A clock showing the time as 3 o'clock
29 Mar 2019

Time: our most valuable asset

Chas Goldring Manager - Continuous Improvement

Time is so valuable… yet we never seem to have enough time to do our work.

I would argue that this is often partly related to our inability to organise our workplaces in a more effective manner.

On our British Steel Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt course we play a silly game called the numbers game.

Initially everyone gets a sheet of paper with the numbers 1-90 randomly strewn across the sheet. There is no apparent order and the font size of the numbers vary.

I then ask everyone to tick off the numbers starting with 1 then 2 and so on until they get to 49. This invariably takes around 5 minutes and as they do this I liken the chaos of the sheet to a store room or a SharePoint where you are looking for 49 separate items. In finding the 49 items we have “lost” that person for 5 minutes or more.

I then give everyone another sheet of paper. On this paper we have removed numbers 50 to 90; in other words, we have “sorted” and removed all unnecessary numbers. However, the remaining numbers are still randomly strewn across the sheet.

Again, we ask everyone to tick off the numbers starting with 1 then 2 and so on until they get to 49.

This takes around 2 minutes. In other words, we have saved 3 minutes of time by sorting what is wanted from what isn’t (for those of you keeping up then this is the 1st S of 5S; SORT).

I now give them a sheet of paper that has gridding and explain a simple set of rules of where to locate the numbers. Again, we repeat the exercise and again we reduce the time (this is the 2nd S of 5S; SET IN ORDER).

Lastly, I give them a sheet of paper with the numbers 1-49 arranged in sequence. It now takes only 10 seconds to tick off the numbers (this is the 4th S of 5S; STANDARDISE).

The aim of this game is to show that by some simple but very effective workplace organisation (or 5S) we can reduce locating key items from 4 minutes to 10 seconds and reduce the amount of time we “lose” people. And the word Housekeeping is never mentioned!

The trick is to convert this back to our workplace. Too often in our industry 5S is seen as a housekeeping exercise; a chance to “clean-up” the workplace. Although this is one of the elements I would argue that actually saving time and making the workplace more effective is the real target and that making your area more professional is part of this process. And because we don’t have lots of other items strewn around then we make our workplaces safer because we have removed the chance to slip, trip or fall or hurt our hands on equipment that should not be there; equipment is now properly stored and correctly arranged to minimise this risk.

So next time you complain that you don’t have enough time to complete a task, or that your team are away from the work area for an excessive amount of time, think about how well organised your workplace is and does it look professional.


Any views expressed in this blog are views of the individuals concerned and do not necessarily reflect the views of British Steel.

British Steel will vet any comments being posted. We reserve the right to amend or remove any comments at our sole discretion.

By submitting any comments, you acknowledge and agree that your name will be displayed on the blog

Rob Pearson / 15 April 2019
Excellent blog again Chas, just wish more of us could get access to the lean six training, as many still do not understand why change is a constant requirement.