5S in the Food Industry

5SSort, 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.

Over 80 percent of food safety issues in a facility are generally associated with poor Good Manufacturing Practices, which are related to personnel; plants and grounds; sanitary operations; facilities and controls; equipment and utensils; process controls; warehousing and distribution; holding and distribution of by-products. These food safety related-activities can be supported by one or more of the 5S elements.


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 nonfood-contact items apart from each other.


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 nonfood-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 (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.

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.

How Can Remco Help with 5S?

Remco provides not just the products to support 5S but also the recommendations on selecting, storing, cleaning, and the care and maintenance of sanitation and material handling tools, which also facilitate 5S improvements. For instance, our total-color tools provide that visual cue that assists in Sorting, and tools can also be Straightened within their respective storage stations using wall brackets or shadow boards. Our varied bristled brushes and brooms efficiently work in the Shining process. Moreover, our UST brushes, Ultra Hygiene squeegees, and hygienically designed scoops are superior, easily cleanable, and durable high-quality products. Additionally, our unique Vikan Hygienic Zone planner offers a Standardized and Sustainable solution that helps in effectively controlling allergen cross-contact and bacterial or foreign cross-contamination incidences within a food facility.

Next Steps

Schedule an online tool review or training with one of our skilled business development managers (BDMs). All of our BDMs have expertise integrating color-coding and 5S programs and they can help with setting up a system, providing tool recommendations, and training employees. Learn more at go.remcoproducts.com/Book_an_Online_Tool_Review.

Deep Cleaning Protocols After a Food Manufacturing Facility Shutdown

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting normal operations for countless food and beverage manufacturers. This disruption may occur due to limited staff numbers (as a result of social distancing requirements, layoffs, or staff sickness); additional sanitation requirements in relation to the control of COVID-19 transmission; changes in the level of production (up or down); and even site shutdown. These in turn can lead to a loss of resources for, or focus on, food safety sanitation.

Food manufacturers have a legal obligation to produce safe food and it is therefore essential that routine sanitation practices continue and that additional sanitation is undertaken after a period of shutdown. Employers also have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of their workforce, including minimizing their risk of COVID-19 infection. Ask us about Color Coded Cleaning Tools and Shadow Boards!


Sanitation for food safety

Review your sanitation SSOPs and ensure you have the right tools for the job

  • Review Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) for required tools and equipment
  • Review your color-coding plan
  • Check all shadow boards, tool racks, and storage locations for tools that need to be replaced

Check individual work stations to ensure the correct material handling tools are present

  • Ensure that all tools are present in their correct areas
  • Make sure tools match the established color-coding plan

Discard any tools that are damaged or that are in poor condition

  • Damaged tools can harbor microorganisms and allergens in deep gouges or cracks
  • Pieces or materials may break off in production areas, causing foreign body contamination
  • Damaged tools can injure employees

Clean brand new tools before their first use in your facility

  • Even new tools could be contaminated with allergens, microbes, or foreign bodies
  • Manufacturers of cleaning and material handling tools do not sanitize or sterilize tools before they are shipped to end-users unless they specifically state otherwise
  • Even tools that are individually wrapped should be cleaned before their first use

Clean existing tools

  • Tools that are not properly sanitized and dried after use or prior to shutdown may become a source of contamination on re-use
  • Cleaning and material handling tools themselves can be vectors for pathogens

Clean the nooks and crannies

  • Include spots or areas within the facility, equipment, or tools that are hard-to-reach or inspect
  • They are much more difficult for the sanitation crew to properly clean and disinfect. It’s critical to carefully clean.


Sanitation for COVID-19 control

This cleaning is what should be done on an ongoing and frequent basis when the plant is back in operation

  • Surfaces that are commonly touched by employees should be cleaned more frequently. These include:
  • Consider adding a unique color to your color-coding plan to specifically clean these non-food contact surfaces
  • Tools should also be cleaned between use by different people to lessen the chance of spreading COVID-19


Train staff on the importance of food safety and COVID-19 safety plans

Training is an important step in building and maintaining a food safety culture. This applies to general food safety plans and enhanced COVID-19 safety plans. A culture of food safety includes:

  • Strong leadership that encourages cooperation
  • Ongoing food safety training for employees and higher-ups
  • Engaged and informed employees
  • Self-audits built into the work structure
  • An organizational structure based on a complicated chain that gives more people moreresponsibility instead of a direct flow
  • Empowered employees who share responsibility for and are rewarded for practicing food safety
  • A robust food safety plan that contains preventative measures and controls

Does your company have sites in the UK?

