The “5 S” Approach to Reliable MRO Operations

By George E. Krauter

May 18, 2018 at 7:05 AM

“5 S” (sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain) is a system of organization that increases the likelihood that production will occur exactly as planned. 5 S approaches are designed to keep the workplace safe and productive; the concept contends that when the workplace is clean, organized, and safe, it is easier for workers to perform their jobs without wasting time or risking injury. This five-step process improves the overall efficiency of a plant. Should it also be applied to MRO reliability?

From an MRO perspective the following series of questions that account for each of the five stages of the 5 S process should be posed:  

#1. SORT:

  • Are all SKU’s named properly?
  • Are suppliers assigned to SKU’s?
  • Are all parts assigned SKU number?
  • Do you control excess spot-buy inventory?


  • Are high usage parts close to point of issue?
  • Are SKU’s located by asset, by brand, or by product?
  • Are heavy parts stored safely?
  • Do stock locations have proper identification?

     #3. SHINE:

  • Are all SKU’s clean and devoid of dust and rust?
  • Are shelving and storage bins safe and sturdy?
  • Is the storeroom clean and conducive to a pleasant work environment?


  • Are there different SKU’s for the same part under different brand names?
  • Are OEM spares commercialized to standard?
  • Do suppliers offer standardization programs?


This aspect of the process is best illustrated with a real-life example:

A procurement manager, who was responsible for the company’s capital expenditures, was also assigned the responsibility of MRO purchasing and control. She came to realize that MRO was a small percentage of her total responsibility while requiring over 80% of her time.

With the help of a major supplier, she initiated the 5 S concepts successfully, reaped the benefits, and established a procedure to keep the processes in place, i.e. sustain. There was now time to reduce costs in the capital spend area… at which she excelled.

The company rewarded her success with a substantial increase in compensation and a promotion into senior management.

A newly hired manager was assigned to MRO who felt he had to put his “mark” on MRO. He sent an RFQ to multiple suppliers and chose the low-priced suppliers per category; his goal was to be able to show that he reduced MRO pricing. He did not recognize the other financial and non-financial values the previous manager had created as a result of the deployment of a 5 S approach.

Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, as well as Sustain were ignored, and the storeroom retreated to its previous unreliable and costly state. MRO came full circle the wrong way.

Perform a self-assessment

If you answered “No” to most of the questions above, consider changing your current approach. You have an opportunity to save your company substantial dollars and to reap the following “5S” related benefits:

  • Cost reductions
  • Higher quality
  • Increased production
  • Greater employee satisfaction
  • Safer work environment

The implementation of a 5 S concept requires dedication and supplier cooperation. However, if steps are not taken to recognize the benefits (such as sign off by senior management), the effort will not be sustained and efforts at MRO efficiency improvement will ultimately fail. 

Tags: MRO efficiency MRO operatoins SKU Management SKU optimization
Category: Blog Post

George E. Krauter


George Krauter, former founder and president of Industrial Systems Assoc. [I.S.A.] has retired as vice president of Synovos.

Currently, he has initiated, "George Krauter Consulting [GKC]"  for effective reliability and cost recovery for consumers  of MRO materials. George is a recognized authority on the management of the MRO supply chain and support for maintenance reliability programs. His book, "OUTSOURCING MRO...FINDING A BETTER WAY" is available from Amazon and from Reliability

He is published in Uptime, Modern Distribution Management, and Supply and Demand Chain Executive. George has conducted seminars across North America, in Europe, and in the U.A.R. as well as a guest speaker at Temple U., Howard U., Duke, and MIT.

George is a graduate of Temple University; he lives with his wife, Joyce, in Bucks County, PA. All grand kids live within eating distance. He can be reached anytime:

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