Welcome to the third instalment in our series of My Lean Tool and Me. As the Marketing Manager of 100% Effective, today I’ll be giving you a rundown of my favourite tool – and it’s a doozy! As we previously mentioned, we like to practice what we preach at 100% Effective so all of our staff are trained to at least Yellow Belt standard. Because of this, we’ve all got a strong understanding of Business Improvements and the benefits it can bring to any company – big or small.

We’ve already covered Sophie’s favourite ‘little’ tool and found out how Gantt Charts have revolutionised the way IT Manager Chris works, so what’s my favourite instrument from the Lean toolbox?

My Lean Tool and Me

Philippa - favourite Lean tool 5SName: Philippa
Role: Marketing Manager
Lean tool of choice: 5S

“While, technically speaking, 5S may be more of an approach than a tool, for me it really summarises what Lean is about and helps me manage my workload.

In case you’re unfamiliar with 5S, it’s a workplace organisational tool that has its roots in Japan, and specifically in Toyota. The Ss in 5S each stand for Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise and Sustain. While it might sound complicated initially, the overriding principle is that keeping things clean, tidy and well organised dramatically increases workplace efficiency and productivity.

The first step Sort tells us to approach our place of work for a ‘thorough clear out’. That means throwing away anything that is not necessary, removing anything that’s not in use and clearing a usable space.

Once you’ve had a spring clean, it’s time to organise what you have left so that the things you use on a daily basis are in close proximity and easy to locate. This is Set in Order.

Tidying comes next with Shine. The theory says that a clean, tidy space is easier, safer and more pleasant to work in. Plus, its easier to identify when things are damaged or in need of replacement when they are clean and in sight, instead of being buried beneath a stack of work!

Next, standardise tells us to establish procedures and structures that make maintaining the progress from the first three steps a doddle. Finally, Sustain tells us to be open to improvement and to audit our process to see if you could do better.

So why do I love this Lean tool?

Well, it’s probably because it neatly encapsulates the way I like to work and, because it just makes so much sense! As a natural organiser and perfectionist (if there is an opportunity to make a list or create a filing system, I am on board), I want to work in a clean and presentable environment.

If I need a document or a file, I want it to be somewhere that I can logically find it, without having to speak to the person who filed it. It doesn’t matter how the filing is done, it is the same for both a physical filing system or a digital one on a PC, on a workplace intranet or in the cloud. This approach saves me time, and the time of the person who filed the original document.

A workplace that is unclean, untidy or full of old, broken or obsolete equipment is not just unpleasant to work in, it can be unsafe. I’ve worked in a number of places where you risk being concussed by a box of flyers from a 1995 marketing campaign if you get too close to a certain bookcase! However, it’s not just safety that can be improved by ditching an old, cluttered workspace for something better. We spoke to the Blood Sciences Lab at NHS Harrogate and District Foundation Trust and they reported a huge increase in efficiency and productivity when they replaced a ‘slalom’ set up in the old laboratory with a streamlined new lab, with brand new equipment. The lab also cut its downtime to almost zero and saw a huge boost in staff morale.

But how can 5S improve morale? Well, consider what message it sends to staff if their employer is happy for them to work with old, temperamental machinery and around boxes and broken furniture instead of investing a small amount of time, energy and money to update and refresh their place of work?

The average British worker spends around 40 hours a week at work. That’s a third of each working day without even including time spent on commuting. The only thing you spend more time doing is sleeping! So why wouldn’t you want to work somewhere well-organised, clean and safe?

That’s why 5S is so powerful for me, because it combines the needs of the business (efficiency, productivity) with the needs of the worker (clean, well-maintained environment, natural light). The employer gets a double benefit of productivity, one from the initial 5S and a second from the uptick in morale. And, staff get a nicer place to work. It’s a win-win for everyone, which is what a Lean workplace should be.”

Are you inspired to declutter your workplace and reap the benefits of Lean 5S? Click the button below to learn all about our comprehensive online Lean 5S course – now only £50!

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