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The five Ss: Number 1: Seiri (organisation)

Quality Tools > Tools of the Trade > 44: The five Ss: Number 1: Seiri (organisation)

 

We started last time with an outline discussion of the five Ss, the simple, yet very powerful set of principles on which an effective, efficient workplace can be based. In this article, the first principle, Seiri is discussed in further detail.

 

Seiri means ‘organisation’ (or, if you prefer s-words, you can use sort, structurise or sort-out). It means to put things in order, organising them using specific rules. This means that once you know and have internalised these rules, you will very quickly be able to find the things you want without having to hunt for them every time.

 

The act of sorting things into groups is called stratification management. You can do it by taking the items themselves or their names written on Post-it Notes, and grouping them into piles, with the general rule that each will be tided in a similar way or grouped together. For example on the shop floor, spanners could be grouped for a general fitter, although for a specific workstation, tools that are used sequentially would be better put together. An artist’s studio might group paints by type or colour. The guiding principle is what will best help them to selected when they are needed.

 

Seiri is not just about tidying things up, it is also about throwing things away, or at least removing the things you need least to a place where you can find them on the occasion you desperately need them (as opposed to rummaging at the bottom of your toolbox or drawer). Putting away those things you are not going to use today also means that the things you are going to use become a lot more visible and easier to find.

 

Rubbish and junk should be relentlessly rooted out and thrown away. This includes things that have fallen down between desks, old notices on noticeboards, piles of stuff in corners, and so on.

 

There is a breed of human not unlike the humble squirrel. Their motto is ‘Don’t throw it away—it might come in useful some day.’ They have cupboards and attics so full of junk, they have long forgotten what is at the back, even if they could get to it. Their houses are untidy and they constantly have difficulty in finding things. ‘It’s around here somewhere’ is a common saying.

 

Sorting out importantly also includes separating broken and worn tools as well as damaged and defective goods that could be mistakenly mixed with operational products.

 

Where things are becoming untidy, there may be a cause of this. Perhaps someone is not trained or something is leaking. When you are tidying up or organising the workplace, constantly ask, ‘How did it get this way?’ If you can find the cause, you can address this to prevent the problem from recurring.

 

Dirt and grime is a part of untidiness and should be regularly cleaned away. Where dirt accumulates, especially industrial situations where it can really pile up, block machines and so on, a close analysis should be performed to identify its causes. Where things leak, rather than just installing an oil pan or other quick fix, find out how to properly seal the systems so there are no leaks at all.

 

An important part of Seiri is people taking personal responsibility for tidying up. Where there is litter, it gets picked up. After a tool is used, it is put in its proper place. It is not difficult, expecially when basic habits have been formed. An annual organised ‘spring cleaning’ can also helpful, to root out things which have accumulated.

 

Seiri is just as applicable in computers as with physical things. You can put an awful lot on a 40Gb disc and if you do not organise it well, it is very easy to lose thousands of pages of information. In the office, too, you can almost invariably better organise your desk, throwing away unused things, and putting less frequently used things out of the way.

 

Next time: Seiton (Neatness)

 

This article first appeared in Quality World, the journal of the Institute for Quality Assurance

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