Sort in 5S includes removing unnecessary clutter in work areas that may cause distractions or introduce obstacles that lead to accidents or inefficiencies. Reviewing for potential hazards caused by excess supplies, misplaced tools, and improperly stored items can help prevent slip-and-trip incidents and injuries due to falling objects. Implementing Lean and 5S methods, beginning with Sort, is a good first step to adopting improved organizational methods for better safety and increased productivity.

Using Kaizen Events for the Sort Step

Every area of a warehouse or factory can benefit from 5S, including the assembly lines, packing stations, offices, and exterior locations. Taking time to create formal Kaizen events helps keep tasks focused so changes may happen quickly. Appoint employees of all levels to have an active role in the Kaizen event to encourage participation in improvements.

Create 5S Tagging Systems

5S tagging is a process in which employees review tools, parts, inventory, and equipment throughout a work area and categorize everything. The Kaizen team will decide the criteria for what to keep or remove and create sorting bins at individual assembly lines or departments. This is a good opportunity to identify tool or materials overflow, machine or equipment hazards, or ineffective storage space.

Our floor tape is perfect to outline sorting locations and label supplies. We also offer tape for low-pile carpeting to stage items in offices. After using staging areas for an initial sort to communicate which tools to keep, rehome, recycle, or repair, the tape peels up easily. 

Define a Long-Term Red Tag Area

Implementing a red tagging system supports continual efforts to sort out defective or unused equipment or parts. You may use a Kaizen event to set up this location, then use visual cues as reminders to help employees get into the habit of removing broken or outdated items from workstations. Repeat message tape and floor signs offer specific messaging to label the red tag area and make its purpose clear. Our durable tape and signage hold up to carts, pallet jacks, or other traffic.

Update Visual Cues in Sorted Workstations

A Kaizen event may also be used to implement visual cues to reinforce new processes and maintain order. Installing or refreshing visual cues works well during a Kaizen event because of how quickly a team can implement floor tape and signs.

For the 5S stage Sort, visual cues that may be useful include:

  • Adding floor signs to areas where broken pallets or tools needing maintenance should be placed
  • Labeling storage for essential tools and equipment using 5S floor signs
  • Displaying before and after photos as visual references of acceptable and unacceptable workspace organization
  • Marking tools for specific locations using colored vinyl tape so items can be returned effectively

Classifying Supplies at Workstations and Assembly Lines

Cleaning up a crowded work environment can prevent slips, trips, and falls, and make processes more efficient. Organizing begins by classifying all tools and supplies by category to define useful items, rarely used instruments or tools, and which supplies are undetermined.

You may find it useful to employ the 5S tagging system and these sorting strategies to make sure this step is thorough:

  • Perform an initial cleaning to remove obvious scrap and other distractions quickly
  • Categorize needed items by frequency of use (to be Set in Order later)
  • Tag undetermined items for further evaluation and set a firm disposal date
  • Open the red tag area as a “lost and found” for other departments to claim misplaced items

Reviewing and Clearing Inventory Areas

Clutter doesn’t only exist in workstations: Shelving in warehouse aisles should also be reviewed for unused raw materials and obsolete inventory. Keeping outdated or unsaleable items on hand wastes valuable space, can lead to insect and rodent harborage which violates OSHA’s regulations for sanitation, and stacked items may pose falling hazards. Review inventory movements to find locations with little or no recent activity, then determine which items may be sold through other channels, discounted and bundled with faster-moving products, or eliminated through recycling or donation. If some parts are needed on a very intermittent or seasonal basis, consider moving these to an offsite storage facility to free up usable space.

Sorting Documents and Files

Documents may be overlooked when sorting work tools, but digital and physical files can also be organized and streamlined as part of the Sort step of 5S. Tidying document storage for chemical handling can prevent OSHA violations in hazard communication requirements and help improve safety and efficiency for everyday tasks and special situations.

5S sorting examples for documents include:

  • Removing outdated or expired SDS sheets from the shop floor 
  • Sorting and updating personnel files to keep employee information and emergency contacts current
  • Separating standard operating procedures by assembly lines or individual tasks
  • Updating and organizing documentation for evacuation procedures and disaster protocols
  • Monitoring employee bulletin boards to make sure only the most valid, up-to-date health and safety information is on display

Decluttering Offices and Interior Locations

While reception areas, offices, and meeting spaces might appear tidy, these locations may still benefit from updates to storage methods. Storing superfluous supplies just in case they’re needed is a habit that can ultimately lead to disorganization and clutter. Protect employees and visitors from trip hazards or exposure to harmful substances by reviewing interior locations for excess supplies or misplaced items, including stacks of chairs, outdated safety materials, broken electronics, poorly stoored paper and print supplies, unused personal heaters or fans, and solvents, toner cartridges, and other items chemical hazards. Once extraneous materials are moved or disposed of, put forth a policy of storing only what’s essential—and designate convenient, yet out-of-the-way areas.

Storing Exterior Supplies

Tools used to maintain the outside of a business can also become hazards if improperly stored around the grounds. While it is often a habit to keep shovels and lawn care tools within reach while working, tools should always be stored properly at the end of the workday. When miscellaneous items are removed from entryways and paths and stored in designated areas, other hazards, such as damaged tiles or slippery surfaces, are more easily noticed and corrected. Collect all outdoor equipment and sort it into color-coded categories. Useful sorting strategies include: 

  • Gathering deicing salts, fertilizers, bug repellants, paint, and solvents in a storage location that’s compliant with OSHA’s chemical hazard requirements
  • Housing shovels, snow removal machines, rakes, and landscaping tools by season in labeled locations
  • Sorting out defective PPE, such as ear protection, gloves, and goggles, and providing a permanent location stocked with new supplies for outdoor maintenance projects

Facility-wide organization is a team effort, so get employees involved at the first step—sorting—to boost engagement and participation. Once tools and equipment have been classified, you have a good start for completing the rest of the 5S steps. For more information on implementing Kaizen to get these tasks completed or ways to organize industrial workplaces, visit our Resource Center.