Lucite International’s (LI) Beaumont site in Texas, USA is focused on a program of work aimed at improving safety and environmental performance as well as increasing process reliability while reducing costs and adding value to customers. New Site Director, Chris Healy shares an account of how the team is using 5-S as a means of challenging old mind sets and behaviors and getting everyone involved in improving the working environment across the site.

LI employees are becoming increasingly familiar with the 5-S philosophy now that we are part of the Mitsubishi family. For anyone who does not know, 5-S is a simple but effective approach to reducing waste and increasing productivity by creating and maintaining an orderly workplace. It is based on five Japanese action words supporting the idea that everything has a place and that everything should be in its proper place in order to optimize working practices. The words are:

1. Seiri meaning to ‘Sort’ out unnecessary things from the area
2. Seiton meaning to ‘Set in order’ items that can be located with the least ergonomic effort
3. Seiso translates to ‘Shine’ or keeping the workplace clean
4. Shiketsu translates to ‘Standardize’; the process should be well defined
5. Shitsuke is about the discipline to ‘Sustain’ the path of continuous improvements

Chris said: “Since launching our 5-S program, employees have gotten actively engaged in improving housekeeping and organising work areas and opportunities to improve are constantly being developed.”

‘Dry slab’ approach helps make a difference
One initiative supporting the 5-S work, called ‘dry slab’, is also helping to drive improvements. Implementing a dry slab approach means all site containment areas are being further protected from corrosive process leaks. Although process drains are routed into containment, they are required to be closed to prevent contaminating the containment areas. This work continues as part of ongoing efforts to reduce Beaumont’s impact on the environment. Employing dry slab will help keep containment areas clean as well as ensuring their structural integrity is sustained going forward.


Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) up by almost 30%
Chris continued: “Applying 5-S principles has helped to significantly improve reliability and maintenance costs. Leaks into containment often originate from leaking pump seals or other rotating equipment. We’ve increased our focus on seal configuration, pump operations, leak identification and troubleshooting to reduce the number of leaking seals and to help diagnose causes of failures. Focusing on the root causes has really helped to improve predictability around the plant and the methodology has resulted in an increase of almost 30% in MTBF for mechanical seals.” Reducing seal failures is directly linked to the dry slab strategy and employees recognize that the dry slab approach prevents machinery and equipment deterioration in addition to promoting a clean and safer work place.

Paint and shine!
The maintenance team at Beaumont (pictured above) has recently rebuilt a pump and turbine. Chris said: “This is a perfect example of how things are improving. Now, when a pump is removed from service and rebuilt in the reorganized maintenance shop, it undergoes resurfacing before being painted and returned to service looking like new. There is a real sense of pride as the maintenance team contribute to the ‘Shine’ part of 5-S throughout the site.”

In the past, outside contractors were employed to paint buildings, containment area borders, process piping and other equipment. Now LI people have stepped up to include this work as part of their respective area 5-S plans. Greg Killian, Cyanides Superintendent, explained: “One of the benefits of having our own team do the painting is the increased sense of ownership. They see the improvements as their own and take real pride in their new surroundings.”


Sort, Set and Shine builds deeper pride
Chris continued: “As our employees recognise the cleaner and safer working conditions, they are becoming more engaged in continuously improving. Abnormal conditions become more obvious during iterations of the Sort, Set, and Shine processes, which helps prevent safety and environmental concerns from happening in the first place. It’s great to be able to share a picture of the Cyanides team in front of one of their recently repainted buildings.”

Chris concluded: “5-S is one of many continuous improvement tools we’re using at Beaumont, but it’s particularly important in driving our cultural change and increasing active participation from all of us on the site to improve our safety, environmental and reliability performance. As we implement 5-S in a practical way, coupled with other effective improvement tools, we expect to continuously improve our process performance and add value to our customers.”