Sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain. These five principles comprise the 5S lean manufacturing method that originated in Japan. While 5S can help any organization, the principles contained in the alliterative method should especially appeal to those in food processing for its ability to promote food safety through a clean, safe, and organized workplace.
5S principles are based on the idea that a well organized and clean workplace increases employee satisfaction, promotes worker safety, and decreases product waste. 5S relies on everything having its own place that’s easily identifiable. Like color-coding, 5S uses the idea of a “visual factory” that lets workers know at a glance where tools are and where they should be put back after they’re cleaning.
For the sort step, work areas should be cleared of things that aren’t needed daily. Discard junk that’s broken or simply not needed, along with broken tools. Items that are needed, but only on an infrequent basis, should be moved to storage. If an item is misplaced or stored illogically, it should be moved to a more convenient location.
Sorting can help minimize chances of cross-contamination and cross-contact by sorting food-contact and non-food-contact items apart from each other.
Set in Order
To set a processing plant in order, it’s important to remember the goal is to increase efficiency in the work environment. This makes it easy for the employee to find the right tool at the right time, thus minimizing chances cross-contamination between raw and finished product. Items should be organized logically, with like items together. Color-coding can be introduced to keep food-contact and non-food-contact items in separate zones and to keep allergens apart where needed. Shadow boards can be used to give every tool a place.
Tools, machinery and the work area itself should be cleaned as a part of the shine step, which should be repeated as frequently as necessary. Regular cleaning prevents biofilm build-up and increases the facility’s overall hygiene. Factories that deal with particularly sensitive material such as meat or ready-to-eat foods should consider using hygienically designed tools, which are easier to thoroughly clean and sanitize, than standard tools.
To standardize, you must first observe the natural flow of workers’ movements. Before writing procedures, watch employees to see where they have consistent methods that work. Take notes on what works, and problem-solve with workers to find solutions to inconsistent and inefficient steps in the process. When you write Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs, consult with employees again on how the entire process should work. The process should feel natural to workers and not be forced. Come up with a training program for new employees, and refresh current employees on the procedures at least yearly, or when there are changes.
There are generally three different methods to sustain 5s improvements:
- Daily checks
Supervisors should be on the floor and check to make sure procedures are followed daily and to help employees with any process problems.
- Periodic checks
Using a 5S checklist, supervisors can perform quarterly or monthly checks to make sure 5S is being followed. They can find and address any problems in these checks.
- Change-only checks
Supervisors can check to make sure 5S is being followed only when a process change is being implemented. They can revisit SOPs to integrate the change and to make sure it’s working well for employees.
Implementing 5S can help food processing facilities increase hygiene in their organization, as well as increasing their efficiency.