Operation Team Introduces the 5S Lean Manufacturing System

Implementing the 5S System at West Pak

Meet Avo Expert, Brian Byrne. As the Special Projects Manager of Operations at West Pak Avocado Inc., one of his many roles includes managing all global operations projects from California, Texas to Uruapan, Mexico, to effectively ensure West Pak’s high standards for quality and consistency are met.

Last year, Brian and his team were tasked with developing an effective strategy for implementing the 5S Lean Manufacturing System (5S System) into our Operations Department. Designed to improve workplace efficiency and eliminate waste, the 5S System also helps the West Pak organization to comply with important food safety standards. One of the most important laws to date is the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011, which aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from reactive to proactive measures. The FSMA encourages the food industry to implement means preventing contamination, instead of responding to it.

The goal for transitioning the West Pak Operation’s team to the 5S System was to educate, organize and train our employees to rethink their daily tasks with the 5S mindset.

Did You Know: The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years.”

From hand grown avocados to hands on learning

To start the transition process, Brian’s team focused on our 115,000 square foot packaging facility in Murrieta. With over six million avocados packed and marketed during California Avocado season alone, our primary concern was avoiding any disruption of our bustling distribution center during the implementation of the 5S System. Thus, Brian and his team took the time to educate each department on the 5S process, below:

  1. Sort: Clearing up your workplace, keeping only what you need.
  2. Set in Order: Organize, identify and arrange everything in your workplace.
  3. Shine: Regularly clean and maintain your equipment and work environment.
  4. Standardize: Make sure everyone is doing the same thing in the same way.
  5. Sustain: Ensure adherence to the system to maintain a safe and efficient workplace.
The 5S System Is: A workplace organization methodology that refers to five steps, including: sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain.

Enacting the 5S System

Once the system’s steps were understood and implemented, the managers of each zone in our Murrieta facility audited the employees and informed the operations team of the results. Each employee had the opportunity to implement, sort, clean, and organize tools and work areas the way they preferred, within the boundarites of standardized guidelines.

Thus, 5S became more than a simple housekeeping initiative for West Pak. It allowed us to transform a once traditional work site into a visual factory and laid the foundation for a Lean Enterprise System across all our operations.

    1. Customers
    2. Enables Food Safety
    3. Improves the West Pak Organization
    4. Employee Safety
    5. Establishes Standards

For a 30-year old organization, implementing a new process is more than adding a method, it requires a cultural shift. We already knew that our Operations Department ensured quality and cleanliness of our fruit, while maintaining a safe work environment for our employees, but we felt there were other benefits the 5S System offered. To justify the change, we explained the benefits to all of our employees:

    • Benefits the West Pak customer by enabling us to bring the highest quality, at the lowest cost and with the best lead time to the marketplace.
    • Enables West Pak to focus on minimizing food safety risks for our consumers.
    • Benefits West Pak by improving credibility, flexibility, and integrity while increasing employee engagement and ownership.
    • Improves employee safety and job security. It also encourages employee involvement and increases job satisfaction.
    • Promotes an improved work flow and the establishment of standards.

What’s next?

The 5S System is still in early stages of implementation at West Pak, but it is quickly evolving. As we continue to educate our teams across the country, we hope the 5S System can boost employee morale, quality of work and overall safety in our facilities. In turn, we hope to provide our West Pak customers with the the highest quality of fruit from the most advanced operations in the avocado industry.