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The five Ss: Number 2: Seiton (neatness)

Quality Tools > Tools of the Trade > 45: The five Ss: Number 2: Seiton (neatness)


Last time, we discussed the first S in the five Ss. Seiri means ‘organisation’ and leads to having what you want to hand, and what is not needed being put away (or thrown away). The second S is Seiton, meaning ‘neatness’.  Where Seiri includes getting rid of the things that you do not need, Seiton follows closely on by ensuring what you leave is tidy and available where and when you need it.


Seiton means tidily putting things away after you have used them. Putting things away  requires following three rules: Decide where things belong; Decide how things should be put away; Follow the put-away rules to leave things where they can be quickly and properly found next time they are needed.


To set up the put-away rules, do an analysis of how the things are used. Pay particular attention to when and how they are are picked up and used. This is a primary driver of how and where they are put away. If something is used 50 times a day, then this multiplies the time wasted in finding the item and taking it to where it is to be used.


Where confusion exists about the item, then it should be identified in some way. For example, when selecting one of a set of spanners, if each spanner is uniquely marked, for example with standardised numbers or colours, then mistakes and consequent wasted time can be eliminated.


Labelling and naming should be similarly standardised. Decide whether you will call a tool a nutspinner or a hex spanner. Write labels and other signs clearly so it can be read at an appropriate distance. Ensure the naming cannot get lost, for example by using paint rather than paper labels that can fall off or wear away. If a label is to be changed, then use an appropriate fixing system that holds the label firmly in place for the duration, yet allows it to be easily removed and replaced. For example if a sign is permanent, then screws are appropriate. If, however, it is to be changed each week, then clips or a slotted holder would be better.


Make the item and the storage location match, for example by writing the same name on the item and the storage. The tool board, as in Fig. 1, provides a mechanism to store tools by painting their outline. This allows each tool to be found instantaneously and also highlights when a tool is missing. Storage locations for delicate items can be carved out of foam, such as in a camera case. This also can be used to protect items which are to be transported around the place.


Fig. 1.


Marks and signs on walls and floors can be used to indicate walkways, storage areas, special usages and so on. Areas of floor and complete areas can be painted different colours to indicate different items, such as hazardous areas, rest areas, fork-lift pathways and so on.


Wires get tangled and difficult to find in buried ducts, they get tripped over or damaged when loose or stapled on floors. The best place can be in overhead channeling.


Make sure storage is safe, both protecting the the item being stored and preventing people from harming themselves when storing and retrieving. Ensure there are no sharp corners and minimise stooping and lifting. Beware of making storage cupboards unstable by putting heavy items at the top. If necessary provide transport for heavy items, even storing them on a trolley.


Even when you put things down on a workbench, think about the storage aspects. A delicate gauge is better put on a rubber mat than a steel surface.


The put-away rules should also include instructions on cleaning. Stored tools should be clean and free from any hazardous materials (as should storage places). Damaged tools should not be put back: they should be labelled and put in a designated area.


Balance the storage space with the things needing storing. Unused storage is wastage. But neither cram things together so much you make it difficult or hazardous to retrieve or where the items can damage one another.


Consider what will happen if you go to get something and it is not there. If it is critical, then you will need access to backup items, whether it is in another storecupboard or can be rapidly purchased from a supplier. If two people use the same tool, use the analysis to determine whether to purchase more items or have one person wait.


You can even get creative about storage, such as pressing a button to have a light come on over the tool you need. Computerised storage can go even further, bringing the items you want directly to your hand.


You may have noticed that Seiton is closely related to Seiri. Being organised and being neat go together. This is characteristic of all five Ss: they overlap significantly rather than cover very different subjects. Rather than worry about what fits into Seiri and what fits into Seiton, use them to reinforce each other and implement the whole thing.


Next time: Seiso (Cleaning)


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

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