New Year’s Resolution #5: Get Organized!

It has been two weeks since many of us (research indicates over 50 percent of us) set our 2015 New Year’s goals. If yours were like most, they probably included:

  1. Spend more time with family and friends, and help others.
  2. Improve health (either start or stop doing something).
  3. Enjoy life more…take time to smell the roses.
  4. Learn something or try something new.
  5. Get organized.

University of Scranton research suggests that only eight percent of us achieve our New Year’s goals. What can we do to improve our success rate? Keep it simple, realistic, and measureable! We may not be able to help you with numbers 1-4, but we can share a simple tool to help with number 5: organization. (Although, if you end up trying this tool, then we can also help with number 4!)

One of the most common Lean organizational tools that I use with clients is 5S. Originating in Japan, it is used to clean and organize a work area in order to improve workflow efficiency and effectiveness. The “S’s” translated from Japanese to English stand for sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain.

The Lean 5S Colored Dot is a fun, engaging exercise that supplements the traditional 5S series of housekeeping steps to create a visual awareness of excess materials or inventory within a work space. All you need is a few green, yellow, blue, and red colored dots (for example, Avery 3/4″ Diameter Color-Coding Dot Labels in green, yellow, blue, and red – available individually or in multi-colored packages).

Simple 4-Step Approach

  1. Assign criteria to each color depending on frequency of use, such as:
  • • Green – Used daily or multiple times per week. Must remain at workstation; workflow interrupted if not readily available (no travel steps). Examples are centrifuge balance tubes, test tube racks, and high-volume supplies accessed at least once per shift.
  • Yellow – Used weekly, or critical when needed. Needs to be close to the workstation; utilized often to once a week (few travel steps; not in immediate work area but close). Examples are SOP/reference manuals, common supplies that need replenishing each day or week, some reagent storage areas, and refrigerators.
  • Blue – Rarely used. Does not need to be close to workstation; utilized rarely but needs to be accessible (travel outside of primary area acceptable). Examples are instrument printouts and older instrument maintenance and QC records; clerical supplies such as hanging files and binders can be placed in storage areas.
  • Red – Never used. Just taking up valuable space; item could be placed in long-term storage, sold, or discarded. Examples are old equipment, maintenance and QC from discontinued procedures, expired supplies, and outdated reference materials.
  1. Distribute dots to employees for placement within a specified area. Explain that multiple colors can be placed on the same item depending on different individuals’ interpretation, variation between shift workflows, or personal use—that’s acceptable and will stimulate discussion and consensus. Caution: Always communicate to employees prior to starting the exercise to avoid confusion. One organization learned the hard way: all dots were removed by the second shift staff and placed on the manager’s door!
  1. Allow placement of dots for approximately one week before taking any action, as it allows time for most employees on all shifts to participate.
  1. Implement the desired changes and ENJOY the improved workplace! Following are a few examples of 5S success:

Before and After 1

Before and After 2

Before and After 3

Time to join the eight percent success group! Once you complete your first 5S on a workstation, storage area, or office, send us a before and after picture. Not only will you feel a sense of accomplishment, but it may be published in a future blog to help inspire others too.

We wish you a successful and organized New Year!


Anne Daley
Senior Consultant
Chi Solutions, Inc.

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