One of the common misconceptions in Kaizen or Lean is that it is only deployed in manufacturing environments. The premise behind these initiatives is to reduce waste – unsurprisingly waste is common in all businesses irrespective whether they manufacture widgets or provide services to their customers and as such lean and kaizen initiatives can thrive in an office environment.

And certainly when it comes to optimization techniques, these can be used in almost every workplace. Indeed implementing 5s in an office environment (or any other business area) is a sensible option as it offers a way to commence lean creating a foundation from which to progress with other initiatives.

Implementing 5s in an office environment is relative easy to implement with a straightforward process and clearly identified steps. 5s follows a fairly common path of

Sorting – This initial step involves reviewing and organizing the workplace. Tools and equipment present in the workplace should be reviewed and if any items are found that are not required they should be at first tagged and then removed to a place for review. This part of the process is usually called a “red tag process”. This offers an opportunity for items not required to be discarded ensuring that the workplace contains only equipment that is required by the operator to carry out his/her role.

Straightening – Optimizing storage locations for equipment can help make sure that tools and objects are easy to find, use and can be simply returned to a storage location making future retrieval simple.

Shining – Once the workplace has been reviewed and required tools/objects effectively stored the workplace can be cleaned. Mess can be removed, the work place may require painting or marking out.

Standardizing – By standardizing working practices waste can be removed – in terms of 5s standardization usually refers to striving to make workstations identical enabling workers with common tasks to be able to work at any workstation with common tools and equipment stored in standard locations and storage methods.

Sustaining – 5s should not be a one off exercise but once the initial activity has been completed regular reviews of the office workspace should take place to ensure that the new working environments are maintained. Adopting and diarizing a periodic review/audit can simplify this process.

Summary

5s in any environment, let alone in an office environment, does not succeed on its own – like any improvement activity it requires commitment and support from the organization. Suitable training and visual aids need to be made available and organizational 5s “champions” selected who can provide training and support.

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