I first encountered this methodology at my first job – in a call center, no other! But since then, it has stuck with me. Maybe it’s my inherent obsessive-compulsive (OC) personality. Maybe it’s a combination of both. I really don’t care. It’s working for me.
Anyways, I noticed today that everything in my work station (even the way my PC files are organized or how my window tabs are arranged) is organized and arranged to adhere as much as possible to the Five S style (5S). I find it really helpful when I know where things are or where I placed them. For example, my calendar (calendars) is located just beside my right-hand monitor or mouse. So when I need to check on dates and months, I only have to turn my head a little bit to see. Another example is the project framework. It’s located beside my left-hand monitor where I usually have my working file on (the reference documents are on the right-hand monitor) so I can easily reference it (there is that problem of having to come closer because the print was optimized to fit one page but…).
So… what is it all about?
“A Five S program is usually a part of, and the key component of Visual Factory (Workplace) Management (VFM). And 5s and VFM are both a part of Kaizen — a system of continual improvement.”
Kaizen was created in Japan after World War II. It means “continuous improvement”. It comes from the Japanese words 改 (“kai”), which means “change” or “to correct,” and 善 (“zen”), which means “good”. The system needs to involve every employee in the company’s hierarchy. “Everyone is encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. This is not a once a month or once a year activity. It is continuous.”
“In most cases these are not ideas for major changes. Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis: always improving productivity, safety and effectiveness while reducing waste.”
The other system, VFM, refers a system of visual cues communication tools that relay information visually at the time and place it is needed. “Visual controls make working areas user-friendly by answering questions; identifying equipment, materials and locations; describing actions and procedures; and providing safety warnings and precaution information.” In other words, it makes things simple by “labeling” them with the intent of imparting as much information as possible with limited resources for the benefit of the intended user without having to clutter the workplace (that’s just counter-intuitive). VFM uses correct and appropriate labels, signs, cues, indexing, etc.
So let me give you an example (see image to the left for the actual view of my “My Documents” folder). My folders are organized this way:
A_[project 1] – usually the project where I spend the most time working on.
B_[project 2] – the next most important or time-consuming project
C_[project 3] – and so on and so forth
If both projects take 50-50 of my time then I usually give them equal weights. So instead of A then B. I would put A1_[project 1] and A2_[project 2]. I always reserve “z” for Z_Archives, which is for old folders or after reorganization of my files, documents, etc. This is just an example of how I create an efficient system for documentation and filing purposes.
Next on our plate: Seiri or Sorting, the first step! I just gave an example of this above.