In lean manufacturing, the general rule of thumb is that anyone should be able to walk into a workplace and identify the flow of work being done within 60 seconds. One of the easiest and most effective ways to visually accomplish this goal is through the use of 5S floor marking. Floor marking lays the foundation for the ‘set in order’ stage of 5S, as you start from the floor and work your way up organizing the facility. The proper use of floor marking tape helps create order and pattern of work in your facility, which eliminates searching and confusion within a work area. Floor marking also helps to clearly define processes and cells in the value stream. Strategic, color-coded 5S floor marking can help your facility not only meet the 60-second goal, but surpass it.
Past standards and codes for floor marking
There are currently no government-mandated or widely accepted industry standards for regulating what colors should be used when marking floors. In the past, some suppliers looked to the ANSI Z535. 1 Safety Color Code as a guide for selecting colors for floor striping tape. Earlier versions of the standard did include color specifications for specific types of safety hazards and equipment, but Section 4.2 of the standard clearly states that these regulations apply only for safety signage — not floor marking tape. Furthermore, these specifications were removed from the 2002 edition of the standard and no longer represent ANSI-recommended best practices.
Some companies have also referenced OSHA standard CFR 1910. 144, Safety Color Code For Marking Physical Hazards. The standard states that red should be used to identify fire protection equipment, emergency stop devices and containers holding dangerous materials. Yellow is to be used for marking physical hazards, such as striking against, stumbling, falling, tripping and caught-in-between hazards.
Although these standards provide useful information for safety marking, they do not provide any clear, standardized color guidelines that companies can reference when marking floors in your facility. As a result, many companies simply use whatever colors they have available and miss out on an opportunity to create a more effective, visually instructive workplace.
Color coordinating your facility floors, a new standard
To standardize floor markings and enhance 5S initiatives, companies can use the 5S floor marking color guidelines below. This color scheme complies with the OSHA 1910.144 standard mentioned above and can be used to visually separate processes, work areas and pathways. In addition, it provides recommendations for identifying facility storage locations for materials, product, tools and equipment.
The color scheme purposefully limits the colors included to encourage easy learning and ready recognition of specific areas in the workplace among employees. However, it can also be easily modified to suit the specific operational priorities, processes and characteristics of individual facilities.
5S Floor Marking Color Scheme
|As the border color for:
|Aisleways, traffic lanes and work cells
|Equipment and fixtures (workstations, carts, floorstand displays, racks, etc,) not otherwise color coded
|Blue, green and/or black
|Materials and components, including raw materials, work-in-progress and finished goods
|Materials or product held for inspection
|Defects, scrap, rework and red tag areas
|Red and white
|Areas to be kept clear for safety/compliance reasons (e.g. areas in front of electrical panels, fire fighting equipment and safety equipment such as eyewash stations, safety showers and first aid cabinets)
|Black and white
|Areas to be kept clear for operational purposes (not related to safety and compliance)
|Black and yellow
|Areas that may expose employees to special physical or health hazards (e.g. flammable or combustive material containers); Indicates that extra caution should be exercised when entering and working in the area
(Developed by Brady Corporation)
Other 5S floor marking color guidelines and best practices
- Use as few colors as possible: This will make it easier for employees to remember the intended meaning of each color and reduce the number of vinyl tape products kept in inventory.
- Identify specific colors with specific purposes: Some companies opt to mark equipment locations using the same color for aisleways and work cell boundaries. This choice adheres to the principle of keeping the color code system as numbered as possible, but for some, it may be more effective to use two different colors for two different work areas. When a plant differentiates between colors when marking specific work areas, it creates a visually clear environment that helps employees quickly correlate colors with purposes.
- Raw Materials, WIP and finished goods: Try and use the same color for all material storage areas, unless there is an important reason for differentiating between them. As an alternative, use different colored labels to visually distinguish between the various material types.
- Do more with less: Many companies use different colored stripes to border areas in front of fire fighting equipment, safety equipment and electrical panels. Instead of having three different floor tape products, choose one color for all applications where the intent is to keep the area clear for safety or compliance reasons.