It’s another fundamental principle of good workplace organization. Arrange everything systematically, and in a disciplined and user-friendly manner so that anyone can find the right thing without delay. The guiding principle in Seiton is:
► A place of everything,
► Everything in its place.
When I teach this topic, I often advise my trainees to follow three simple rules:
After you have gotten rid of unnecessary items in Seiri, you have only necessary items at your workplace. Arrange or organize them systematically such that they are:
1) Easy to See
2) Easy to Take,
3) Easy to Return.
Furthermore, under Easy to See, you should design a visual control system where it is:
A) Easy to see WHERE
You should have a good address/location system so that each item has its designated location with an address. This includes using a colour code system. Then ensure the system is user-friendly by using large, clear labels. This way, when an item is not returned to its designated location, you can easily spot it.
B) Easy to see WHAT
You should try to implement a system of ‘reserved seats and matching names’. This is especially important when you have many different items that look similar. You want to avoid costly mix-ups and using the wrong items.
C) Easy to see HOW MANY
You should arrange things neatly to facilitate easy counting or measuring. Where applicable, you should indicate clearly when it is time to reorder or replenish; and how much to order.
A Personal StoryIn this regard, I would like to share a personal story with you.
When my father was quite old and bed-ridden, my siblings and I hired a Philippino maid to look after him. It was not easy to find a good maid to undertake such a messy job; as most of them were young ladies who shunned this relatively easy but rather ‘dirty’ job. But we were fortunate to find any intelligent middle aged lady by the name of Lita who understood English well. All my father’s doctors praised her because she could quickly follow their instructions on my father’s medications; which made our lives much easier. Of course we had to pay her a comparatively high salary to compensate for the unpleasantness of her duties.
Her biggest fault, however, was that she did not have a good understanding of the concept of Seiton. I remember one occasion when I was conducting a class and she paged me several times. Expecting the worse, I called her as soon as I could and got this ‘urgent’ message, “Sir, sir … no more diapers.”
“How many pieces left?” I asked. “Two” she replied. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” I said in irritation.
I very well couldn’t interrupt my class to go and buy diapers, and thus waited till the end of the day before I rushed down to this shop at Ang Mo Kio Community Hospital called Abdeen’s where adult diapers were sold at a very reasonable price, and bought 2 packets of 10 pieces each. Meantime, my father had to ‘suffer’ some discomfort because his normal consumption of diapers was about 5 pieces per day. Our usual practice was to order via fax from a small company which made home deliveries if you purchased a minimum of 2 boxes. Their lead time was 2 days. It was much cheaper too when we order in bulk like this.
And so I gave Lita a lesson in 5S using the principles of Seiton I mentioned above. Being the smart lass she was, she quickly came up with a system which went something like this.
When the 2 boxes of supplies arrived, she would take out 4 or 5 packets (1 packet has 10 pieces) at put them at the end of my father’s bed. (We bought him a second-hand hospital bed). These 5 packets served as a safety stock. When the rest of the 2 boxes had been used up, she would inform me (the purchasing officer) and then start using the 5 packets which had been set aside. This way, I have sufficient time to react and my father need not suffer from lack of diapers.
I should digress to inform you that it is no simple matter to look after a bedridden old man. Besides diapers, there are many other items to manage, such as gloves, milk powder, Vaseline, urine bags, urinary catheters, disinfectant, cotton buds etc. etc. But as you can see, with a little planning and application of the 5S principles, we can have things under control and minimize the number of crises.
Of course, an in-depth application of Seiton goes far beyond what I have covered here. I shall go into it at a later date.