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Dalco Metals: Mastering the 5S System


Developed in Japan, the 5S system is a lean manufacturing process built around – as translated into English -- sorting, setting in order, shining, standardizing and sustaining. One of the U.S. manufacturers that has implemented 5S and swears by its effectiveness is Dalco Metals, a small manufacturer based in Walworth, Wisconsin.

The theory behind 5S is that a disorganized work space leads to lost production time at best (as frustrated workers hunt for the paperwork, tool or part they need), and machine malfunctions or production errors at worst. 5S requires companies to focus on organization, cleanliness, visual order, and standardization. To have value, 5S must be practiced continually; it can’t just be a one-time exercise like a “spring cleaning.”

Dalco Metals is a supplier of flat-rolled steel-processing services to customers in a multi-state region. It is a family-owned company that celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2013. John Ring, the company’s president, had already heard about 5S when he participated in a workshop hosted by the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP). Unsure at first whether their factory floor would benefit from 5S, Dalco first focused on bringing lean principles into their administrative office. Staff members were re-grouped around work flow, rather than by department. Administrative procedures were reviewed and streamlined. As a result, administrative processing times were reduced by half.

Seeing those results, Dalco was ready to take a closer look at the factory floor. 5S involves reviewing and re-thinking employees’ activities, and ensuring that their work area accommodates their productivity and effectiveness. Employees were asked for their input as part of this process. The goal is for tools, equipment, and documents to be located within 30 seconds. The result of the process was more than 225 improvements on the shop floor, resulting in more standardized and efficient work flow. As the economy began to improve, Dalco was positioned to process orders quicker.

By demonstrating the value of 5S as part of a lean program, Dalco Metals is a Great Manufacturing Story.