This is the tenth post in a series taken from a lesson in Pyzdek Institute Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training. Future posts will continue the topic. You can find all of the articles in the series by searching this site for the title.

Set in Order

Once the Sort phase has been completed, it is time to set the remaining needed items in order. Items are arranged and labeled so they are easy to find and use when needed. When this is done a great deal of waste is eliminated in production and office activity. For example, it will no longer be necessary to waste time searching for the needed item, nor will it be necessary to return an item because it wasn’t the item you actually needed. You’ll make fewer errors due to using the wrong tool or material or form.

Setting in order revolves around standardization, and, conversely, standardization revolves around setting things in order. The key principle is visual control. For example, Figure 1 makes it clear to the surgical team which instrument goes where by providing drawings and verbal descriptions. In factories, Lean Six Sigma teams often keep things simple by drawing outlines of the tools on simple pegboards, as shown in Figure 2. It is then easier to see which items are currently in use, as well as where a given item needs to go when it is returned. If possible, attach the tool to a retractable cord so it automatically returns to the correct location when released. Color-coding the tools helps reduce errors (Figure 3).

Surgical Instruments Organizer
Figure 1: 5S Surgical Instruments Organizer

To further simplify, teams should organize tools so they are presented in the order of use and are easily accessible to operators. Ideally operators will be able to get the needed tool without even looking at the tray or pegboard. This may require providing storage areas with additional space between tools to make it easy to reach them.[1]

As a general set in order rule, frequently used items are located nearer to the work cell than items used less frequently. Items that are seldom used are usually stored in a remote location to reduce clutter.

Pots and Pans Outlined on Pegboard
Figure 2: Pots and Pans Outlined on Pegboard
Engine Assembly Line in Poland with Color-coded Overhead Tools on Retractable Cords
Figure 3: Engine Assembly Line in Poland with Color-Coded Overhead Tools on Retractable Cords


The locations where WIP, jigs, tools and other equipment are stored can be determined by evaluating the “5S Map,” such as that shown in Figure 1: Work Cell Layout in part 7 of these series. This is done as follows:

  1. Draw the 5S Map on a floor plan, preferably drawn to scale. Indicate the location of WIP, fixtures, tools, etc. on the scale drawing.
  2. Draw a spaghetti diagram of the work flow on the 5S map. Identify wasted motion.
  3. Create alternative 5S maps which reduce or eliminate wasted motion.
  4. Simulate the work flows represented by the various 5S maps and choose the best alternative.
  5. Create the new work cell layout, including locating the WIP, tools, fixtures and jigs, etc..

Once the improved layout has been determined, create “signboards” to identify the locations for the various items needed in the work cell. This includes location indicators that show where the various items go, such as marking off floor areas with tape or paint. It also includes item indicators which show the specific items that belong in each location. Finally, you will need amount indicators to specify how many of each item are needed. Signboards are used to identify machine locations, locations for standard procedure displays, storage of equipment when it is not being used, location of WIP and finished goods inventory, racks and spaces within racks for various items, and named work areas.

Floor locations are often shown in places other than the work cell itself. For example, paint (or colored tape) is used to show aisles and aisle direction, door swing space, storage locations, zones which are off-limits for storage, hazardous areas, etc.. Additional information can be conveyed by the use of color-coded paint. For example, red might show off-limit areas, green might show operations areas, and yellow might indicate divider lines.[2] If you use color-coding, be sure that the color uses are standardized.

[1] In the case of the surgical instruments tray, a person normally hands the needed instrument to the surgeon.

[2] Color coding has other uses as well. For example, it can be used to show  which tools are used together, which equipment make up a “set” for producing a particular item, etc.. Be creative and use your imagination to identify how to use simple, visual means of conveying information at a glance.

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