5S in a Box

Based on this shop’s experience, industrial vending systems and lockers can help kick-start and sustain lean manufacturing initiatives.


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Cutting tool vending machines aren’t the only equipment at Oakley Die & Mold that embody lean concepts. One of the latest inventory control systems to be installed at the shop is a system for storing nuts, bolts washers and other small items. Featuring weight sensors linked to LEDs that change colors when stock reaches certain levels, this is essentially a Kanban system. (Picture taken at system supplier Apex Supply Chain Technologies).

Oakley Die & Mold’s deep machining expertise was a prime reason why the injection mold manufacturer was acquired in 2013, and the fundamentals of the process here haven’t changed much since then. What has changed is that the shop is now more organized, standardized and efficient than ever before, all thanks to its embrace of tried-and-true, lean manufacturing principles.

Early on, with much of the work of implementing lean still ahead, one product in particular made a significant and immediate contribution to the shop’s goals. Just as notably, it also provided an early case in point for what one essential lean tool, 5S, is all about.

That product is the industrial vending machine, two of which now provide point-of-use storage and distribution of all the shop’s cutting tool inventory. Consider that point-of-use distribution is the very definition of “sort,” which, in this context, calls for stocking only necessary items near the work area. New tools are organized (“set in order”) immediately upon receiving a unique identification number and being entered into the system. They’re kept safe and clean inside the vending units (“shine”), and there’s a set procedure for retrieving them (“standardize”). Discipline is essentially forced, because there’s no other way to retrieve a tool (“sustain”). 

Oakley Die & Mold didn’t stop with 5S, or with those first two vending systems. This article offers more details about how the shop’s approach to managing inventory evolved along with its lean journey.