The Lean tool known as “5S” was conceived and developed in a manufacturing environment. It is a very effective tool at eliminating some of the most senseless and aggravating sources of wasted time and energy. Most commonly, it stops the wasted effort of searching for stuff that we need right now.
It only makes sense that we would all make the next logical leap and attempt to put the same practice to work in our office environment. In my experience, there is more to be gained from 5S in the office than on the manufacturing floor. However, most attempts tried to follow exactly the same practice we learned on the manufacturing floor, and we quickly realized how futile it was.
Even the “expert” resources on Lean and 5S directed us to apply it precisely the same way (I have a bookshelf full of them). So, following our training and the experts, we alphabetize our little shelf of books and our little drawer of paper files, we designate a place for our pencils, our calculator, and our stapler and, if we are really devoted, we even get in the habit of keeping our cubicle work surfaces clean and neat. But, we didn’t save any noticeable time or eliminate any waste.