How to Use 5S Red Tags to Promote Order in the Workplace

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With a 5S Red Tag strategy can help your team sort and remove unnecessary items quickly!

Spring has officially sprung, which can only mean one thing—it’s time for spring-cleaning. However, if your facility is extensive or has multiple groups sharing the same space during different shifts, cleaning and organizing your workspace is no small feat. A rather large task might require a thoughtful strategy.

The 5S Red Tag proccess is a great way to clean and organize your workspace to optimize efficiency. As the name implies, the Red Tag process utilizes 5S red tags to sort through items that are taking up space and may no longer be needed. it’s the first step of the larger 5S methodology for a lean workplace. The effects are immediate and can be realized with minimal costs.

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What is 5S?

For those who don’t know, 5S is a continuous improvement methodology for organizing a workplace for greater efficiency. It was started in Japan and mastered by Toyota. The five S’s translate to sorting, setting in order, shining, standardizing, and sustaining the discipline. The process involves implementing lean, zero-waste practices like the Red Tag Strategy, which is implemented during the first phase of 5S—sorting. Traditionally, 5S is very reliant on visuals, like red tags.

How To Encourage Employees Buy-In To Order in the Workplace

Some manufacturing facilities and plants have been in operation for many years, and most operate on a shift-style schedule. Over time, materials and supplies accumulate due to workers' attachment to tools, normal employee turnover and lack of communication. It's crucial that your employees buy into your planned system for 5s red tags; if you communicate the benefits clearly and have a reasonable plan of action, your teams will quickly adapt and your workplace will be safer and more pleasant.

Before you begin the six-step system explained above, encourage employee engagement in the process by investing time in strategic implementation planning:

  • Evaluate your environment for areas to target for improvements to the order in the workplace. Typical places for investigation include storage areas for equipment, tools and machinery, and inventory spaces. General workspaces, such as floors and shelving, also require attention, particularly along walls or less-trafficked areas.
  • Once you've identified the focus areas, and before you begin implementing the process, establish standards for each item to meet for a red tag and addition to the inventory. If the material doesn't meet the criteria, then the item should be disposed of. 
  • Workers should attach red tags to supplies and materials that are not part of their usual departments. This strategy encourages an objective point of view, avoiding potentially personal bias with regards to particular equipment.
  • Determine when your organization will conduct screenings for 5s red tags. Best practices indicate a minimum of twice-yearly launches, with the most significant benefits appearing with ongoing implementation as part of the 5s cycle. 
  • Depending on how often you've conducted the sorting stage, the red tag process will last between one and two months.

The benefits of the 5S red tags process in the workplace

Oftentimes, in large factories and facilities, workers are attached to their favorite tools. Even when replacement tools come in, they hold on to the old favorites. Meanwhile, the factory introduces new machinery, technology, and processes that render specific tools no longer necessary, but teams are afraid to get rid of the old tools “just in case”.

Over time, the tools and materials accumulate, and space is wasted storing items that are no longer needed. The facility is cluttered, shelves are overstocked, and workers waste time searching for a tool that is buried in a drawer with tools no one uses. Sometimes, even the floors become cluttered, presenting dangerous tripping hazards.

What is the Red Tag strategy?

The Red Tag strategy can help your team sort and remove unnecessary items quickly. This system is beneficial in large workspaces or when you need to promptly decide that affects people working shifts at different times of the day. The bright red tags catch employees’ attention and help them see how much clutter exists in their workspace.

Using red tags, employees identify items they think can be recycled, tossed, or relocated, and the result is a cleaner workspace and increased efficiency and productivity.

How to implement the Red Tag strategy

The 5S Red Tag strategy is easy and cost-effective to implement. Follow these six steps.

  1. Start by identifying a specific area of your factory or facility to focus on. Assemble a team of employees tasked with surveying the area to sort and eliminate tools.
  2. Come up with criteria for keeping or tossing something. A few examples are that it’s used daily, you know exactly what it’s used for, and there are no other tools that perform the same function.
  3. Next, send your team in to go through all the tools, materials, and equipment in an area with a roll of red tags. They should tag any items that don’t meet the criteria or directly add value to the workflow. If it’s questionable whether an entity meets the requirements, it gets a red tag.
  4. When applying a red tag, it’s essential to write where the item was found, who found it, and the date it was found or a target decision date—more on that later.
  5. Tagged items should be removed from the workspace and moved to a designated red tag holding area.
  6. Decide on an appropriate amount of time to keep items in the red tag holding area. A month is typically recommended. Once an item has been sitting in the red tag holding area for a month, it’s time to revisit it. If it’s been used, it can stay. Just make sure it’s put back in the area where it’s used most. If it hasn’t been used throughout the month, it should be tossed. Special seasonal items that are needed but haven’t been used during the one-month holding period should be stored.

Now it’s time to implement the red tags at your workplace. Click here to shop red tags today! If you can’t find what you’re looking for, call us at (800)-237-1001.