In my previous post I explained 5S methodology and began to discuss planning the implementation. As I mentioned previously, I will use an example to illustrate each of the five steps of the method. In this opportunity I am going to talk about the first S: Seiri or Sort as the English equivalent.
The aim of this step is to remove all things that are not necessary for the job being carried out. What we did in this step was:
- Threw away all the garbage and scrap material around the workplace
- Sent all broken components back to the warehouse to be repaired or discarded
- Classified all the remaining spare parts, components, and tools
- Analyzed the remaining elements (spares and tools) to determine if they were really necessary to do the job; and if there were any other spare parts that should be stored at that workplace.
In this process you need to be particularly careful to avoid scraping elements that could be needed in the future, such as special spares for critical elements that require seldom replacement and borrowed materials. You should particularly pay special attention to spare parts for the “old machine” that is still running at the plant. Usually, there are spares for this type of equipment, and they always look like old rubbish. However, they may still be needed and could be very difficult to find them in the market due to being out-of-date.
The first step to differentiate useful from useless elements is to ask around. You need to talk to people who work at the place; old employees with many years of experience can identify an old, rare part to determine which part is necessary and which is not.
At this point, the formal 5S methodology suggests the use of red tags. This is highly recommended for more complex environments to ensure that only scraps are discarded and to identify the elements that are to be stored but are rarely used.
The red tags are used to keep track of every element and spare part and control their frequency of use at a location. A tag must contain a unique number along with other basic information about the element like part number, location, tagging date, and free spaces to register each time the element is used. It is always useful to have a spreadsheet to summarize the information of all tags. An alternative is to put a simple tag with the reference number and keep the rest of the information in the spreadsheet. If you use the latter option, it is very important to avoid losing the spreadsheet since you will need to start over if it is misplaced.
On the other hand, it is necessary to assign a holding place for the doubtful elements, the ones we do not know if they will be needed or not. It should be very organized and, if possible, stocked with shelves and codified locations like warehouses, so each element can be found easily.
The use of the red tags is quite simple:
- Tag all elements to be analyzed (in theory you should tag and register every single element, even the ones that you are throwing out).
- Discard the elements that are scrap without doubts.
- For the ones that you are not sure, set a minimum usage frequency to allow the item to remain at the place.
- Put the highly doubtful items (the ones we are not yet sure if they should be scrapped or not) in the holding place.
- Wait for a predefined time (longer than the minimum usage frequency, of course). Meanwhile, people who work there will complete the red tags each time they use those tools or elements.
- When the analysis period concludes, decide which elements stay and leave based on the registered information and the minimum usage frequencies.
After this step has finished, only essential and useful tools and spares should be stored. The elements that are not defined as scrap should be perfectly stored at the holding area with all the information in a spreadsheet to easily locate each of them.
It is recommended to send a complete report with the items that have been discarded and the ones that were relocated to any people in contact with the area to avoid future misunderstandings.
This is the first step in the methodology, and it is important to follow it dutifully. Once you start analyzing, you will realize the impressive amount of unnecessary things that are stored at the workplace. You will also notice fewer parts at the place will make it easier to organize the location, which is the activity of the second step and will be treated in the next post of the series.
Have you analyzed your workplace? Are there elements rarely used?
Please share your experiences!
Thanks for reading!