5S Clearing – Stage 1 (Seiri)

When implementing 5S, it is important to cover each stage in order. A 5S clearing away of clutter is the first stage. During this stage you will determine what you want to keep, what to discard and what to store for later use. This step will determine the amount of space required at the point of use so be careful to go through the area thoroughly. Remember this motto: when in doubt, throw it out.

What Should You Keep?

When filtering through and performing your 5S clearing of the clutter in the work area, sort out what you absolutely need to have close at hand from the material that is used less frequently. By identifying the items that are required often, you will be setting the stage for the next step in the process; organizing.

Determine which tools you use often and should be within easy reach. Do the operators need towels close by, or can they walk to another area to get them when needed? Are 5S cleaning supplies used on a regular basis throughout the shift, or just at the end of the day?

Check work tables and machines to ensure only necessary material is stored there. Is it necessary to keep spare machine parts at the work station or can they go to a central storage location?

What to Discard?

During the 5S clearing process deciding what to discard may be the most difficult part for many people. With each item, a decision will have to be made on whether the item should be stored or discarded. Many people are pack rats by nature and fear that when something is discarded, they will need it immediately afterwards. The fate of some objects that were sorted out will be quite obvious, however some will not be.

There are a few questions that need to be asked prior to throwing out something. Is it critical to the operation (will it cause major downtime if the part is not readily available)? Is it easy to obtain again if required (and how quickly)? Is it expensive?

These are some of the issues you will have to consider prior to discarding your sorted items. If the part is cheap, easy to get, and not critical to the operation, then the decision is easy; get rid of it! Don’t keep stuff that is just taking up space. That space costs money, so make sure it’s being utilized for the right purpose.

How to Store?

After sorting out what you want to keep close at hand, and deciding what material to discard from the second pile, the last decision to make is how to store these items.

The basic consideration will be “How often will I use this?”. The bulk of material that you are keeping in step one (what to keep) will be stuff that you use multiple times a day. For any other material, determine how often it will be used.

If it is used on a daily basis, keep it close by but not at your immediate work station. If it is used once a week, store it further away from the point of use so as not to clutter up the floor, but make sure it is still easy to get at. If it is used monthly or less often, it can be stored in a location that is not as convenient and out of the way.

Remember when doing the 5S clearing that the idea is to reduce the amount of tools, materials or whatever you are using to the minimum amount required. This will help reduce time spent searching for tools, keep less inventory on line and create a smaller storage area in which to find materials.

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