How to Make Your Factory More Efficient in One Hour!

factory effeciencyLean, 5S, visual workplace, just-in-time production, TQM, cellular manufacturing, six sigma...these are terms with which every factory or warehouse floor manager or CEO should be familiar.

By using these principlesand a few organizing productsyou truly can organize your workplace more efficiently in an hour.


It's all in the preparation.

  1. If you're not familiar with any of the above terms, learn them.
  2. Assess the current state of your plant.
  3. Does your plant meet the criteria for 5S? If not, develop an implementation plan.

5S is an organizational method designed to improve efficiency, reduce waste, increase safety, and result in a better return on investment (ROI).

Attributed to Toyota, it consists of 5 Japanese words that begin with S that are loosely translated into English as Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.


Sort separates items needed for production from everything else. This is often called red-tagging because employees identify items that are not needed for work with red tags. After these items are identified, managers and supervisors must dispose of them, either by moving them somewhere else or trashing them.

Set in Order

Set in order is the true organizational phase of 5S methodology. Items needed for work must be organized to reduce waste and increase efficiency. Tools and product ingredients should be organized in the order they are utilized. Everything should be labeled, including where pallets, carts, supplies, and finished products are stored. Walkways and safety areas should be marked.


Shine basically means keep clean. Machinery or equipment that is dirty causes waste and may be dangerous. Dirt impacts equipment operation and can cause unnecessary repairs, which reduces productivity through increased machinery downtime. A regular maintenance schedule should be developed and implemented.


Standardize operating procedures, including procedures for sorting, setting in order, and shining. One way this 5S pillar is implemented is to use a yellow card to note an improvement opportunity and a blue card to denote exceptional workplace organization.


Sustain makes 5S a continual process of improvement. It involves training of employees and management in their roles in 5S.

One hour?

Of course, the entire 5S process can't be implemented in an hour, but key parts of the second pillar, set in order, can.

Why speed up one 5S phase?

Quick and obvious change energizes employees and management. It boosts morale. And it leaves laggards no time to resist it before they realize its positive benefits. No other 5S phase will provide this radical change.

So let's get on with it!

  1. After you've identified where your company's organization doesn't meet 5S standards, identify which factory layout best serves your company's products.
  • Main bus layout
  • Chaotic layout
  • Modular layout
  • Just in time
  1. Implement the Sort phase of 5S.

Ready, Set in Order, go!

  1. Mark where everythingequipment, people, materialsgoes using industry best practices. Use floor marking tape over paint lines to designate walkways and storage areas. You can remove the paint later because tape can be placed over paint. Label where equipment, ingredients and pallets can be found or should be stored. One positive aspect of using tape is that if you find you've identified the wrong location for an item or walkway, you can quickly pull up the tape and mark the floor again.
  2. Use visual cues for quick identification and action. For example, various colors of floor tape can help workers find certain products more quickly. Signs inform workers of where to go, what to do, item locations, and safety information.


Your plant is now more organized. Sure, you have a long way to go, and 5S is a methodology of continual improvement, so the changes will never stop.

But, in a very short time, your employees have already participated in a major change in your facility, which is something they can mention with pride. This not only improves morale, but it also sets the stages for the changesgradual and rapidyou'll be implementing to improve your plant's efficiency and ROI and decrease waste.


paint vs. tape