Feed mill stack

Implementing 5S or 6S housekeeping in mill

There are many reasons why a feed mill should implement a system to improve housekeeping and the organization of the facility, including employee safety, federal regulations and/or customer relations.


*Dr. Charles Stark is the Jim & Carol Brown associate professor in feed technology at Kansas State University. Dr. Adam Fahrenholz is assistant professor in the Prestage department of poultry science at North Carolina State University. Dr. Wilmer Pacheco is an extension specialist and assistant professor in the department of poultry science at Auburn University.

There are many reasons why a feed mill should implement a system to improve housekeeping and the organization of the facility, including employee safety, federal regulations and/or customer relations. Thinking about housekeeping always brings to mind the old phrase, "Cleanliness is next to godliness."

Over the last several years, feed companies have been implementing 5S or 6S systems as a way to improve the overall efficiency of their operations.

The 5S system originated in Japan and was developed by Hiroyuki Hirano for manufacturing companies. The 5S system has five pillars: (1) sort, (2) set in order, (3) shine, (4) standardize and (5) sustain. The 6S system adds safety to the list of pillars.

The 5S Guide, published by Creative Safety Supply (creativesafetysupply.com), outlines the following steps and provides practical tips for its implementation in any facility.

The first step is to sort and eliminate the clutter that is around each process or storage area in the facility. Get rid of tools, spare parts, excessive inventory or materials that may impede the process in the feed mill.

For example, look around your shop and inventory room, and determine if there are tools or parts that are no longer needed because the equipment has been removed or taken out of service. Grinding areas always seem to collect old screens, hammers and trash over the course of time. Removing these items will also help reduce safety hazards.

One recommendation is to add red tags to equipment or parts that need to be removed or relocated to a different part of the feed mill.

The second step is to set in order, which simply means to put everything in the right place. Organize each area of the feed mill based on the tools and equipment required for the process.

Some simple and low-cost examples in the feed mill include: (1) label the drawers on toolboxes and bins in the parts room, (2) install shadow boards for tools, (3) mark off areas within the warehouse for storing spare parts or supplies and (4) install holders for brooms, shovels and dustpans.

The key component of this step is to make sure that a standard and consistent method is used throughout the feed mill. There is nothing more frustrating than going to a broom storage rack and not finding a broom.

Also, think about employee efficiency when developing your system. For example, if you install only one rack for a broom, shovel and dustpan, how many times will the employee have to remove one or two of the items to get at the correct cleaning tool? The more difficult you make it for employees to clean, the less motivated they will likely be to do it.

The third step is to shine. This involves good old-fashioned elbow grease. Once you get rid of the clutter and organize the areas, it's amazing how much easier it will be to clean. Employees will also enjoy working in a clean and organized environment.

When it comes to cleaning, make sure that you provide good-quality equipment and supplies. How many times have we all been frustrated by a broom that leaves material on the floors? While cleaning, look for any equipment that is leaking material, dust or gearbox oil, because these leaks create more work for the employees.

Sort, set in order and shine should be part of the daily job responsibilities at the facility. When the forklift is not parked in the correct location or the broom has not been put away, employees should recognize the problem and take corrective actions.

The fourth step is to standardize, which requires the development of standard operating procedures, checklists and schedules. These tools will help everyone in the facility understand what needs to be done, how it needs to be done and how frequently the tasks should be done.

The fifth and final step is sustain. Sustaining an organized facility requires the commitment of everyone at the facility, starting with the top management staff. Employees will need both time and resources to implement and sustain the 5S system. Also, time and money will be required for cleaning, organizing and labeling.

Implementation of the 5S system may be a long-term process, since changing the culture of a facility is never an easy task. However, once the employees observe the benefits of the 5S system and recognize the value of coming to work at a safe, clean feed mill, they will be more apt to embrace the change.

The addition of the safety pillar created the 6S system, which companies are using because housekeeping and organization play important roles in a safe working environment.

Creating a safe working environment involves proper training, personal protective equipment and signage to create awareness. Employees should have training on hazard communication and emergency evacuation, as well as the topics associated with their specific job responsibilities, such as lockout/tagout, confined space, cutting and welding and proper use of forklifts and pallet jacks.

The 5S and 6S systems will improve efficiency, organization, housekeeping and safety at the facility when implemented correctly.

However, implementation must be a priority of the facility, starting at the top. If the manager is not committed to spending the time and resources required for implementation, then it is not reasonable to expect employees to be fully engaged. Also consider having both individual and department-based reward systems in place to motivate the employees.

As with anything in life, change is difficult, but the reward of a well-organized and safe workplace will bring a smile to your employees' faces, which is priceless.

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