The manufacturing world these days stretches across borders and the globe. Thats why here at Lean 5S Products we have teamed up with our UK partners, National Engravers to service our clients across the pond and Europe!.

National Engravers are uniquely placed to provide identical products and services to us here in Los Angeles. They produce tool shadow boards, cleaning stations, foam shadow boards and custom production boards. All focus is on supporting your 5S Lean journey and ensuring an efficiency, quality, safety and production element is centred within the workplace.

They have long standing experience working alongside large firms such as Jaguar Land Rover, Lear Corp, Eaton among just a few and will be happy to guide you through their process.


More details can be seen at www.national-engravers.co.uk

Or call UK 011 44 1233 840999

Cleaning Materials

All Systems Go - Website Relaunched by Leading US Shadow Board Provider

Lean 5S, the leading provider of cleaning stations and shadow boards to the US manufacturing market, has announced the revamp and relaunch of its website.

Source: All Systems Go - Website Relaunched by Leading US Shadow Board Provider

Cleaning Materials

All systems are go! New Lean 5S Products Website relaunch

All systems go - website relaunched by leading US Shadow Board provider

Sub title: Lean 5S cuts the ribbon on new website for companies in US manufacturing market.

Lean 5S, the leading provider of cleaning stations and shadow boards to the US manufacturing market, has announced the revamp and relaunch of its website.

Their new online home, which can be found at www.lean5sproducts.com, will be the new go-to platform for US manufacturing companies looking to purchase visual management solutions which will allow them to organize their work space more efficiently and increase productivity.

It is expected that the updated online outlet will showcase the unmatched quality and variety of the Lean 5S range more effectively than ever before, giving organizations an enhanced user experience, and smoothing their route to purchase significantly. Visitors will have an easy query channel to customer service representatives, allowing them to make any product-related enquiries they wish.

The new website will accommodate the expanded offerings of Lean 5S, which will now offer customers the chance to customize their tool shadow boards and cleaning stations according to their own requirements. Lean 5s's flexible new service, offered through the website, will give customers the opportunity to take advantage of unlimited design revisions, as they strive to design the perfect product.

With a new online platform with which to reach their customers, Lean 5S expect to continue serving the US manufacturing sector by increasing productivity and organisation with their products. KPIs, TPM’s and training matrix data can all be handily displayed on the Lean 5S's organisational production boards, feeding into lean manufacturing processes and other programs such as Six Sigma, and there are even options for dry erase and magnetic surfaces.

When it comes to shadow boards, the items provided via the website will allow manufacturers to be more compliant, and highlight deteriorating items much more effectively.

Customers will enjoy the convenience of multiple payment methods, with the site accepting major credit cards Visa and Mastercard, as well as PayPal transactions.

Lesley Francoeur, CEO for Lean 5S Products said: "The relaunch of www.lean5sproducts.com represents the dawn of an exciting new era for Lean 5S Products as a company, but also for manufacturers in the US market as a whole. The site is more accommodating of our extensive range of products, as well as providing clear communication channels for visitors to get in touch with customer service representatives. Scouring the internet for products can take up valuable time for manufacturers, and so we hope this new site will make the online purchasing experience for cleaning stations and shadow boards a whole lot easier."

Lean By Doing

Early along, as a student of the Toyota Production System (TPS), now referred to as “Lean,” I struggled with some of the concepts and systems.  For example, Shigeo Shingo’s claim that a four-hour m…

Experts in Effective Lean Manufacturing Open Los Angeles Division

Leaders in lean manufacturing solutions, Lean 5S Products, announce their expansion to a new division in Los Angeles, supplying their range of tool shadow boards to organizations looking to reduce waste, be more compliant and increase efficiency.

Developed by the Japanese, the 5S system utilizes five core pillars: sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. An effective lean strategy has enormous scope for improving operations within the manufacturing sector across the US by creating safer, less cluttered and more organized working space as well as reducing production time.

Lean 5S Products design and create wall mounted, free standing or mobile 5S cleaning stations, production boards and their signature tool shadow boards. Every design is fully customizable to suit each client’s individual requirements, with a plethora of adaptable options and an array of materials.

Anna McCarthy, International Sales Manager said, “There is little doubt that every US manufacturer, whether they are a large established brand, public sector body or SME, can benefit from the addition of optimized processes and efficient practises to minimize waste. Our newly launched range of visual workplace solutions helps our clients to quickly and easily implement this ideology and promote a culture of ownership within the workplace”.

