Success In Workplace Organization Efforts

In last month’s column, I discussed some of the successes companies were experiencing using the value stream mapping technique. Value stream mapping is one of the first steps a company should take when looking for opportunities to improve its operation.

Columns From: 5/2/2004 Modern Machine Shop,

In last month’s column, I discussed some of the successes companies were experiencing using the value stream mapping technique. Value stream mapping is one of the first steps a company should take when looking for opportunities to improve its operation. Frequently, an outcome of value stream mapping is recognizing the need to improve workplace organization. Discovering that employees cannot follow the “30-second rule” (anyone should be able to find anything in a work area in 30 seconds or less) provides the motivation to get and stay organized.

This month, I want to share some of the successes companies are having in organizing their workplaces through the use of the 5S system (sort, set-in-order, shine, standardize and sustain).

During the “sort” activity, one company disposed of hundreds of obsolete items. Some of them were covered with so much foreign matter that they were almost unrecognizable. During a 2-day period, 28 large storage hampers were filled with obsolete items and delivered to the scrap container for disposal.

In another company’s “set-in-order” effort, numerous duplicate tools were discovered in tool boxes, cabinets, worktables, drawers and the like. The tools had accumulated over time as each employee felt the need to keep spares in the event that the tool crib might run out of tools. Boring bars became the “catch of the day.” More than 1,000 boring bars were found throughout the shop, many of which were no longer required for the parts being produced by the company. It was estimated that enough boring bars were discovered to keep the shop supplied for more than 3 years!

One company realized that window ledges in the shop were becoming a catch-all for tools and supplies. Despite attempts to get the operators to put things back where they belonged, things just seemed to gravitate toward these window ledges. The solution was to physically change the window ledges. Plywood was affixed to each window ledge at a 45-degree angle, turning a horizontal surface into one that was incapable of holding parts. With nowhere else to “temporarily” put the supplies, the operators began to return the items to their designated locations.

Another company, which was tired of having operators search all over for needed hand tools, decided to place tool storage boards, or “shadow boards,” at each work station. To help alleviate the common concern of others borrowing tools and not bringing them back, each shadow board was painted a different color, and matching colored markings were placed on each tool assigned to that specific board. With this visual color-coding system, it was easy to spot out-of-place tools. Despite the skepticism of the operators, the system proved workable, and it reduced tool search time significantly

Another manufacturer of large equipment was experiencing difficulty matching up components to the right job. As is often the case in manufacturing, jobs were released with “shortages”—the idea being that some work could be done in advance of receiving the parts that were short. A delivery cart was created, and this cart would be loaded with parts in the morning and delivered to assembly in the afternoon. The assembly personnel assumed the responsibility of checking the cart and taking the parts that pertained to their job.

The new standard required assembly personnel to assume responsibility for disposition of all items brought to the assembly area. Because the assembly personnel knew best where things belonged, there was a dramatic decrease in misplaced components.

Another company had a similar problem matching components to jobs. A standard was developed that all material containers, such as skids, pallets, bins and totes, would have a cover sheet attached describing the contents and listing the job name or number. Periodic audits served to ensure that the standard was maintained, and the time spent searching for lost components diminished.

Consider some of these 5S-related actions as you try to improve the organization system at your company. Freeing up your people from “search” time is one of the best ways to increase your productivity.

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