Have you heard of something called “lean manufacturing?” It is a method used in business to minimize total system cost without sacrificing quality. That sounds so logical, right? And it doesn’t just work in manufacturing. Any business can befit from lean. That doesn’t stop businesses from NOT doing it. I think this is partially due to how we define the word “waste.” Lean is focused entirely on reducing and eliminating waste in all work processes and areas. Waste is any time, motion or stuff that is not directly being put to use to put your product into a paying customer’s hands exactly when they need it, no sooner, no later. If you think about that for a second, you’ll realize that it is impossible to totally eliminate waste! If a worker sneezes, that’s motion that is not directed to the task. I think it is the idea that with lean, you strive for something that can never be achieved that makes it hard to swallow, at least for western businesses.
Anyway, what is 5S? I’m glad you asked…since that’s what the article is supposed to be about. It stands for: Sorting, Setting in Order, Sweeping Up the Mess, Standardizing, and Sustaining. See? Five words that start with “S.” If you put a 5S program into place in your home recording studio (or any other workplace for that matter), you will find your workflow will be much faster, your tasks will be done sooner, and you’ll spend less money. As I describe this, it will sound like all we’re doing is “getting organized,” which always sounds like a good idea, right? But what is the GOAL of “getting organized.” The goal of 5S is to reduce waste so your product and processes can flow better and faster without reducing quality (quality actually increases!).
Sorting – Pick up every little thing in your home recording studio and decide whether it belongs in the studio. If you have to think for EVEN 5 seconds, then put it outside the room in a taped off Apprenticeship Programs In Michigan area (use red tape) or in a red bin (or 2). That stuff will stay just outside the studio for 30 days. If in that time, you don’t have to go get something back, it should be kept somewhere else.
Setting in Order – presumably you are now left with only stuff you need to produce audio in your studio. The next step is to establish a permanent place for all that stuff. Labeling locations can really help here, especially if stuff is in drawers or on shelves. Pay special attention in this step to optimizing the location of tools and equipment you use every day. For example, since motion is waste, try to set everything up so you can reach it from where you sit without having to get up or move the chair. For example, I set things up, my mic pre-amps, mixer, interfaces, effects, keyboard, microphone, computer, software, blank CDs, and reference manuals in a “U” shape starting on the left of where my chair sits, and going around in a semi-circle in front of me. I can reach all these things without leaving my chair. Trust me, THIS is worth the effort.
Sweeping Up the Mess – This is to make sure that you put stuff away when you’re done with it, otherwise it won’t be there when you need it and you’ll waste time (we don’t WANT waste) looking for it.
Standardizing – If you have more than one person who works in the studio with you, this is more important. Everyone needs to have the same procedures and practices to keep things consistent. Someone needs to be responsible for making sure that your procedures and your workspace continue to support each other. For most home studio geeks, that’s on you.
Sustaining the Discipline – Once everything is in place, you’ll be so happy with your new workplace that it’ll be easy, for a few weeks, to keep everything where it belongs. But as you get busier and busier, this will get harder and harder. If you don’t have a process in place to sustain your 5S’d studio, it WILL fall apart. Entropy will prevail. This is probably the hardest part of 5S.
So what are you waiting for? Grab some labeling tape, some red bins (or tape) Industrial Engineering Courses and get to work. You’ll be really, really glad you did. Trust me on this.

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