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Amit M. Kheradia
Amit M. Kheradia
Environmental Health and Sanitation Manager

The Top 5 Questions on 5S in the Food Industry

In the “5S in the Food Industry: How to Develop an Employee-Driven Tool Management Program,” Amit M. Kheradia discussed how 5S helps create clean, safe, and structured workplaces through the organization of hygiene, sanitation, and material handling tools and equipment. During the webinar, we had so many great questions from our audience of over 1,800 registered attendees that we weren’t able to answer them all at the time. Below are the top 5 questions answered by Remco and Vikan hygiene experts.

1. How is 5S related to Lean Enterprise, and through this can we eliminate all the wastes generated in a food facility?

5S is a popular workplace organization method that originated from the automobile sector in Japan. Eventually, 5S became the foundation of the Lean Enterprise, which has the goal of optimizing operations by eliminating or reducing wastes, which are defined as: unnecessary Transportation, excessive Inventory, needless Motion, unaccountable Waiting, inefficient Overproduction, non-valued Overprocessing, nonconforming Defects, and/or underutilized Skills (i.e., TIMWOODS). These Lean principles have also been successfully applied in the food industry operations. From observational experience, we believe companies may not be able to eliminate all wastes – however, a site may still be able to significantly minimize wastes, such as: reducing the rework or rejects or by creating better conditions that prevent cross-contamination by having a clean, structured workspace.

2. What’s the difference between zoning by 5S and zoning by color-coding, and how can color-coded shadow boards effectively support a 5S system?

Zoning by 5S is dividing your areas into specific zones, where each zone has a set of activities that can be implemented and reviewed by allocated employees. Each zone can have a 5S checklist. On the other hand, zoning by color-coding might work by, say, using red food-contact handling tools for preparation zones and blue food-contact tools for ready-to-eat zones. Also, in a particular 5S zone, you might have different tool colors for food-contact and non-food contact tools. Therefore, color-coding as a best practice can support a 5S program. You can combine this with the use of color-coded tools and shadow boards as part of an effective tool management system. Several of our clients have also found that shadow boards are a good way to indicate to employees which tools to use where without the need for a shared language.

3. How do you handle resistance and motivate your employees to successfully implement a 5S plan, and in doing so, can a site reduce the re-occurrence of 5S issues in a food facility?

Of course, one of the biggest barriers to overcome is in getting buy-in from not only management, but also from the front-line workers who must implement, review, and improve the processes. From observational experience and review of some top 5S articles, it’s been found that successful 5S implementation teams are best motivated through the idea of creating a ‘visual factory.’ This concept allows problems to be seen and fixed immediately. Also, complex activity can be broken down to simple executable tasks, which facilitates consistency in action through education and training of all team members. Moreover, 5S improvements need to be decided as a team through root cause analysis (RCA), whether you want to do a correction (a simple fix), a corrective action (prevent actual problem from happening again), or a preventive action (prevent potential problems from happening).

4. Can 5S replace the need for GMPs within a site, and besides just food safety, can employee health and safety be promoted through a 5S program?

No, 5S will not eliminate PRPs or GMPs, which must be followed as per regulation and/or audit standard requirements. However, setting up a 5S system could considerably support your PRP/GMP implementation program – as any visual problem related to an item or activity or area out of place can be easily spotted in a structured workplace, and be immediately fixed, corrected, or, even better, prevented. Also, 5S as a workplace organization method is not restricted to just improving food safety, but also the overall companywide operations. Some organizations add a sixth “S” for Safety, e.g., availability of Occupational Health and Safety resources like PPE. Moreover, having a less cluttered workspace means fewer or no workspace accidents.

5. Sustaining a 5S project is a problem we have constantly struggled to address. Are there any practical tips to maintain an established 5S program and prevent it from failing?

We have also found the biggest challenge is in sustaining a program. Here are some suggestions:

  • Create a 5S workplace culture. A good place to start is by following the 8 steps of developing a 5S workplace culture (as shown in the webinar).
  • Use simple visual programs when communicating to employees through education, training, and a refresher (when required).
  • Reviewers for a zone should not be the same employees who are implementers for that zone.

The success of 5S will highly depend on empowered employees: even if a program has problems, a motivated workforce will easily spot what is wrong and improve on the system.

Our Remco/Vikan Site Survey can help your site set up a 5S tool management system. You can also schedule an on-site or virtual survey with one of our sales representatives to help you address your site challenges, and much more. Please let us know if you require further information.