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A Different Take on 5S & Food Safety

During the 1960’s, Tahichi Ohno developed a Lean methodology called “5S” that was incorporated into Toyota’s Production System. The five S’s - translated from Japanese to English – are 1) Sort, 2) Set, 3) Shine, 4) Standardize, and 5) Sustain. While typically thought of in terms of organizing a production facility, these principles can be applied directly to your Food Safety plan.


Cleaning the facility, dispositioning expired or contaminated food products, or removing obsolete equipment from the operation are obvious changes. However, you should also consider your implemented food safety plan. For example, review your food safety practices for processes that are inefficient and/or tasks that are difficult to conduct effectively, resulting in food safety system failure risks.


Simplifying your food safety processes can prevent employees from becoming disenfranchised and decrease non-compliances. Find the “pain points” – areas that are not functioning properly – and determine how to improve them so that employees are encouraged and empowered to support food safety.


Regularly inspect and check to see if the new processes are effective. Ensure all employees feel empowered to speak up when there is an issue, or a process isn’t working. The operation should be clean and pleasant to work in, everything should be in its place (e.g., equipment, utensils, products with allergens, etc.), and food-safe.


Food safety processes that have been determined to be efficient and effective must be standardized and employees should have the self-discipline to follow them without being instructed to do so. Not just the operation, but the employees, should be “audit ready” during all hours of operation. No system is perfect but, again, quality and food safety issues can be avoided by simplifying processes.


Considered the most difficult stage of the 5S methodology, this requires that food safety processes become second nature and integrated within the entire operation. If a key employee leaves the company, there should be no disruption within the food safety system. Trainings and employee empowerment are critical for continuity. All departments and employees must want to be part of the food safety plan implementation.

Taking a different approach to 5S and incorporating it into the development of your food safety system will help streamline your processes, increase employee satisfaction, mitigate risk, and support food safety and regulatory compliance within the operation.

Kidder Consulting Services

Kidder Consulting Services works with food companies and private equity firms (clients in the food industry) to bring a strategic, risk-based, proactive approach to food safety challenges. With over 20 years in industry, our experience includes food safety, regulatory compliance, supply chain management, operations, and due diligence work. Call us at (800) 918-8788 or email us at today to find out how we can help you address your food safety needs.



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