5S in Aviation Maintenance

5S provides the necessary organizational focus and method to reduce waste in the workplace.


The face lift begins here. We paint and clean the area after we re-organize. Equipment may get a new coat of paint. Years of accumulated dust and dirt are washed off by liberal application of soap and water.

Floors are cleaned and, if necessary, repainted or re-conditioned. Areas that are set aside for remaining equipment will be repainted or outlined. In a shop the application of paint on the walls and equipment can have positive effect on staff productivity. Broken equipment that survived the sort process must be repaired at this time. Time must be set aside to periodically clean and restore any improvements made.


By now we have invested a lot of time and effort in the previous three processes. Now we train the work force to the new system. Procedures for shop cleanup and management of the new environment must be trained and enforced throughout the workplace. If a team was assigned to create the plan and implementation, they should carry out training of the work force.

The 5S plan should include analysis of workstations. If identical work is performed in multiple locations, for example, nonstandard workstation layouts must be addressed so that one worker can use a location interchangeably with another. This analysis can be applied to hangar bays, back shops, and offices. The level of execution in this area can spell the difference in success or failure in the 5S effort. The organization will know if it falls short of its planned goals. These decisions will have to be made at the planning level so the effort doesn’t falter over unplanned costs.


We are here! We made it …have a party and celebrate. You’ve achieved a great milestone. Afterwards go back and do it again. This is sustaining. If we fail to maintain, we just fall back to where we started. Most efforts fail here after clear success early in the process. There are lots of reasons. But they all result in gradual deterioration of the effort because the organization fails somehow to incorporate the changes into its corporate culture.

5S keeps providing dividends only by constant practice and application. The drive for excellence is tied to continuous execution. Our plan in the beginning must include the means we will use to sustain our success.

Part of the lean journey

The thing about 5S is that it fits very well with aviation maintenance. It speaks to all the disciplines involved with internal compliance standards. The following are some examples that respond well to 5S implementation:

  • Hangar and shop standards (sort, shine, and standardize)
  • Quality assurance (standardization, sustain)
  • FOD control (sort, set in place, standardization)
  • Production control (sort, set in place, standardize, sustain)
  • Recordkeeping (sort, set in place, standardize, sustain)

Keep in mind that 5S is often part of a larger effort related to Lean implementation. But there is no rule that says it has to be. Also making these changes requires a top down and bottom up coordination to better mitigate the discomfort that change brings. Success is best achieved by starting small building on small continuous successes. Find an area whose improvement would be visible and make changes, then pick a new area and begin again. Keep in mind how small parts of the organization contribute to the whole. Be ready to fail, learn from failure, then try again and succeed. After all this is a journey; enjoy the ride. AMT


Vern Berry began his aviation career as an A&P mechanic in 1979. His experience within the aviation industry includes key management roles in quality and safety for both MRO and air carrier operations. He currently resides in upper state New York where he writes and manages a consultant firm at www.blowntireaviation.com.

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