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What 5S (Lean) disease strikes millions?

Flat Surface Syndrome (FSS)

I am a devotee of 5S. I love what 5S does for my effectiveness at work. I keep things organized, make my workspace support what I do, and prioritize all my ‘tools’ (books, computer peripherals, etc.) so the most important things are at arm’s reach. 

Despite that, I still constantly struggle with keeping the flat surfaces in my office free of miscellaneous items.

I do well when an area is clear, but as soon as a single piece of paper gains a foothold, I fight an uphill battle to keep it from getting completely swamped.

Unfortunately, I am not alone in my affliction. FSS is prevalent in nearly every operation, and takes constant attention to keep it from getting out of control.

What 5S steps can you take? Some suggestions:

  1. Don’t have flat surfaces. Stuff can’t pile up if there is no place for it to sit.
  2. Create designated locations on the flat surfaces you do have. And clearly mark them. People seem more reluctant to put things in the wrong place than they are to put them in an unmarked space.
  3. Audit the items that are piling up, and see if they really are necessary. If not, get rid of them. If they are, build a better process that does something with the stuff that is covering your workspace. Piles indicate a problem with a process.

Above all, designate a short period each day to clear off your desk or workbench. People seem reluctant to leave something on a pristine workspace. But the first item out of place acts like a beacon that attracts more stuff.

What 5S ‘S’ does this fall under? Sustaining. If you start each day with a clear workspace, you will keep the clutter to a minimum.


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