Engine of More: 5S Red Tags
Red Tagging is a part of the 1st S in 5S, SORT. I want to go into a little more detail on Red Tagging for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that there is a lot of parallel between Red Tagging and some disposal ticketing I’ve seen in Hackerspaces.
Several spaces I’ve visited have a “Do Not Hack” or DNH labelling process. This comes about in order to distinguish an item in a space as being not a spare part or something you can use in another project. Sometimes this includes private property stored in the public space, items that have been identified as common property of the hackerspace or more often than not, the items gathered for and sometimes put into a project, or even the project itself. Often these labels and processes will include names, dates and contact information. I’ve also seen systems where a “Notice of Disposal” or NOD is attached to an item, to warn that its fair game for throwing into the waste in the near future.
All of these labelling systems, including Red Tagging, require quite a lot of emotional labour to truly manage and manage well. As discussed before, the ideal would be a combination of a good culture and behaviour around “stuff” in the space combined with a good “self-policing” system with excellent poka-yoke* if at all possible.
*Poka-Yoke the notion of fool-proofing at process or action through design and a Plan/Do/Study/Act or PDSA cycle.
How might a Red Tag or similar system work in a Hackerspace? To be quite frank, I am unsure that it would. At best it’d be very labour intensive and such a painful and thankless job I doubt it would be finished or undertaken twice. Of course it becomes a little less onerous if the task of running 5S in a space is done bench by bench, shelf by shelf over months rather than days. Red Tagging also has the possibility of becoming yet another form of Hackerspace passive aggression. Seemingly good ideas or rules to help shape better behvaviours in the Hackerspace can often, instead of fuelling more of the right approach, be abused. I’ve seen this happen with Nottingham Hackspace’s old Rule 3. Rule 3 was about talk being cheap and actions being the better way forward, originally Rule 3 was intended to quell people telling other people how to do something (mansplaining, know-it-all-ism and such like) and also to encourage the membership to take action to fix rather than make words to complain. In a group where everyone should help to fix the heating, its no good complaining its cold and suggesting someone else fix the heating, so to speak. Instead it became a way of instantly shutting up any discussion about changing anything at the space.
I’ve used the words “self-policing” before and I think people have a reaction to that. Policing doesn’t sound very hacker... and self, like self-help? But a self-policing system is always better for a hackerspace where there is supposedly a flat hierarchy. To do anything but have good self-policing or to put it another way, a little discipline, is to create work for someone else in the space. Hard, emotional work. Throwing someone else’s stuff away is hard for a number of reasons. I’ve done it and I know people get pissed. Its a minefield of a topic to get into. There are those who will say “common sense” is following the space’s rules. Others say “common sense” is getting in contact with the person before throwing something out.
What tends to happen in the spaces is a disconnect between what the letter of the rule is and what seems to be the status quo in a hackerspace. You are told every item must be labeled and worked on regularly, yet there are unlabelled items everywhere, stuff that hasn’t been worked on for years. Then you might get an email that says “in 3 weeks we will be sorting through stuff and throwing it out if it’s has not been worked on in 3 months.” But you go in 4 weeks later and this didn’t happen, so you leave your thing. You go back in another 3 weeks and OH NO the status quo has suddenly changed and your project and stored materials is GONE! Why didn’t someone contact you. (That’s a real regular occurance by the way).
So, Red Tagging... During the SORT step of 5S, items that can’t be identified as belonging in the rubbish, in some other area or to someone in particular. I.e. these items MIGHT belong here but we just don’t know. Are given a Red Tag like this:
I would say a fairly fun way to do Red Tagging in a Hackerspace, if it was decided to be valuable as part of a general 5S program, might be to have a sheet of QR codes or similar that could be added to an item, scanned and then some into including a photo of the item, uploaded to a database.
The point of Red Tagging is to control the items in an area and track what is and is not actually being used. So taking yesterdays example of the pillar drill. Lets assume there is an item with the pillar drill that the floor manager and the curator don’t recognise as being part of the drill. However a week or two later a member pops in and is looking for a particular tool that works with the pillar drill, I dunno, like maybe its a counter-sink or something. They find it in the red tagging area. They can grab it from the area, and simply make a note against the record that it belongs with the bench pillar drill and that it’s been put into the draw.
As part of the then ongoing STANDARDISE and SUSTAIN steps of 5S, this item would no longer be on the Red Tag database, but added to the Pillar Drill Workbench database, have it location added to the wiki and a label put on the draw front. Remember the picture of the items in the draw? This can now be updated.
That’s why I say that the last two steps in 5S are the hardest, STANDARDISE and SUSTAIN because they are the least likely to get done. What will really happen is that the member will be annoyed that the item was put in Red Tag, they’ll pull the tag off and put the counter sink back where they are accustomed to finding it and wonder what all these nazi red tags are all about and why someone has ruined the pillar drill area!?
today’s thumbnail is a spray paint cans in a spray booth in a Hackerspace