Lean 5S Products are committed to tailoring each solution to their customer and the fully collaborative team work cohesively to produce their bespoke shadow boards. Each customer is assigned to an allocated account manager, who will be on hand to assist through the entire process, liaising with the design team who can create bespoke shadows for specific tools.

All boards can be branded (including logos, colors, text and imagery) and clients are offered unlimited design revisions and support in their 5S lean journey.

Lean Vs Automation

Do Lean and Automation Go Together?

An important question to consider when going lean. Experts discuss top considerations for making new equipment and lean initiatives work together.

Lean automation means applying lean concepts where manual processes are best, and balancing these with the application of technology, but only where the use of technology really makes sense.

Some experts are adamant that the two don’t really belong together, but others believe the two can work together effectively in situations where lean processes efficiently feed automation, and automation supports the overall efficiency of the lean processes.

“I think lean and automation go together quite well because you are trying to boost production. I don’t know how you make a manufacturing company that is lean without automation,” stated Jim Gookin, technical troubleshooter for Viking Engineering.

In some cases, especially at sawmills and pallet plants today, labor shortages are pushing companies toward automation. And the shortages are not expected to get any better any time soon. A report released this spring by the research organization Conference Board predicted that several industries, including manufacturing, are about to experience a long period of labor shortage.

In the wood products industry, low-value added operations can more easily be automated than high-value ones, according to Henry Quesada-Pineda, an associate professor at Virginia Tech who specializes in continuous improvement and works with sawmills and secondary wood products companies as a consultant and on a variety of projects.

According to Quesada-Pineda, materials handling machines like conveyors or stacking equipment are good examples of tasks that can be automated while adhering to lean concepts. Automation may also make sense in visual inspection, such as lumber grading.

Gookin disagreed. He suggested, “In our industry, the high value is the pallet assembly side of the process. That’s a really good place to automate. The key question is, ‘How many pallets can you produce per hour per employee?’”

Every situation is different though, and you really have to take a look at your processes before rushing out and buying equipment. “One of the key ideas of lean is before you buy anything, like software and hardware, you really look at the process and try to improve it as it is,” said Quesada-Pineda. “There are a lot of things that you can improve with little or zero investment.”

For example, just by better organizing the work space, you might be able to improve your process by freeing up valuable space and making it faster and easier for workers to find and access what they need.

Gookin agreed that automation doesn’t necessarily solve problems if you have a poor process. You need to have a plan before you buy a new piece of equipment. He explained, “You must have the ability to support automation, whether it be lumber prep, moving pallets in and out, or whatever. Otherwise, you purchase a piece of equipment and don’t get the most out of it.”

One thing that automation does do is improve consistency of a product and dictate the speed of output. Gookin commented, “Automation makes it easier to create consistency and a simple process. You basically do the same thing every time. The nailing machine sets the pace and determines the nailing pattern and board placement.”

But Gookin warned, “You have to keep the machine running to get maximum efficiency. Even though the machine sets the pace, an operator can open a gate or hit a safety stop at any point and reduce efficiency.”

Involving everyone in the process is another important aspect of a lean industrial environment, he said. “You try to develop a system where people actually get involved by participating in training sessions and working together to try to solve problems.”

“If you are thinking you can just buy automation to fix the problem, it’s just going to exponentially make the problem worse,” Quesada-Pineda said. “What we know based on case studies is if you go directly into automation, things will be worse because you haven’t actually addressed the process which is the most important part.”

“In lean, the objective is simplification,” according to Bob Emiliani, a professor, author and expert in lean management, as well as a pioneer of lean leadership. “Lean is not pro automation or anti-automation.” However, he said it does tend to sway more toward anti-automation, than pro, but explained that it really depends on what you’re doing.

In real life things are a bit more complicated and each situation is unique. Like Quesada-Pineda, Emiliani advises companies to first figure out their processes, and how they can be simplified, and then figure out the equipment they need. Ironically, he said most companies do this the opposite way. They buy equipment and then try to figure out the process. “They end up spending 15-20 times the money. And automation and machinery often substitute for critical thinking,” said Emiliani.

The key to the process is to truly evaluate the situation to understand what could be done better. Emiliani explained, “One of the things that is a hallmark of lean is that people put in the effort to figure out whether or not it makes sense to automate. They have to ask ‘What’s the simplest way I can do something?’ People need to use their intellect and creativity to think about what their problems are, and not just go to an outside supplier of automation equipment.”

