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Thursday, 16 August 2012

Colour coding can bring efficiencies to 5S practices.


Colour coding can bring efficiencies to 5S practices.


Color Coding Can Bring New Efficiencies to 5S Practices By Steve Stephenson, Graphic Products, Inc., Managing Director,  Worldwide manufacturing, showing the first signs of recovery from the recent financial crisis, according to the International Yearbook of Industrial Statistics 2011, can benefit from the basic thinking involved in 5S Lean Manufacturing such as color coding to create order, save time and ensure a safe workplace.

Graphic Products, Inc., (, a leader in the industrial labeler industry, has helped companies worldwide establish visual order – one of the first steps in a 5S program – by enabling workers and managers to create their own color tags, signs and labels which may be used across multiple departments to help distinguish tools and resources.  

We've created a 5S Standard Color Code chart, based on real world research, to suggest a standardized 5S color scheme. Colors have been assigned to six different categories – green for safety; blue for equipment and inventory; yellow or orange for standards; red for defects and fire; white for total process management and gray for racks and storage. Doubt and interpretation are virtually eliminated as each of these colors is easily distinguishable from one another.

Color coding for organization

At another level, 5S color coding can help departments organize tools and resources. Consider your basic screwdriver. There may be hundreds in use at any given time. So how do you know which screwdriver belongs to the shipping department and which belongs to maintenance? By color coding, everyone knows the purple screwdriver belongs to the shipping department. If for some reason the purple screwdriver winds up in the maintenance department, there’s no need to point fingers. You know where to return it. No questions asked. Everyone gets back to work. Shadowboards help. The big shadow of a missing item is a clear visual cue to find the item and see where it belongs. 

In addition to color coding done specifically for 5S, some color coding is required by codes outlined by ANSI and ASME. An example is the color coding of pipes specified by the ANSI/ASME A13.1 pipe marking code. This type of color coding provides the same benefits as the 5S color code, in addition to its safety benefits.

Pipe Marking


ASME code requires pipes used to convey, distribute, mix, discharge and control fluid flow to be marked to show their contents, potential hazard level and the direction of flow. Properly labeled pipes improve safety and productivity by providing employees and emergency responders with key information about piping system contents. For example, proper pipe marking helps employees, contractors and vendors quickly see where they are in a system, and understand what is happening in the system, so they can make the correct decisions, save time and prevent accidents. One important factor to keep in mind when setting up a 5S color coding system is that the 5S color coding should not conflict with the color coding required by codes such as ANSI/ASME A13.1 or the ANSI Z535 safety sign color standards.

Whether needed for code compliance or for 5S color coding, mobile and desktop printers enable users to create and print their own color coded labels, tags and signs. These tags, signs and labels are available in a variety of materials, too, which will work both indoors and outdoors, on both smooth and rough surfaces, in low and bright light and will withstand exposure to chemicals, solvents, oil and grease. There are options for both temporary and permanent signs and labels, too.

Questions to ask when launching a 5S color coding program:


  • What kinds of tools do you use? Impacts how and where they are stored.
  • How are people finding their tools now? Changes may need to be immediate or gradual.
  • Do you have multiple shifts at your plant?  The graveyard shift should be as well-organized as the morning shift. If different shifts have their own tools, a distinct 5S color should be used for each shift.
  • Do you have a bi-lingual work environment? Colors require no translation, but signage might. 
  • How many workers are employed? Larger organizations may move slower than smaller firms.

Continued training and evaluation involving both current and new staff is recommended for all 5S programs. Track all program changes in log books accessible to all. Each individual plays a critical role in the success of 5S. Be open-minded. With team leaders and workers cooperating, 5S improvements can be counted upon to deliver business results – time saved, productivity increased and safety supported.

5S Color Coding Benefits: 

  • Improved safety and morale
  • Great for orientation and training · 
  • Eliminates wasted time  
  • Maximizes floor space 

To request our 5S Guide and for more information about industrial printers, labels, tags and signs, visit



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