What should my first step in tool organization be?

Taking a cue from 5S, the first step of tool reorganization should be to sort. Sorting will help to get rid of common problems almost immediately including getting rid of tools and materials impeding workflow, reduce time wasted looking for parts and tools, and eliminating safety hazards that have resulted from a cluttered workplace. Before actually implementing the use of a pegboard, shadow vinyl tape, a tool board, or tool foam, this step works to eliminate and remove unneeded tools and materials from the area.

Sorting is most effective when the organizer is vigilant and ruthless. Although it may sound extreme, a good rule of thumb is to throw out or relocate tools and materials that are not needed on a daily basis. The only items that should be left are ones that are absolutely necessary to get the job done.

Red tags are a helpful tool when it comes to the sorting step. When going through the tools, materials, and equipment in the work cell, use a red tag system to clearly identify what actions will be taken with each item. Most red tags feature a list of five actions that can be taken with the item tagged:

  1. Leave the item where it is,
  2. Relocate the item,
  3. Dispose of the item,
  4. Recycle the item, or
  5. Place the item in the “Red Tag Holding Area”

The Red Tag Holding Area is a set aside location where tools or equipment can be placed until it is determined whether or not they should be returned to the work cell. If a worker, for example, is unsure whether a certain tool should be kept on the workbench, it can be placed in the Red Tag Holding Area with a date for the tool to be reevaluated and either tossed or put back in the workspace in an appropriate location.

Completing this step being both ruthless and vigilant will clear up and declutter the space while laying a string foundation for the next steps in tool organization.


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