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When using drawers to store equipment, one expression stands out: Out of sight, out of mind. Things in a drawer tend to get piled up, misplaced, and forgotten about. Drawers take time to open and close, and slow down processes. They hide things.

Bottom line: Drawers are fine for storage, but they hinder 5S and flow in a production environment.

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Most items in drawers at a work station should be put at the point of use in a specified location, or gotten rid of. Most items in drawers are for just-in-case manufacturing. People often hoard things in their drawers—things that are never used. Unfortunately, the piles can hide the things that are needed. And think about when a person looks for something in a drawer. It never seems to be just a quick search, and the drawer always seems to end up in a worse condition than before the search started.

The problem of drawers being used in work ares is most prevalent in repair areas and in administrative areas. In repair areas, technicians tend to store small parts in the drawers at their workstations if the actual location is too far away. In admin areas, office supplies tend to collect in drawers. Then they get covered up or pushed to the back, and duplicates of those item are added, increasing the clutter. You’ll see multiple staple removers, huge numbers of dried out pens, and lots of little debris.

Drawers defeat good 5S principles. Try to minimize the use of drawers. If you choose to keep them, find a way to keep them neat, organized, and uncluttered. Dividers, such as those used for silverware, and foam cutouts, both with clear labels, are good options. Finally, make sure the outside of the drawer is marked.

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