Greg Wine, president of Pallet Machinery Group, commented that lean and automation can go together because lean is about having things in the right place and that makes automation more efficient.

Wine added, “It all depends on the application. Sometimes automation makes things simpler due to repetitive motion. Other times automation can make things more complex, such as moving from manual to PC controls that can require a more technologically inclined worker.”

Much of the early work in lean practices has taken place in in the automotive industry with parts that are very similar made out of plastic or metal. Wine suggested, “Lean manufacturing in the pallet industry is worlds apart from the automotive sector. Every piece of wood is unique unlike automotive parts, which are supposed to be fairly uniform…You take cants – until you start sawing into it, you don’t know what is inside.”

Every application is unique requiring analysis from operators, managers, engineers and other experts. Just because you have always done something that way in the past doesn’t make it the right way to do something.

“Lean has a strong emphasis on engineering,” Emiliani said, encouraging manufacturers to “use your thinking to develop your own equipment, then you can manage and fix it yourself. Let’s say I need to drill a hole in something. There are complicated ways to do that with big expensive machinery, or I can use a simple drill head and combination to do the same job.”

Quesada-Pineda reminded that manufacturers also need to look at the future when considering automation. “You may see a cool machine that builds a pallet, but you have to stop and think if it’s going to fit your needs five years from now. Otherwise, purchasing it might limit your growth in the future. You have to have the flexibility to make changes as you need them.”

But when automating, as both Emiliani and Quesada-Pineda pointed out, you’re somewhat reliant on the third party equipment manufacturer, unless you’ve built the equipment yourself.

“Automation might mean re-work and less waste, but not necessarily,” Emiliani said of these two big benefits of automation that you often hear about. You really have to consider each situation, and weigh a number of factors, he said. One factor that can impact whether automation is the right solution is the volume of product you’re producing, and another is whether you’re producing a lot of the same product, or whether you fill a lot of mixed orders.

“Automation might work well when you don’t have a high level of customization,” said Quesada-Pineda, But when doing a lot of custom work, it might not work so well.

Gookin confirmed this tendency when he said most automated nailing lines need at least  a few hundred pallets per size/design to make the process worthwhile to do on a machine. Even if it only takes less than 10 minutes to changeover a machine, you still have to stage lumber and do other things that can add to the process.

Companies who want to go lean should begin by mastering the basic 5S tools – sort, set, shine, standardize and sustain, he said. “These don’t require a huge investment, but they do require discipline.”

Also, if you involve automation, it is a good idea to talk with the manufacturer to identify best practices. You want to know what is the optimum production rate for that machine, not the old line or doing it by hand. And if you are not able to meet those targets, you need to be looking for what could be contributing to poor production rates.

One way you can improve your output is through better lumber feeding. Gookin suggested, “You want to turn material the correct way. For example, with the old gang saws, you used to have steps in the lumber. You had to turn boards the right way or they would lock up. Steps are ridges in the boards that can hang up in the nailing machines.”

If your company seriously wants to transform and follow solid lean principles, Emiliani recommends that you also get advice from a kaizen consultant who has specific knowledge of process improvement.

Kaizen, which means “improvement” in Japanese, is the practice of continuous improvement in the business world. It was originally introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai of Japan, and really took off worldwide after being used successfully by Toyota.

Emiliani, who has written numerous books including “Better Thinking, Better Results,” recommends this book to those in the pallet industry because “it shows the approach to kaizan that one should take in order to get results. It’s a real life story of a real life company with real people,” he said.

Emiliani helps organizations by leading workshops, assisting in the development of lean leadership training programs, speaking at company meetings, and through lean leadership coaching.

Lean and automation can go together. And better management of all your assets will continue to be crucial to survive. Gookin concluded, “Right now you have the labor shortage, and the talent is not as good as it used to be in many places. Also, you are hearing more about $15 hour minimum wages, which will drive employee costs up. All of this will put more and more of a crunch on the pallet industry.”

Production Board

Hazards at the Huddle Board: Away From Fast Thinking, Toward Disciplined PDCA

As more companies use the huddle board approach for continuous improvement, people need to be aware of the pitfalls involved. “Often what’s picked up as a problem may be a nuisance or an inconvenience,’ says David Verble. ‘There is an attempt to make a general link between these problems and the priorities of the company.’