How To 5S Your Desk With Toyota’s Lean Management Techniques

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How to clean your desk with 5S.

Just because your workspace is a cubical or office versus a factory production line or warehouse doesn’t mean you don’t need a clean, safe, organized place to conduct business. Toyota’s world-renowned Lean Management operational processes are widely applied to all business operations in varied industries. 5S can even help you turn that cluttered desk into an efficient work station!

5S is based on principles starting with the letter “S”. In Japanese, Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Systematize), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu (Standardize), and Shitsuke (Sustain). Let’s look at how each of these principles will get you one step closer to a clutter-free desk.

Seiri – Sort

The first stage of 5S is to sort. This means going through each item on your desk and deciding what is necessary and what is not. Tossing the items that don’t add value or help you complete your job from day to day will make an immediate impact. Everything on, in, and under your desk should be examined during this process.

Here are a few examples of areas you want to hit:

  • Recycle unnecessary paper and all those pesky empty water bottles that have piled up.
  • Return all the extra office supplies you’ve been hoarding to the common area and only keep what you need at the time in your workspace.
  • Purge that random junk drawer housing snacks, pens, loose paper clips, dying highlighters and random cords. If you haven’t used anything in that drawer for a month, then you probably don’t need it.

Seiton – Systematize

Next comes systematizing or straightening. This means creating a system for a particular space. This can take on many different forms at your desk. Essentially, you want to keep things you use frequently in handy, easy to reach locations and things you rarely use in drawers or further away.

Ideas of how to systematize your desk:

  • Are you constantly misplacing the stapler, tape, or scissors? Use washi or painters tape to create an outlined area for objects you want to have a designated home. Then label what goes in each outlined area. This increases efficiency since you won’t waste time searching for things you need.
  • For supplies you aren’t using daily but still want access to, find mini bins or baskets that you can place in your drawers to keep things separated and organized. Label each basket with what it should contain so you can easily replenish items once they have been used.
  • Even in this digital world, papers still find a way to pile up. Use a paper tray labeled as “Inbox” to ensure all your mail, invoices, contracts, etc. are placed in the same area for you to check and complete each day.

Seiso – Shine

Now that you have finished systematizing your desk and creating a space for everything, shining is the next refining step. While shine does imply cleaning and tidying items, it also calls for fixing problems. After you have systematized, give yourself a couple of days in the new space to see how things flow before you move to this step. If you find yourself always reaching to the right to grab the stapler but you have it on the left side of your desk, use this time to make those changes.

Once you have refined your desk, take a photo to reference in the future. Your desk should look like this photo at the end of each day.

Shitsuke – Sustain

(and Seiketsu – Standardize)

The last step in the 5S process is potentially the hardest because it never ends. Sustaining requires you to not only maintain what you have done but also constantly strive to improve.  To do this, set a calendar reminder for yourself to conduct a self-audit on the one year anniversary of completing the 5S process for your desk. At that time, look at the photo you took during the Seiso (Shine) step and see how your workspace compares. Consider what you could do to improve your set-up and increase efficiency then implement those changes.

This may seem like a lot of work for your desk, but keep in mind that this initial time investment upfront will continue to payoff for as long as you sustain the changes you implemented. Even if this process only increases your efficiency by 5 minutes a day, that’s still 5 minutes over about 250 works day a year which adds up to a whopping 1,250 minutes. That’s more than 20 hours a year you can spend working on a special project, completing professional development activities, and more!

Think this process might be useful for tidying your desk? Apply it all over the office to increase efficiency in other business operations. Check out this helpful page to learn more about Toyota Lean Management and 5S.