5S Color-Coding and Visual Standards

Color-coded tools and suppllies

Good communication is important in every industry – especially the healthcare, manufacturing, industrial, and food industries. Without visual communication, messages are hard to understand. Misunderstandings can interfere with productivity which is why color-coding standards are critical. 5S color-coding allows you to communicate without speaking.

Color-coding standards are a vital part of any 5S lean or productivity initiative. With color-coding, it’s easier to find designated critical zones, control points, and reduce wasted time.

5S Color-coding goes beyond cleaning and material handling tools.

Don’t let systems or standards fool you. Even though color-coding is not a standard rule, it’s a practice regulatory authorities agree with. According to the FDA, “any action or activity that can be used to prevent, eliminate or reduce a significant hazard” is concerned a control measure. Therefore color-coding is an ideal control measure. Also, it is easily documented and followed by employees.

Accessories such as bins, clipboards, tapes, document holders, tools, and more can be color-coded to increase organization in a big way. For example, using the same color bins, labels, tools, floor tape, and binders can indicate that space is considered a red zone, wet zone, or dry zone.

Aisle and floor marking are considered one of the most useful processes used for the 5S set in order phase. With floor marking tapes, shapes, markers, and stencils you can create organized spaces on your production floor. You can also use 6S aisle marking to direct traffic, provide non-slip walkways, and keep forklift and pedestrian traffic separated.

Potential Industrial and Environmental Benefits of a 5s Color Code System

The five pillars of the 5s standards operate as a cycle to help organizations optimize productivity and reduce waste. A more orderly workplace leads to more consistent and efficient operations. Each of the pillars help your workers maintain an organized routine, thereby ensuring a better workplace conditions:  

  • Sort (seiri)
  • Set in order (seiton)
  • Shine (seiso)
  • Standardize (seiketsu)
  • Sustain the cycle (shitsuke)

The sort and set in order pillars involve removing unnecessary or redundant materials and supplies from the workplace and then organizing and storing those that remain. Implementing a consistent 5s color code system decreases the square footage that your operation needs, thereby reducing light and heat requirements.

Along the same lines, maintaining an organized area where materials, parts and equipment are labeled with 5s colors can decrease unnecessary purchases. When employees can easily find supplies and materials and determine the remaining content, they are less likely to unnecessarily open a new container or order more before finishing the current batch.

Incorporating the shine pillar reduces your workplace lighting energy requirements by keeping windows sparkling clean and by painting equipment and machines in light colors. Similarly, keeping your workplace brightly painted and clean improves worker response to spills. A faster response means less waste from spill incidents and subsequent clean-up.

Standardization using visual cues using 5s colors helps your employees understand appropriate waste management and handling. Implementation of the 5s color code system on laminated procedure placards, signs and scorecards improve your workers’ operating procedures for hazards and emergency response procedures.

Six best practices for using a 5S color-code system effectively

1) Keep your 5S color-coded system simple.

It’s a great idea to limit the number of colors you decided to use with your color-coded system. With too many colors employees tend to become confused and fail to follow the standard. Popular solid colors used for color-coding are black, white, yellow, purple, green, orange, grey, blue, and red.

2) Select consistent colors for each area.

Try to choose colors that make the most sense in each area – like red for quality issues. Don’t use the same color for equipment, sanitized, raw, processed, etc. areas. Employees will remember what colors mean. However, if you aren’t consistent, it can become hard to standardize the colors in your facility.

3) Avoid complex color projects.

Try not to mix and match your color-coded strategy. For instance, if you mix and match a red handle with a blue brush, you’ll have to decide what colored zone the tool should stay in. Mixing colors of tools, bins, totes, and containers will create confusion. After all, we encourage color-coding to solve problems – not create new ones. Avoid mixing color-coding in the same area.

4) Introduce the 5S color-coding program at one time.

You might want to tackle color-coding on one side of your facility because it’s easier for you – but it’s best to incorporate the program at one time. Introduce the color-coding program during your 5S lean initiatives. Then, once the area is cleaned up, take the opportunity to designate specific colors to areas.

5) Reinforce 5S color-coding with labels, signs, and posters.

Eliminate any confusion with what the specific colors mean by posting labels, numbers and tags. You’ll want to ensure the process is easy for everyone – not a guessing game.

6) Match the color of the tools and storage areas.

If red tools are stored on a red Tool Shadow-Board, never hang a different color on the board. The idea is to keep color-coding separate. Eliminate cross-contamination and using the wrong items in specific work zones with color-coding.

5S Color Visual Standards

If you look around for a moment, you’ll notice a ton of visual cues. You’re probably not surprised, right? It is no longer enough to hear the hard facts – these days you need to see them, too.

A visual workplace helps close the communication gap – and so much more. Visuals:

  • Reinforce standards and highlight critical information.
  • Sustain lean improvements.
  • Assist continuous improvement in a constantly changing industry.
  • Are the glue that holds everything together

Too often, 5S leaders neglect this crucial standardizing practice. Without visible, publicized standards for visual colors, you create ambiguity throughout your team. Therefore, make it a point to develop these standards and post them sufficiently throughout the plant.

Having color visual standards is a critical component of your standardization phase of 5S. Without these standard colors, your workers are likely to choose whatever color tape, aisle marker or signal they happen to find lying around. Moreover, the workplace simply doesn’t look organized in the least. So help them help you by putting some standards in place.

Typical 5S Color Standards:

YellowAisles, Traffic lanes, Walkways, Machine Guards, Work cells
OrangeInspection or temporary storage locations
RedDefects, Scrap, Rework, Red tag areas
GreenFinished goods, Safety Equipment
BlueRaw materials, Inventory, Inspection points
BlackWork in progress, materials
Black / YellowAreas of potential health risk requiring caution, hazardous material containers
Black / WhiteAreas for operational use – stay out
GrayRacks, storage, etc.

Use visual communication boards to turn your vision into your team’s vision.

Reinforce important objectives, display KPIs, highlight Lean/Kaizen activities, and share planned initiatives through visual communication. Site Boards enable you to effectively communicate your message to support and influence your business objectives.

5S Resources: