If you have any knowledge of the Lean Foundation tools, sometimes referred to as stability tools, you may have come across 5S. 5S is a tool used to create an orderly working environment. It highlights any abnormalities within the working area, identifying waste in day-to-day processes and creating a structure for establishing an orderly, clean and organised working environment. Traditionally this tool is applied to a physical environment, however as offices and businesses become increasingly paperless, it is equally (if not more) important to apply the same principles to our electronic working environment. This can include: personal and shared drives, email accounts, SharePoint sites, intranets, databases, and anywhere else you store documents or information electronically.
“In the next five years, we’ll generate more data as humankind than we generated in the previous 5,000 years” – Eron Kelly, general manager of product marketing, Microsoft
So why do it?
Applying Electronic 5S principles will:
- By having robust document and version control in place this will prevent old copies of forms or documents being sent to customers
- Clear file naming will avoid multiple copies of the same document being saved
- Introducing strict version control will ensure only the most up to date documents are used
Save staff time
- Lots of staff time can be wasted searching for documents in cluttered systems/drives
- Staff time is also wasted re-creating templates and documents that already exist – these may be stored in personal drives that other people would benefit from, but currently don’t.
How to do it?
The principles for electronic 5S (E5S) are followed in much the same way as the physical 5S exercise with only a slight change to the sequence of the steps. E5S completes a series of steps, each beginning with the letter ‘S’ in the following sequence: Standards, Sort, Set, Shine, Sustain.
Set organisational standards for electronic document management, making sure you consider:
- Document archiving (check what the legal requirements for your organisation are)
- Document naming conventions
- High level folder/ system structures
- What are the criteria for saving documents in each system/ drive?
- Set up a ‘quarantine’ ready to move documents into
- Delete all documents not needed, including duplicates and out of date documents
- Any documents that you don’t want to delete but where you are not sure if you need, place in the quarantine folder. Any documents that remain in this folder get deleted along with the overall folder a few weeks later.
- Agree a logical layout for folders and put the documents into this new structure ensuring that every file has a home
- Rename the files making them clear and easy to locate.
- Defragment your hard-drives, empty your ‘deleted items’ folders, and reduce personal drive storage space.
- Create a regular self-audit of your electronic environment and ensure these are scheduled into diaries.
The impact of Electronic 5S
The benefits of completing an E5S exercise include:
- Staff frustrations are reduced
- A consistent approach across your organisation is created
- The possibility of sending out-of-date or incorrect documents to customers is removed.
The resulting time saved by having a clear and orderly electronic environment can be significant, if, for example, every member of staff spends just 10 minutes a day searching through the electronic environment for every 100 members of staff that is the equivalent of 2.2 FTE a day. The cost of data is getting increasingly cheaper, at the time of writing in November 2014 the estimated cost is 2p per gigabyte (GB), large organisations may be able to reduce their hard-drive storage requirements by terabytes (TB) saving just over £20 per TB.
Case Study: mhs homes Service Improvement Team
Context: Team of 6 people, E5S principles applied to their shared drive
2,790 folders, 18,895 files, 14.5 GB
Following workshop #1:
1,105 folders, 7,002 files, 5.42 GB
Improvement achieved following workshop 1:
11,893 files, 1685 folders, 9 GB of space
Case Study: Marie Curie
Tips for Electronic 5S success:
- Make a list of commonly used documents and focus your initial efforts on these, get these documents moved into a logical file structure
- Use the properties tool to scan your computer for large documents and folders
- Run a report to identify documents that haven’t been opened or modified in a long time – the chances are you don’t use them anymore
- Don’t spend too long over analysing the best file structure for your documents, make a start on the sort and once the documents and files are thinned down the structure will become clearer.
“The folders I have worked through are hugely cleaner and easier to look at – on the occasions that I look for and find something, this usually takes a couple of seconds to scan a folder. Previously that could take up to 5 minutes (SERIOUSLY!) as I had to scan hundreds of file names, open a couple only to find they were the wrong ones and then try another folder. Worse than that, there are many times when I previously gave up and emailed teams (I am thinking Finance in particular) asking for reports to be re-run for me – making my problem suddenly theirs and incurring considerable waste across the organisation.”
If you want to discuss how to align your processes with your organisation’s objectives, or need to make sure your process measurement systems are measuring the right things, give us a call on 0870 458 6162, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org