6S can be an powerful tool, incorporating various Lean tools like visual management and standard work. The Pottery Studio used the tool to realize more floor capacity and will eventually use that capacity to provide a better experience for their customers. The Pottery Studio performed a second 6S project that reduced clutter in employees’ workspace and improved safety. The Senior Center used the tool to clean out 3 of their storage sheds. Over time, the sheds had become unorganized, making it difficult to locate items. In one shed, the placement of a transportable stage increased the risk of injury. Lastly, the Museum of Discovery used the tool to regain the function of their massive double doors, which had been reduced to a single door due to the pile up of storage items. These are just a few examples of how the tool can benefit your work areas; now, let’s dive into the “how to” portion.
Grab some paper and markers and get ready to begin your 6S project. One important thing to discuss is the overarching “S”, Safety. Safety should be incorporated through the entire project and asking SRM to assist in identifying areas of risk can set you up for success.
The first “S” is Sort and can be one of the hardest steps to take due to the daunting task of having to go through all the “stuff” that has accumulated. Pro tip: begin in one section and slowly move around the space. Use paper and markers to make signs that direct personnel where to place items. The standard signs are “keep”, “trash”, “donate”, and “unsure”; however, be flexible and create new signs as needed to keep the sort process going.
Once everything has been sorted into sections, take the time to perform another “S”, called Shine.Shine involves cleaning the space but is also a chance to identify items that need to be maintained and/or are expiring.
After the space is shined begin the next “S”, called Set-in-Order. Set-in-Order involves placing items back into your area; however, this needs to be strategic! Things that are used regularly should be placed in your “target zone” (waist to chest area) to avoid the risk of an overuse injury. Heavy items should be placed low, along with liquids.
As you complete the Set-in-Order step, determine how you would like to Standardize the space, which is the next “S” in the process. In Standardization, visual management is used heavily. Typically, labels are used to identify where items should be placed after they are used. In some cases, it is wise to label the actual item as well.
The last “S” is Sustain, and can be the most challenging “S”, since it will require constant attention. Sustain techniques include performing monthly spot checks, standardizing rules on how to comply with retrieving/returning/adding new items, using meetings to recognize staff for sustainment or a reoccurring process to keep the space clean, to name a few.