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Office Tip for 5S for Filing – Date and Alphabetical

December 19, 2012


This idea came from Katie as we were trying to organize files in our office. We had a lot of client files that date back ten years or so. They were taking up valuable real estate in the office (a nice three drawer lateral file cabinet that was full and that we could use for something more important). Because of our growth and moves over the years (in additional to reorganizing files once in a while) we had moved these same files at least five times. The files were stored in a very common method – alphabetical order. This is, of course, to make them easier to find when we need to look something up. I mentioned to Katie that I read somewhere that 95 percent of the items put in a file cabinet are never looked at again. From “The 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace” by Hiroyuki Hirano, Figure 5-4 Document Usability Trend (Source: NAREMCO) shows that documents that are six months old may have a ten percent use frequency and at one year they would have a one percent use frequency. So this got us thinking…

Katie fixing the files.

Katie fixing the files.

The files would continue to grow in number. As we add more files we would either have to reorganize the files periodically or have extra unused space to accommodate more files – neither of these alternatives is desirable. I mentioned to her that of my files from just a year ago (I only probably had to pull three of them out to look at). So this is where Katie had her breakthrough moment – why don’t we just organize the files by year and then alphabetically?  More than likely I would be able to guess what year that work was done so all I would have to do is to go to that year’s box and look alphabetically for the file. So what if I got the year wrong? No big deal, just try one of the other boxes. It would only take a few minutes to find the file and this would not surpass the savings in filing time, storage costs and general ease of use. Now many of you may already be using this type of filing system; that’s not the breakthrough. The important part to me was that we took the time to think through a problem, suggest multiple solutions, decide on which target condition to experiment with and implement it.

Now I know this method my not work for everyone and is definitely based on the number of files you have to maintain, but for us this will be a great way to store files and retrieve them when needed while reducing waste. By the way, we were able to get rid of a lot of unneeded items by Sorting through the files.

Way to go Katie, keep up the Lean thinking!

Check back with me in a few months and we’ll see how our experiment is going.

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