Tools & Resources
All Around the Abode
Keeping a household as clean, organized and efficient as possible
The pots, pans and bowls I use most often are in the most accessible location for me (I'm short—so they're in the cabinets closest to the ground). I used to set them up biggest to smallest, with the biggest sauce pans holding the smallest pans. Because I use the medium sauce pans the most, those are now kept closest to the top.
—Carly Barry, marketing, Minitab Inc., State College, PA
Editors note: To see Barry demonstrate quality techniques she uses in her home click here.
Even those of us who see everything through quality lenses still overlook areas of application. The following are three starters for a lean household. Laugh if you want, but they work!
Morning routine: Cut unnecessary travel between rooms. Order tasks to build on, rather than undo, each other. For instance, don't style your bangs and then wash your face. Aid the wake-up process. If you feel groggy without contacts, advance that in the order. Stock toiletries in the appropriate rooms. This eliminates fruitless inventory transportation. Stock duplicate items if it's cost effective.
Storage: Is the item stored near where it's used? For instance, don't put summer dining room curtains in the upstairs closet. The more often you access something, the easier it should be to get to. For instance, move the salt forward in the kitchen cupboard so you are not reaching behind three rows of spices.
Dishwasher: Load it like a replica of your kitchen. A consistent loading formula eliminates waiting while you decide where to put that dessert bowl. Use multiple silverware compartments to separate by type. (The credit for this idea goes to a friend who's been hanging around process improvement buddies too much!) A strategic workspace (dishwasher) speeds unloading. No more reaching from the left side to put plates in the right cupboard.
—Sarah Gangar, Bellevue, WA
Recently, I needed to reorganize my home office to better prepare the space for studying as I work toward my master's degree in quality assurance from California State University in Dominquez Hills. To accomplish this, I approached it from a human factor engineering (HFE) or ergonomics standpoint.
I developed a HFE checklist to address the room environment requirements, which included the desk, chair, computer, office equipment and lighting. From here, I performed a failure mode effects analysis (FMEA) to address the items that received the highest risk priority numbers (RPN) and put in place corrective actions to reduce those RPNs. I will be spending a good amount of quality time studying, and this will result in the room becoming more ergonomic.
Properly laying out the office promotes the importance of good posture and helps prevent pain or injury. As a result of the FMEA, I now have a proper HFE chair in my home office that provides good back support and reclines properly. The flat panel monitor is 24 inches away to prevent eye strain, and the mouse and other computer peripherals are within arm’s reach to prevent stretching and twisting. The desk and keyboard are at the proper height to promote good posture. Quality has helped make life a bit more comfortable.
—Kevin Jardim, quality manager, Monogram Systems, Los Angeles
My husband and I are both quality professionals with a combined 80 years of experience. It seems that we both look at situations from a quality perspective, searching for root causes and ways to improve both at work and at home.
When our son was young (about 3 years old), my husband decided to build him a bed. We got the material (scrap 4 x 4 oak posts and paint) and prepared to build the bed. On a lark, my husband prepared a set of plans, including a complete set of drawings and a materials list for the bed. He even had inspection criteria for me.
During the building process, he made some modifications to the plans. In the spirit of the lark, I asked him for the engineering order that had approved the changes to the drawing and the materials list. I was speechless when he produced them—complete down to the block for my buy-off signature.
The bed was so sturdy, my husband could stand and jump on it without it moving. We have a good laugh whenever we think of that incident.
I am also afraid both of our children were “infected,” even though they are not quality professionals. I hear them talk about using metrics to analyze a problem or looking for the root cause of why a plan did not work. I guess if you are a true quality professional, you can't help but look at the world through the eyes of quality.
—Kathleen Laing, software quality assurance lead, Northrop Grumman, Redondo Beach, CA
We performed a 5S on our pantry after listening to the Lean Lady presentation at an ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement. It was a good, practical application of the 5S process on the pantry with the family: sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain.
It was an eye-opening experience on the filth, waste and duplication encountered during the process. It also was fun to collectively work on an issue by getting input as a family and to improve a then-broken process: the pantry.
So far, the 5S process changes to our pantry have proven positive and have sustained results for my family and the other commonly encountered environments: computer-screen icons, the bathroom closet and electronic files folder structure.
Now if I can only work on a flowchart that gets my wife dressed and out of house on time!
—Elias Monreal, quality engineer, Industrial Tool, Die & Engineering, Tucson, AZ
Editor's note: To access a presentation on 5S that Monreal prepared for ASQ's Tucson-Old Puelblo Section last year click here.
My frequent application of quality tools includes 5S for housekeeping and first-in, first-out for perishable groceries. I also habitually evaluate failure mode effects analysis and mistake-proof everyday activities, such as cooking, cleaning and driving.
—Govind Ramu, director of quality assurance, SunPower Corp., San Jose, CA
After learning about 5S, I decided to try an experiment at home. I called a family meeting with my wife and two boys (ages 12 and 15). We reviewed the steps in 5S and decided to tackle the kitchen. We sorted and put away all unnecessary things that were on counters, systematically arranged the remaining items, cleaned everything spic and span, and standardized things by making sure everyone knew where things were to go, what maintenance had to be done and how often.
To sustain the efforts, I put the boys in charge on alternate days as auditors with a checksheet. We also took before and after photos. After several months, we have maintained the kitchen's 5S status. The result is a kitchen that is a source of pride for the whole family and always a pleasure to use.
—Herbert Riedel, president, Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, Andalusia, AL
I've performed a 5S of the closet, garage, pantry and den. I'm thinking and doing it in a lean way, cutting out waste and motion whenever possible.
—Kiami Rogers, compliance manager, Maxim, Dallas
After the first time I watched videos about 5S, I went home and played them for my family and taught them how to 5S an area in our home. From that point on, I have used 5S to straighten or clean a room.
I now view everything as a process and find ways to streamline or organize to be most productive.
I've explained to my wife and children how to do laundry using steps, input and output, and even assigned each member (operator) a day to do his or her laundry. I’ve explained other tasks, such as grocery shopping and cooking, as processes. I’ve even gone as far as explaining to the kids how to create goals and objectives, develop a plan to achieve them, and monitor and measure to ensure success.
—Steve Whatley, manager of organizational excellence, Volta LLC, Houston