In 5S, Sort is the first step in implementation. The goal is to evaluate all facility inventories and tools so needless items, redundancies and hazards can be sorted from the work area. Workers will need to be trained for red-tagging. Sort’s value to the workplace and entire facility must be explained so Sort becomes an integral part of work routines.

Red-Tagging

An item’s frequency of use provides excellent criteria for determining its value to a work area. By recording usage dates, each item’s true value can be established. As one would expect, regularly used items are kept, while items rarely used receive greater consideration for removal.

Items found to meet the criteria for removal are marked using a visual communication method known as red-tagging. Nonessential items are identified with a preprinted red tag. Items marked for removal must then be logged into a record book. Red tags should provide space to briefly describe proper sorting actions, document an item’s removal date, and log a number for tracking. Actions are generally displayed on red tags as a checklist and describe whether an item should be returned, moved, or discarded.

Store red tagged items in red-tag zones near work areas. Ensure each zone is visually identified. This allows work area personnel to easily locate and identify work area red-tag zones and understand their purpose.

Reduce Workplace Clutter

A build-up of unnecessary items is a serious issue in any facility. Clutter impairs productivity, creates hazards and frustrates workers by limiting job performance.

Eliminating clutter can go a long way in reducing many inefficiencies and other workplace issues. Carry out Sort by establishing criteria for item removal. Start by prioritizing items already known to be useless or a needless hazard. Items which cannot be completely eliminated may require off-site storage.

Each item’s purpose, uniqueness, and importance to job function should be evaluated and documented as criteria for removal. Unnecessary items will then become more obvious, including duplications, allowing sorting to be accomplished with greater efficiency.

Once work area red-tag zones are created, divide them into two sections. Dedicate one section to unused items and the other to infrequently used items. This helps organize red-tagged items by value. Hazardous materials may require a separate zone so they can be safely stored.

Once work area red-tag zones are created, divide them into two sections. Dedicate one section to unused items and the other to infrequently used items. This helps organize red-tagged items by value. Hazardous materials may require a separate zone so they can be safely stored.

Limit item storage time to no longer than five days in work area red-tag zones. This allows items to be retrieved, should they be found to be essential. After the time period expires, items should be moved to a central red-tag zone. Work area personnel may still retrieve items from this final stop, but again, for only a limited time.

Dispose of Unused Items

Finally, a facility should dispose of all items remaining in central red-tag zones through donation, recycling, disposal, or resale. To make Sort as efficient as possible, visually communicate directions wherever helpful. Red-tag storage locations and directions can be printed onto a label or sign for clear indication and easy accessibility.

Sort

Finally, create a Sort checklist for workers to follow so tasks are completed independently and as part of daily work routines.

Put Sort into Action:

1. Record work area duty task times and photograph work areas prior to 5S implementation.

2. Establish criteria for sorting.

3. Dedicate space to a work area red-tag storage zone.

4. Red tag, document, and move items to these zones.

5. Relocate items to a central red-tag zone once established time has expired.