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5S and Lean Sanitation Strategies Improve Food Safety by Ensuring Cleanliness Throughout the Supply Chain

October 13, 2017 4:06 pm0 commentsViews: 3

sanitation1A meatpacking facility was wasting countless hours on their sanitation processes, and losing capacity and inventory as a result. The company decided to implement lean sanitation methods to eliminate excess time and costs spent on cleaning procedures – while still meeting their high standards for cleanliness and sanitation. They began by training each member of the work staff on assembly, tear down, production, and sanitation. Standards and self-inspection procedures were established, and re-enforced on a daily basis. As a result, the company saw a 45% increase in production, and a 65% decrease in waste and inventory. Due to the lean sanitation methods the organization applied to its workforce, they were able to save on costs and expand their operation to a new facility. Applying lean strategies to sanitation in a food supply chain is a proven method to increasing overall performance to achieve better results and minimize negative impact. 


Sanitation is a critical element to food supply chain safety, yet value-added sanitation generally accounts for less than 90 minutes of productivity in a 24-hour period.

The USDA has recognized that there is no “one size fits all” approach to this process, and has offered to extend the period between clean-ups if companies take a lean approach.

Food companies are required to develop, implement, and maintain an effective written plan for standard operating procedures during clean-up. These procedures must be successful in preventing adulteration or the direct contamination of all products within the food supply chain. The USDA has reported that when given the extra time, companies can increase overall capacity by developing sanitation programs that decrease non-operating hours. The department has found a general increase of up to 33% in capacity, with an associated reduction in costs and working capital. Therefore, implementing lean practices in sanitation is actually saving food companies a third of costs in overall production.


The 5S approach to lean sanitizing workspaces can help food companies quickly and efficient meet and exceed their goals. 5S is the ultimate guide to eliminating waste, streamlining processes, and creating enforced standards. The term 5S stands for the 5 stages of the program:

  • Sort – Determine the useful items, and remove the rest from the workspace.
  • Set in Order – Organize the remaining items to streamline processes, and set them as close to the point of use as possible.
  • Sanitize – Conduct daily cleaning and thorough inspections to assess if any corrective action needs to be taken.
  • Standardize – Develop common methods for consistency and institute set rules.
  • Sustain – This final step requires holding your gains, while continuously improving your progress. It’s about taking the actions needed to make changes sustainable over time.

Safety is inherent to all lean principles, and sanitation is crucial in food supply chain management. Applying the 5S principles, can help organize and assess current sanitation processes. The following are the main steps in a lean structured approach for maintaining proper sanitation:

Assess Your Current Sanitization RoutinesIn order to understand where your food supply chain is in terms of sanitation processes, the entire system needs to be assessed. One of the most effective ways to looking at a system is to map it out in a process known as “value-stream mapping.” This type of brainstorming should be done by a group of knowledgeable people, representing all aspects of the organization. Preparing flow diagrams will help to determine exactly where to eliminate waste and streamline the process.

Eliminate Waste: Evaluate tools to determine their value, discard obsolete items, and organize the remaining items for efficient retrieval and storage. Point-of-use storage (POUS) is a very practical method in lean sanitation, as it eliminates the time spent looking for items. Installing clean-out-of-place (COP) tanks can also save the time moving heavy equipment between the scullery and processing areas. The main focus should be on improving operational sanitation processes, and the overall time spent on each.

Standards and Continuous Improvement: Once the sanitation routine is assessed and organized, systems must be put in place to maintain cleanliness while also improving it at any moment. At this point in the lean management cycle, cross-training of teams begins, and top performers are selected to oversee processes. As skills progress, workers can develop working groups capable of conducting all operations in the lean sanitation process, separate from the entire network. In other words, workers become more self sufficient, increasing accountability, morale, and decreasing waste and costs.

Introducing lean sanitation will allow an organization to replace dedicated crews for sanitation. Rapid cleanup crews can develop, as workers perform heavy operational sanitation within their own working cells. When this occurs, production lot sizes are reduced. This results in a greater utilization of capacity, and a cleaner food supply chain focused on consumer safety.

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