COVID Compliant Business Part 1: Physical Distancing

COVID Compliant Business Part 1: Physical Distancing

Business productivity

Physical distancing can be daunting! So how can we implement this without reducing our productivity?


So far we’ve probably just muddled our way through

However, through the implementation of a methodology like 5S we can successfully apply the practice of physical distancing, without reducing our capacity to a great extent. 5S as a methodology is fantastic for setting up your layout to adhere to physical distancing, without lessening productivity.


The key to 5S (and this is what five s stands for)

1. Sort. Keep only what you need.

2. Set. Reduce movement, create one-way movement, and one-piece flow from a COVID and cross-contamination point of view. It’s really important.

3. Shine. Keep things clean.

4. Standardise. Get signs up, put lines in place, and single-point lessons (a part of Standard Work we’ll talk about later on). You want to visually make it easy to see the way things work. Use arrows to point one-way directions, put crosses on floors to demonstrate the locations and distances at which people can stand.

5. Sustain. Reduce movement and create a one-way movement in one piece flows by creating a layout with signage and lines, in the order that we operate. If the layout is established in a way that makes it difficult to move in the wrong direction, for example, it is more likely the changes made will be sustained, supporting efficiency.


PDCA ChartSomething to think about when creating your 5S workplace

A workplace that supports physical distancing for COVID-19 compliance can be achieved and maintained using the the ‘Plan to Check and Act Cycle’.

The way this works is about 60% of your time needs to be involved in planning. Organise: draw mud maps of how you want the workplace laid out. Work with your team on this. Talk about one-piece flow of materials. Discuss one-way flow of people and how you minimise interactions, etc. These are really important issues to address. Plan, plan, plan.

Then you get into the do– so make all the changes. If you want employees to buy in on the changes, get them involved. It’s worthwhile having everybody get involved, make the changes quickly.

Now test how those changes work from a check point of view. This is also part of 5S’s standardise. If you have put in good signage, lines, visual indicators, and so on and so forth, check that these are actually functional and being maintained. Do regular visual audits and identify what’s going on. Are the systems working? For example, do we have habits or behaviours we need to change? Do we have things that just simply don’t work? Are we having too many interactions? Is there a way we can improve this? So at the check phase, you really want to make sure you are observing how the work is happening, to ensure that we keep the workplace compliant.

Finally, we approach from an act point of view. We have mapped out what we’re seeking to achieve, making it possible to identify the problems or issues requiring improvements. Act on it! Make a change, reset things. If it becomes evident that the way a process has been standardised is not working, that it’s difficult to sustain, act on it. Make changes quickly. It’s better to make simple cheap changes and fail fast, then to have made expensive permanent changes that don’t work, only to fail at great expense.


Make these things pragmatic and easy to do.


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