Seiton ("Set in Order") in 5S

Seiton is the second step of the 5S method. It means "to set in order" or to put everything into its proper place.

5S Seiton - Goals

The goal of Seiton is that everything should be stored "conveniently". In practice, this means:

  • Store tools where they will be used
  • The more frequently it is used, the closer it should be kept
    • Reduce clutter by storing rarely-used tools farther away
  • Make it easy to fetch and retrieve items
    • The worker should not bend, stoop or stretch frequently
    • The worker should not have to twist or change direction after lifting a heavy object
  • Keep work pathways smooth and clear
    • Avoid having to lift one object over another
    • Avoid having to move an object several times because it gets in the way
Floor markings

5S practitioners may describe three zones for storage:

  • Keep the most frequently-used tools right at the workbench:
    • Handy
    • Visible
    • Easy to reach
    • Easy to put back when not needed
  • Daily or monthly tools might be kept somewhere near the equipment, but not in the way
    • Try hanging tools on a rack – clearly outline and label each hanger for its own tool
    • Consider using a storage cabinet to keep dust and grime off the tool
    • These storage areas should still be visible from the area of the work station
  • Rarely-used tools or spare parts could be stored away from the shop floor
    • Try using a storage room
    • Racks or cabinets still need clear labels so items will be returned after being used

Build a Lean 5S Culture

It is one thing to set up storage areas. It is another to have people use them properly.

Management must begin building a culture where workers, as a matter of course and a matter of pride:

  • Store items where they belong
  • Keep the work areas tidy

A misplaced tool will be a visible eyesore in a well-run factory. If someone could leave a (rarely-used) pipe wrench on their workbench, or leaning against a machine – would anyone notice? If not,  it is definitely time to initiate a 5S campaign.

How to Set in Order in 5S

The previous article outlined the goal for Seiton. This article will discuss "how to" bring order to your factory or workplace.

Three factors are: plan where something should be stored; plan how it should be stored; ensure people follow these rules.


Imagine that every tool has a mind of its own, and wants to be as close to the worker as possible. What would they say to claim the closest location? How would you settle the argument?

The first and most important consideration is: how often is it used? Whatever is handled most frequently should be stored most closely to the worker. Let's say that, in a metal shop, the worker files a burr off each piece to finish it. The file should be stored conveniently nearby – not on a wall several steps away. If the worker needs a wrench to adjust some equipment at the start of the week, then store the wrench farther away – so it does not get in the way of the frequent filing operation.

Secondly, is it easy to reach the item? In the above example, the worker should not need to bend, stretch or twist just to reach the file, nor to move other items out of the way every time the file is retrieved.

Take time to plan the storage site for the infrequently-used tools also. You don't want to waste time digging through a rat's nest when you need that annually-used tool. Use the same principles to organize a storage area as were used to position tools nearer the workbench.


How To Store It?

The classic way to store hand tools – used by hobbyists and in factories – is to hang them on a tool board, over a painted outline.

Beyond this standard idea, consider putting a label on each tool. You have probably seen a stapler with a personal or department name – to remind any borrower that it should be returned promptly. A tool's label might refer to the workbench; or it might show the size or other special property to make it easy to identify.

After all the emphasis on "where" to store tools, also ask "in what condition"? In a kitchen, one would expect to wash a chef's knife before putting it away; but it may be customary to quickly sharpen it just before use. Should a worker wipe grease from a wrench before hanging it up? Should damaged tools be tagged and sent for repair? (Or is the worker responsible for writing up a work order)?

Finally, some items may require special conditions for long-term storage. Some chemicals cannot be stored at high or low temperatures; metals may rust in damp environments.


Building the Lean Culture

Once the planning is done, and storage is available, the next task is to build the culture of Seiton.

Some office environments enforce a "no papers left on the desk" policy. Management enables this by providing enough storage so that employees can indeed put everything away before leaving. Management then enforces the policy by regularly patrolling the area after hours, and confiscating anything left on top of the desk. The offending employee will have a discussion with the supervisor on the next working day.

To some degree, enforcing the Seiton step belongs to the Shitsuke process of sustaining the discipline.


Tools in order

What are the benefits of the Seiton step in the 5S process?

  • Increased productivity by decreasing the time spent retrieving a tool
  • Cost savings because "lost" tools do not need to be re-ordered
  • Reduced injuries because tools are stored in convenient and ergonomic places – workers do less bending, lifting, twisting and stretching
  • Increased productivity because it is clear when items are indeed unavailable
  • Easier cleanup


Increased Productivity – Reduced Retrieval Time

Time-motion studies were developed by Taylor and the Gilbreths, although they had somewhat different issues in mind. Clearly, an action repeated, say, 100 times a day and taking 80% of the work day should be optimized over a weekly action that takes 1% of the work week.

Therefore, placing the most frequently-used tools in the most convenient locations will improve productivity by reducing the time to fetch and replace those tools.

Locating the frequently-used tools "closer to hand" means that other items will be "farther away", by necessity. Storing all the most rarely-used tools in specific well-known locations – in a storage locker or store room – means that workers will still know where to look for those items.

Consider what happens if items are stored haphazardly. A worker might keep a can of lubricant handy for the Monday morning task of greasing a machine. If the lubricant is stored in a cabinet, someone else may "borrow" it, or it might become hidden behind other items. But to keep it on the workbench means that it is in the way during all the other routine tasks – slowing down the regular daily work.

Of course, searching for the can of lubricant should not take long, even if it is only used once a week. So proper storage means that it has a specific place in the cabinet – and even if several people use it, it will always be promptly returned to its exact location.

Here is another example of haphazard storage. Suppose everyone shares one broom each day to sweep up dust and shavings. If it is stored wherever the last worker used it, then each day someone searches for the shared broom.


Cost Savings

Workers may order replacements for items that are simply misplaced. If the item is lost behind clutter, or not stored in its rightful place, it may be simpler to acquire a replacement.


Reduced Injuries

A worker is on the path to chronic injury if the job regularly involves any of these actions:

  • Bend down or over-stretch to reach a tool or piece of material
  • Twist the torso after picking up a heavy item
  • Work with joints in awkward positions (Office workers develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from constantly typing on computer keyboards with their wrists extended rather than in a neutral position – and they are not holding up any weight while working!)

Placing tools in convenient locations – so the worker does not need to stretch, twist, stoop, or lift outside of their centre of gravity – will reduce the incidents back pain, strains and pulled muscles.


Increased Productivity – Reduced Time Searching for Unavailable Items

It is easy to see that a tool is missing & where the tool should be stored, if it should be hung on a tool board over a painted outline. Anything left on a workbench or on the floor is quickly noticed, also.

If a tool is broken, its normal storage location should have a tag with an explanatory note. Again, this saves the time and confusion of looking for the "misplaced" tool.


Easier Cleanup

At the end of the day, cleaning up a work station or shop floor is easier after the tools have been stored properly.

Dust can easily accumulate around items left on a workbench. By contrast, if everything is stored on a tool board beside the workbench, the bench itself can be quickly wiped clean.

The same applies for sweeping a shop floor that does not have trolleys parked haphazardly.

Later 5S steps specifically address cleanliness.

By Oskar Olofsson, author of the book "Succeeding with 5S"

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