LEAN HACCP is the use of LEAN principles and methodologies in HACCP implementation and maintenance.

LEAN SIX SIGMA (LEAN) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) are two very different concepts and worlds. In fact, there are some connection points between these two methodologies by which HACCP implementation can benefit by the use of some LEAN principles and tools. That’s what we will call from now on as “Lean HACCP”.

But first let’s talk briefly about Lean.

LEAN philosophy looks to the organizations and GEMBA (operations) as places where changes have always as goal to add value and/or reduce waste (activities with no added value).

The key basic principles of the Lean methodology are:

• Continuous flow processes and reduce waiting times.
• Avoid overproduction and reduce stocks
• Quality assurance at first, detecting errors easily and in a timely manner
• Standardization, ensuring stable working methods
• Use of visual controls for better communication of indicators and relevant information
• Continuous improvement

The next 3 tools are very common when implementing LEAN but as explained below can be of great assistance to Food Safety professionals when working to ensure safe food to consumers.


Waste reduction


Traditionally LEAN identifies 7 key areas of waste: Overproduction, Waiting, Transport, Motion, Overprocessing, Inventory and Defects. More recently an eighth key area of waste has been proposed: Unused Talent or the waste of Human Potential. This waste occurs especially in organizations where workers are expected only to follow orders and execute as planned who are neither included nor heard in identifying problems | developing solutions. Unfortunately, this waste is not only limited to front line workers but oftentimes food safety professionals’ talent | potential is wasted as well.

Let’s consider transport and movement waste. When a worker moves 2.5 m (8’ 2”) to get a tool and comes back 10 times a day, at the end of the month this worker has walked at least 1.0 km (3280’10”). At the end of the year the worker lost 3 hours of work only to get that tool. When we talk about HACCP, we are not focused on productivity but on Food Safety. Movement of workers or transport of products can potentially lead to cross contamination and should be minimized.


What we should do:


Observe the layout of the facility. Are there processes not close to each other forcing people to move away and come back? Are there shared machines that serve many product lines? How many times do workers go to the warehouse to get labels?

Movement and transport do not add any value to the product but can potentially add contamination.

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The 5 S Pillars


The 5S system is designed to create order from chaos. Who hasn’t opened a drawer inside a food manufacturing facility just to see a mix of unnecessary and even forbidden items (sometimes during an audit)? This is where the 5 S system comes in handy to “clean up” and organize the workplace. The 5 S stands for Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.


What we should do:


Sort: separate what is needed from the unneeded (or even forbidden) material. Remove the unneeded. Unneeded items are potential sources of contamination and foreign materials.

Set in order: Neatly arrange and identify what is needed. Organize items; for example identify and separate food-contact and non-food-contact items.

Shine: Clean. Now that you have removed what’s not necessary and set everything in order is time to clean it up.

Standardize: Schedule (with the person in charge or the user of the materials) regular cleaning and maintenance, i.e. do regular Sort, Set in order and Shine. At this step, it is important to define Standard Operating Procedures (together with the workers).

Sustain: Make 5S a routine and an element of the workplace positive food safety culture. Consider doing regular checks by supervisors to make sure procedures are followed. Regularly assess any additional opportunities of improvement.


Visual Workplace


In connection with HACCP, it is common to use Visual Workplace with cleaning tools. You probably use or observed the use of different colours for cleaning tools to make it easier for workers to know if this brush is to be used inside production or outside. Another common example in commercial kitchens is the use of different designated color food cutting boards for use with different products (e.g. vegetables, meats, poultry, fish) for the prevention of cross-contamination.

We live in the information era. We all live in a world where it is easier than ever to access information. In business, oftentimes errors come from bad information, and lack thereof. When work related information is not available, either the workers lose time looking for it or even worse, they do their job unsure if that is what is supposed to be done.

When Visual Workplace critical information is presented in easy-to-understand visuals and positioned at the point of need, it works together with proper training to avoid errors and enhance compliance. Visual Workplace will also help sustain improvements and avoid workers reverting to old unproductive | unsafe habits.
For example, If after you Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize a drawer what better to Sustain than define a visual layout for all the needed content (e.g. do a shadow draw on the bottom of the drawer a place for notepad, pencil, calculator, … this will make clear is something is there that is not supposed to be). Other examples of visual devices can be Required Personal Protective Equipment notice, Food Safety Work Instructions at the point of need, Clear traffic paths to avoid cross-contamination, Signs for storage of products with different allergens, labels with expected values at monitoring points, instructions for the correct use of cleaning agents, etc.


Join the Sharing Knowledge Group (SKG) today to get

this article PDF* and join a community of food safety professionals.

*Only available until the end of this month.



LEAN and HACCP,  with different goals, congruently  contribute to the success and sustainability of the food business. LEAN HACCP (the use of LEAN principles and methodologies in HACCP implementation and maintenance) will help make HACCP more effective and introduce a new set of tools, approaches and perspectives to the Food Safety Team’s work.

This article was written with Sónia Pereira.


Disclaimer: The information contained on this article is based on research done in the last months and the authors personal experience and opinion. It is not intended to represent the view of any organization they work for or collaborate with. The authors will not be held liable for the use or misuse of the information provided in the article.

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