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How 5S Methodology Inspired the Design of Bento Cam App
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Inspired by Japanese 5S methodology

Lean-everything has taken the startup world by storm as a superior approach to minimizing waste and improving human effectiveness. That same approach can be applied to photo management. 99% of our users surveyed have taken photos in order to remember something or to send to someone later. The result? Less than half actually do anything with those photos. Ever. That is one big junkyard of untapped value piling up in camera rolls everywhere. Therefore, when we started building the solution to our own personal photo management pains, we were very much inspired by Japanese 5S methodology, one of the most popular techniques in the Lean Manufacturing toolkit.

So what is 5S methodology?

The 5S methodology consists of five terms that are commonly translated to: Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain, but it’s quite normal to see different variations of these. The Japanese terms are Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke.

The methodology was developed in Japan as a tool for keeping your workspace clean and organized in order to eliminate sources of energy and waste, especially time wasted searching for items when you need them. This methodology, we believe, can also be applied to organizing digital workflows.

Seiton – A Place for Everything

We are the first to admit that staying organized is not sexy. It takes deliberate thought and it takes continuous effort. This is why our main priority is making the process as effortless as possible, to build a system and process around how you take and organize photos, that makes it worthwhile to open Bento Cam. In the words of John Wooden:

“If you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it over.” 

Therefore, while all five terms of 5S are relevant and to some extent built / thought into Bento Cam, there is one “S” above them all that we, in many ways, have built the product around, and that is Seiton, in English, Set, or Set in Order. It is all about clearly identifying a location for all the different types of photos you take so that no time is wasted trying to organize them later or looking for them when they are needed.

The idea is: Taking a photo and sending it to a collection is a few seconds spent up front that will save you minutes and hours in the end. We promise.

This is the approach we feel can directly battle the pain point that we, and many many others have, of scrolling through your camera roll looking for that one photo of your newborn child amidst photos of receipts, whiteboard notes, a pair of cool sneakers you want to look up when you get home, and the list goes on…

Taking 5S Beyond the factory floor

As one could expect from a Japanese system like 5S it is meant to be taken quite literal, and followed quite strictly in order to get the best results. By adapting the methodology from a physical to a digital space we are, of course, already deviating from its original intention.

For that reason, we do not pretend to be a 5S method camera, but rather an app that has taken a few cues from some of the virtues of 5S – just like one of our favourite tools, Trello, is inspired by Kanban, another Lean Manufacturing system.

The ideas of 5S and other parts of Lean Manufacturing have already spread far and wide beyond the factory floor and been adapted for many different uses as is the case with any popular ideas. As mentioned in the intro, the Lean Startup Movement, that has quickly become the go-to strategy for startups and teams is a good example of how Lean has spread from the factory floor.

Anyone familiar with Japanese home organization guru, Marie Kondo’s KonMari method, will also recognize the specific techniques of 5S in her method, that is very much about getting rid of stuff you don’t need, and categorizing and designating a place for all your items so you can easily find them when you need them.

So if you feel like you need to give your photos a home, Bento Cam is currently in private beta and we’re still accepting users. You can sign up here, or from our front page.

BONUS: If you want to understand the Lean methodology better, listen to this AMAZING episode of This American Life about NUMMI, the joint venture between General Motors and Toyota.

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Categories: Blog,Photo Management

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