Oops, forgot something?

Oops, forgot something?

That often forgotten part of 5S (workplace organisation)

Several road and other infrastructure projects are underway in our quiet East Auckland suburb. As expected many different temporary roadside warning and traffic management signs come and go as the work crews steadily work their way through different streets.

The different work crews seem mostly well organised and their trucks are set up with special storage areas to store and transport their traffic cones, traffic signs, frames, stands as well as sandbags to pack down the stands to ensure they don’t get blown over.

The visual management is good and it looks like they’re achieving the first part the 5S rule of “having a place for everything”.


However, when they moved on to the next part of the neighbourhood several weeks ago, one lonely road sign stand was left behind. Apart from the obvious cost of having to replace the forgotten piece of equipment, leaving a metal object with sharp edges on a residential pavement also posed a risk of injury to unsuspecting pedestrians.

This highlights an important part of 5S that can easily be overlooked. I’m referring to that second part of the 5S rule of “returning everything to it’s place”

I can only speculate, but I suspect closer observation may reveal some or all of the following shortcomings in their current practice:

1. The storage area does not display a clear standard to show how many frames and stands should be put back. It should be very obvious if something is not in its place – just like using a shadow board. This incident points to an opportunity to add a mistake-proofing (poka-yoke) device so that it will become “difficult to make the same mistake” of leaving something behind.

2. There is no clear step included in their standard work to check that everything has been loaded before they leave a job.

3. Although the standard work step may exist, it has not been followed. This could point to a training gap or a discipline (culture) issue.


Fortunately, this problem can easily be turned into an improvement opportunity.  It will only take a few minutes to find a solution for this incident.

Structured Problem Solving (PDCA) will guide them through four simple steps to

1. define the problem

2. identify the root causes

3. develop a good solution and action plan

4. set a future target outcome to verify that the problem has indeed been fixed.


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