5S is one of the many tools Vogel Bros. Building Co. uses to maintain our lean culture. 5S is a system for organizing spaces for safety, efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing items, maintaining the area, and sustaining the new order. It can be a very empowering tool amongst employees, as they are involved in the decision-making process through the standardization, which makes it easier for people to do their jobs without risking injury or wasting time and energy.

The term 5S comes from five Japanese words that translate into Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. Together they involve assessing everything in a space, removing what’s unnecessary, organizing things logically, performing housekeeping tasks, and maintaining the cycle. Last month we told you a story about Lyle Vogel who 5S’d his truck. Below are more recent examples of our employees and their 5S initiatives.

Wisconsin Field, Yard
5S-ing the Yard was an important step in improving the disorganization between the two buildings that housed equipment and the leftover material from jobsites. There was a lot of material and tools that were not being used and storage space was not being utilized to the fullest. I started by drafting up a layout of the buildings and decided what was to be kept, how to organize it, and how it could be more user friendly. Unneeded materials and equipment were removed, and racking systems were installed to organize and keep tools. This has cleared up a lot of space, and now we can house all the trucks inside during the winter along with any Bobcats or SkyTracks that are at the yard. Everything is in one location instead of being spread out between two buildings. So far, the 5S process has improved the organization of the yard, thereby improving safety and efficiency for those working there.

Florida Office, Company Clothing
Company clothing was just piled on top of a table in the Florida office and it was next to impossible to keep it all organized or control inventory, so I 5S’d the clothing back-stock. First I ordered two shelving units that would accommodate all of our available stock. Clothing was then sorted by type (long sleeve vs short sleeve) and size. This has made a world of difference. I can now easily see what stock we’re running low on, and can easily find what I’m looking for. I’m not wasting time sorting and reorganizing the piles after employees have pillaged through them. I still need to finish Standardizing by adding labels to the shelves, but so far this has drastically improved efficiency and energy.

Wisconsin Office, Breakroom
I took the lead in 5S-ing the breakroom at the Vogel Bros. office to task all employees with helping to keep the breakroom clean and organized instead of one or two people bearing the load. I started by making a list that identified what changes we wanted to see, held a meeting to discuss the best approach to achieve these changes, established “rules” for the breakroom, created labels, and presented the new process. Primarily we asked that office staff be responsible for cleaning up after themselves and their guests, but we also moved around some items for ease and efficiency, and labeled all cupboards. 5S-ing the breakroom has improved the workday by reducing the amount of time required to clean up. Office staff have become more responsible for their own dishes which has increased my efficiency.