SYSTEMS

Cleanliness Matters

People associate cleanliness with order, efficiency, and even ability. Keeping things clean and in order is way to instantly convey adeptness and earn trust in those crucial first few seconds when someone is forming their initial opinions.

To give you an example, we have actually had 3 of our largest customers close the deal while touring our warehouse. We hold nothing special in there, and the inventory management is pretty basic. So what caused our customers to reach a point of trust and desire to work with us? We keep our warehouse immaculate, something not common for a hardware warehouse. Even more, when putting together our facility, we had all shelving made custom with blue and white powder coating to match our brand. The effect is powerful!

Furthermore, when things are orderly and organized, all processes and procedures in and around those resources run quicker, scale better, and experience fewer mistakes and problems. Some examples include:

  • Search time is reduced if something you use is always in the same exact location.
  • Company-wide search and coordination time is reduced further if multiple people use a common resource, and established locations and usage policies surround that resource.
  • Without a building mess around, you can move more quickly through warehouse and office.
  • Established guidelines on workspaces allow larger numbers of people to coordinate flawlessly over time.
  • Neat areas allow you to think better and work more efficiently.

5S

A great framework to use in to order and implement cleanliness is the 5s approach. The five S’s are 5 Japanese words:

  1. Seiri (Sort)
  2. Seiton (Set in order)
  3. Seiso (Shine)
  4. Seiketsu (Standardize)
  5. Shitsuke (Sustain)

These steps give us an approach we can use to organize our desks, our file room, our quality lab, our warehouse, and everything else.

Sort

Choose a location to apply 5s; perhaps your office. Go through all items and keep only the ones necessary for getting the job done. Remove all unnecessary items.

The goal of sorting is to:

  • Reduce time from searching
  • Reduce distraction
  • Simplify inspection
  • Increase time and available space
  • Increase safety

Set in order

With the remaining items, you now find an ideal location for each and every one. This depends on the frequency of use, where you use it in your space, how you might use it, etc. You want to make your work flows extremely efficient and smooth.

For each item’s designated place, create some type of cue or holder. Don’t over do this! I have seen people outline where pen’s go. Within a normal orgnaized area, make sure everything has a place.

Shine

Regularly clean and straighten the area. I prefer to set time triggers for various areas and tasks. This way a reminder once a day/week/month reminds me to keep the area clean without my own mental energy becoming tied up maintenance.

Standardize

Sort, Order, and Shine should be happening on a regular basis. For this reason, processes and procedures can be written to formalize and standardize this process.

For example, if a weekly trash empty makes sense based on how long it takes you to fill your office trash bin, and the dumpster is emptied every Wednesday, then create a time trigger office-wide for everyone to empty their trash bins on Tuesday. This standardizes the process, and creates a system which minimizes the amount of time trash is at the facility; while also keeping individual areas clean without trash build-up.

Even further, if you don’t have a set day for trash pick-up, but instead call when the dumpster is full, figure out a balanced time frame that can be standardized first, and then move to the above step. This way energy in dump monitoring isn’t needed and can be shifted elsewhere.

Responsibilities

Another part of standardizing is assigning responsibilities. It should be clear who is responsible for what.

Clarity

You also need clarity on all procedures created so that the cleanliness can be carried out by others who are not familiar. For this reason it can be helpful to take photos of ideal states, create placemarkers for equipment and key tools, and other guided visual ways of keeping the state clean.

Sustain

The S is to continue the system and improve it. This can include:

  • Training
  • Audits
  • Improvements
  • Identify causes of issues and address

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