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Thursday, January 5, 2012

The 5S Standards

Recently I did some industrial hygiene work at a facility that practices the 5S Standards.

For those of you not familiar with the 5S standards, they are a workplace organization system that is focused on efficiency (time, space, personnel, etc.) and have gained a strong following in the United States.

The 5S Standards according to Wikipedia are:
  • Sorting
  • Straightening
  • Systematic Cleaning
  • Standardizing
  • Sustaining
The client had sheets posted on every workstation and surface imaginable, making sure employees knew what to expect and how to achieve it. Each workstation had a picture showing the ideal configuration and cleanliness of the individual desk area.

I was a little weirded out at first. I went to go fill up my water bottle and saw that EVERYTHING was labeled and had a designated spot. Even trash cans and a water cooler had a label identifying it and a designated/taped off spot. The trash can did not have a labeled/taped-off area, so I moved it to the side (next to the water cooler) and then centered the water cooler in the designated area. I think this was around 1:30 in the morning. Overnight shifts tend to bring out the crazy in me, but this one was shaping up to be a doozy.  

But then I started getting stressed out about it. Something about the labeling and taped-off designated areas ignited my inner clean freak (not OCD, I swear), and I set about moving everything in the common areas into its correct spot. I left the fridge alone, though, since people tend to get grumpy when you move their food. After I calmed down and everything was in its "rightful place," the cleaning lady came in. She was ecstatic to have someone to talk to while she cleaned the office area, and she talked my ear off (in a nice way, I'll admit I was slightly bored and her presence was a welcome distraction).

Once she finished and moved to the next area, I went to check on the workers and freaked out. All of my attempts to instill order on the universe were thwarted by her sweeping and mopping. I mean, sure, the trash can is still technically in the box labeled "trash," but couldn't she see how off-center it was? AARGH. I checked on the workers and then went about re-fixing all the items in the common area so that everything was in its proper spot and centered. It took a good hour of my time, and no one noticed but me, but I felt that the spirit of 5S was upheld by my efforts. :)

If I worked there, this would make me a little bit insane.



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