The Power of Workplace Organization in Improving Lab Operations

Workplace organization (5S) is a foundational tool in the lean/operational excellence toolbox. With reasonable levels of training and effort, this tool can be implemented to drive significant benefits, including improved productivity and space utilization and reduced employee frustration.

Maxiom Group partnered with a client on a 5S implementation targeted to achieve these and other benefits in the area of sample retains management.


A mid-sized biotech organization was strained in its capacity to store, manage and retrieve critical sample retains.


A tailored 5S approach was used, following a schedule of one “S” per week. We started by sorting the sample retains, followed by setting them in a more logical and accessible order, while removing the clutter and waste and discarding the unneeded samples. We then standardized the change primarily by developing standard work and using visual indicators. Finally, the improvements were sustained by locking in the changes through multiple vehicles, including audits and standard work.


Together we achieved an impressive mix of quantitative and qualitative business benefits:

  • Over 100,000 retains and back up samples were discarded
  • Avoided cost of acquiring more than 5 new freezers at about $10K each
  • Organized remaining samples by product, date and frequency of access
  • “Junk” was removed from work area, including ladders, filing cabinets and extra shelving
  • 75% less time to find a desired sample (12 minutes reduced to 3 minutes)

Spaghetti Diagram

Spaghetti Maps Before and After

As can be seen, by involving the right people and using a systematic approach, 5S can reap great benefits.

Vedant Lahoty

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