Here's a good article from our friends at Visual Workplace
5S & Visual Workplace Color Code Standards
Imagine a world without color. Color has meaning everywhere. It is meant to direct our behavior and assist in our decision-making. Without color, our world becomes transparent and we lose the ability to emphasize importance and communicate effectively. Color standards become especially important in a multi-cultural environment in which not all people understand the same language. Communication is simplified and globalized with the use of color.
The purpose of color-coding is to communicate without speaking. These types of visual communications help us convey a message clearly and without misunderstanding. Verbal communications leave a lot of room for interpretation, whereas visual communications remove the emotion and interpretation that commonly result in errors.
Ultimately, color code standards eliminate time spent searching for information, and increase productivity in any workplace. Three distinct types of color code standards exist in most workplaces: safety, process, 5S and workplace organization. Your workplace may or may not have standards for each category; it will depend upon your environment and the work that happens there. You must first recognize what types of standards exist in your workplace, determine if all of these standards are necessary, and how they can all work together.
Safety standards for many industries are created by regulatory agencies. These standards increase safety by standardizing the visual communication for hazards, cautions, directing behavior in emergencies and many other necessary situations. Color is an important part of these standards and is designed to be commonly recognized. The good news is that these safety standards already exist for your workplace and can be obtained easily from the agencies that regulate them.
Process color standards are primarily used to organize data and communicate status and priority with efficiency, without words and without questions. They complement existing work instructions and assist in communicating at a glance. Their underlying goal is to define normal and abnormal situations. They are the foundation of all the mini visual systems that populate our daily work. Without these standards, time is spent searching for what is needed. The value we strive to give our customers is eroded by non-value activity resulting from abnormalities that go unnoticed and create waste.
In addition to safety and process color code standards, color can be used to communicate workplace organization. How often have we cleaned and sorted an area only to find that within a short amount of time it is right back to where we started? Unneeded items have crept back into our workplace, making the items we need difficult to find until we finally throw our hands up in frustration. Why didn't the changes and improvements stick? The answer is a lack of standards. Standards help us to sustain processes, present opportunities for improvements, and keep us safe.
The companies that have succeeded to maintain an organized workplace have established standards. Standards are most effectively used with color in order to create discipline and adherence. These standards have evolved from 5S methodology, which helps create and sustain an organized workplace.
We have described three types of color-coding standards and illustrated their importance. These standards can work together, but it is not necessary to try to find one color code standard to fit all of these needs. It is nearly impossible to execute and manage. The key to creating a thriving visual workplace is to establish standards for safety, processes and workplace organization and instill the discipline to follow them.