The Cost of Searching

By Ron Pereira Updated on July 1st, 2021

Studies have shown that the average person can spend around 30 seconds every 5 minutes of their working day searching for something. That’s not too bad… or is it?

Consider This

Well, if you consider that this is 30 seconds out of a possible 300 seconds… meaning 10% of this time has been wasted on searching for something and not adding value to the product or end customer, it would seem less than good!

Taken even further, over a 450-minute shift this “searching time” could essentially result in 45 minutes of wasted time! Yikes!

The Ideal State

Of course, 30 seconds is not the perfect number, and searching time will vary person by person and situation by situation. But imagine being able to never search more than 3 seconds for something. What would that mean?

For starters, this is a 90% improvement (30 seconds to 3 seconds) resulting in savings of over 40 minutes per 450-minute shift!  Not too shabby, eh?

Ultimate Productivity Enhancer

So, while 5S is often thought of as a housekeeping activity where all we do is throw away the junk that we’ve been hoarding and tidy up a bit, it would seem to be so much more.

You see, 5S could very well be one of the most powerful productivity tools you have access to. And the best part of all? You can start improving your 5S today. There’s no need to wait.

A Quick Test

If you’d like to test this searching theory out try this. Select a co-worker or family member and think of something you’ve given them in the last week or so. Maybe a document, or an email, or something of relative importance.

Once you have the “item” in mind go and ask that person to retrieve it for you and count in your head how long it takes them.  You may be surprised at what you discover!

What do you think?

Do you think 30 seconds every 5 minutes is a realistic “searching” number? Or is too high? Too low? What do you think?

  1. Aaron Jeffries

    March 17, 2009 - 11:30 pm

    I believe it. In fact I would say this is probably on the low side in most cases. Case in point, this morning I searched for 10 minutes for my car keys!

  2. Chris Young

    March 18, 2009 - 6:32 am

    Your timing of this blog entry couldn’t have come at a better time. Just minutes before I received this from you we had a site email go out about missing multi-meters from one of our production cells. I had just responded to the floor leadership group that we need to improve our ability to emphasize “item recoil” in our cells and with our operators. Meaning that we need to improve 5S to the point that missing items are easily detected and if found could easily be returned to the proper location. I explained that this was counter productive to our efforts to improve the level of 5S on the production floor if the operators feel that the equipment and tooling in their areas will “walk” away from the point at which it is being used. The knee jerk reaction is to lock everything up so that people from other areas can’t “borrow” the equipment/tooling. This is obviously not conducive to a lean culture by any stretch of the imagination. Great timing!

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