Good communication is important in every industry – especially the healthcare, manufacturing, industrial, and food industries. Without visual communication, messages are hard to understand. Misunderstandings would interfere with productivity. That’s why color-coding standards are critical. Color-coding allows you to communicate without speaking.
Color-coding standards are a vital part of any 5S lean or productivity initiative. It’s easier to find designated critical zones, control points, and reduce wasted time due to disorder with color-coding.
Don’t let systems or standards fool you. Color-coding goes beyond cleaning and material handling tools.
Even though color-coding is not a standard rule, it’s a practice regulatory authorities agree with. According to the FDA, “any action or activity that can be used to prevent, eliminate or reduce a significate hazard” is concerned a control measure – and color-coding is a perfect example of a control measure. The color-coded method is easily documented and followed by employees.
Accessories such as bins, clipboards, tapes, document holders, tools, and more can be color-coded to increase organization in a big way. For example, using the same colored bins, labels, tools, floor tape, and binders can indicate that space is considered a red zone, wet zone, or dry zone.
Six best practices for using a color-code system effectively:
1) Keep your color-coded system simple. It’s a great idea to limit the number of colors you decided to use with your color-coded system. If you have too many colors, employees will tend to get confused and fail to follow the standard. Popular solid colors used for color-coding are black, white, yellow, purple, green, orange, grey, blue, and red.
2) Select consistent colors for each area. Try to choose colors that make the most sense in each area. For example, certain colors might make sense for one area – like red for quality issues. Don’t use the same color for equipment, sanitized, raw, processed, etc areas. Employees will remember what colors mean – if you aren’t consistent, it’ll become hard to standardize the colors in your facility.
3) Avoid complex color projects. Try not to mix and match your color-coded strategy. For instance, if you mix and match a red handle with a blue brush, you’ll have to decide what colored zone the tool should stay in. Mixing colors of tools, bins, totes, and containers will create confusion. Color-coding is supposed to solve problems – not create new ones. Avoid mixing color-coding in the same area.
4) Introduce the color-coding program at one time. You might want to tackle color-coding on one side of your facility because it’s easier for you – but it’s best to incorporate the program at one time. Introduce the color-coding program during your 5S lean initiatives and once the area is cleaned up, use this opportunity to designate specific colors to areas.
5) Reinforce color-coding with labels, signs, and posters. Eliminate any confusion with what the specific colors mean by posting labels, signs, and posters. You’ll want to ensure the process is easy for everyone – not a guessing game.
6) Match the color of the tools and storage areas. If red tools are stored on a red tool Shadow-Board, never hang a different color on the board. The idea is to keep color-coding separate. Eliminate cross-contamination and using the wrong items in specific work zones with color-coding.