SORT - The first “S” of the 5 S System

In using the Toyota Production System to improve your organization you need to integrate the 5 S processes from your desk to the production floor. The first “S” is to sort out what is and is not needed to do the required work in the work area.

Sorting the things you need to do your job on your desk, in receiving, in the production area, on the assembly floor, and any work area helps you work more efficiently and less prone to misplaced parts and tools. What do you sort? What do you need to do the job or task including tools, parts, and paperwork? If you don’t need it to do your job, it shouldn’t be in your workspace. Not only do you need to sort out what you need, but evaluating the proper quantities of each is also very important. One way to determine what you should have at your workspace is to use the 24-48 hour rule. If you are not going to need it in the next 24-48 hours, it doesn’t need to be in your workspace.

Here at Setpoint, we sort just about everything that comes in the doors, including our engineers. When parts are received a label is attached and the part is placed in a subassembly tote and the tote is placed on the projects rack. When there are enough parts for assembly to begin, the rack is moved to a specific assembly area designated to that project. The assemblers can go grab a tote and take it to their work area to begin assembly. When the assembler needs screws, wire, air hose, or a tool he can go to that rack or cabinet where everything is sorted by type and size. He takes only what he needs and continues working. When he reaches a stopping point or completes the assembly, everything is placed back in the tote and back on the rack. He then grabs the next subassembly tote and begins the build process again. At the end of the day everything is put back in its place, including totes, tools, and paperwork so it is ready to go the next day.

This sorting process has allowed us to be very efficient at building our projects. Any one assembler can go to any project and determine what can and needs to be worked on. We know where to find any tool, wire, hose, or fastener without searching the shop floor. I have worked at other companies where this sorting was “sort of” used (pun intended), and it makes for a long day when you are searching for the part or tool you need because it was not returned to its sorted place.

As I mentioned before, not only do we sort the products coming in our door, but we sort our engineers as well. Depending on our current projects, our engineers get sorted into different teams to utilize their talents and experiences. Yes, this means moving our computers and our stuff from one area to another. I have been sorted at least five times in just over three years. Sometimes this can be a pain, but this sorting helps the team’s communication and makes the design process much more efficient. It also gives us a chance to sort out the accumulation of stuff from our workstation and place it in the proper place–the garbage.