 5S Even Necessary?

Coming from a manufacturing background, my focus has always been on the value added processes on the shop floor. Of course, I try to set an example by keeping my own work space clean, but waste that hits the bottom line is generally found in the factory. 5S in the office is often an after thought and sometimes a bit of a humorous activity!

When your value added activity is the office, then 5S is a bit more important. If you work in a bank, an insurance office or some other kind of transactional environment, and your bread and butter is made by shuffling papers around, then you better make sure you shuffle efficiently!

Just remember that the less shuffling you do, the more waste is eliminated. And proper office 5S can help.

Contrary to the Wall Street Journal's video below, office 5S doesn't just mean labeling a spot for a stapler and hanging your plants with proper clips (not staples). You don't want to drive your coworkers crazy!

Identify the Office Value Stream

In the office it's a bit more difficult to see where the value stream is, compared to a manufacturing floor. Many transactional processes are hidden in computer software and emails. However, it's important to identify the value stream, so you can focus your 5S efforts here. If a stapler is critical to your process, it might make sense to label it. But more likely your stapler is a small part of the value you present to your customer.

Consider highlighting key items like hand-offs, approvals, work in process, time sensitive material etc. These are the things that can improve your process.

 A clean office can improve morale, productivity and it looks good to your customer. But 5S is not about a pristine office. 5S is about making problems visible. When you highlight the critical parts of your process and make them visible using the 5S methodology (Sort, Set-in-Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain) then you'll  be able to see at a glance when your process is deviating and take steps to address it.

Make your problems visible, so you can fix them!

A great training game to introduce the basic 5S concepts to your office is the 5S Numbers Game.

That being said, take a look at the video. What do you think is good 5S behavior and what do you think is taking 5S too far? I'd love to hear your comments!

I've added this video to my monster list of free lean training videos!


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