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5S – Sorting first things first

Last month we introduced 5S – Sort, Set, Shine, Standardise & Sustain. Signet has been employing this simple and effective solution to workloads and has seen great results. We want to share this tool with you, to show how it can improve your workplace.

5S are not tricky with their words – and as plain as the message is, it holds a lot of value. This month we want to hone in seiri or 'sort', the first of 5S.


The Breakdown

Put simply; clear your workspace. Efficiency is a key focus of this lean development, and it recognises that the packaging tape used every day should be easy to find – and the ten packaging supplies used once a month probably don't need to be cluttering your workspace. Clearing your bench of the excess will mean the things that matter first are not being lost in the chaos. Sorting your supplies will give you the same results. If we didn't sort our cardboard boxes by size, it would take far too long to find the right cardboard boxes to ship!

One-way Signet did this was by creating a red tape zone; any irregular items were moved here, and if they were still there in 30 days – we threw them out. This removed items that were taking up unnecessary space.

This also shows where you have excess inventory, tools or packaging supplies, allowing you to better plan for the future without overloading a workplace.

Immediate results you can see from using Sort include:

  • A clear workplace
  • An increase in productivity
  • Important things being found first
  • An increase in workflow

The biggest thing to look out for when implementing 5S is communication. A clear workstation that has been sorted efficiently only works when it is understood. If the manager doesn't communicate that masking tape was moved to the second shelf due to limited use, time is lost while employees search. If staff don't communicate to each other about their needs, someone may miss-sort an item and create a problem.

To overcome this, Signet team members meet regularly, especially after a sort event to review changes and purpose. As with all 5S, communication is key to the success of the innovation. This also gives you a chance to talk about the next step, which we'll look at next month– Set.

Keep in mind that additional items will always accumulate and another sort event will be needed to sustain the practice. Even the best arranged workspaces will fall short if the final S (sustain) is not in place.


Over the next few months, we will be going over the remaining stages of 5S and how they apply to your workplace.

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