Continuously improve and grow with 5S at AFPRO Filters

Step by step to success: discover how AFPRO Filters continuously improves and grows with 5S

AFPRO Filters was founded in the 1970s and grew on the power of its people. Joachim le Loux, Warehouse & Distribution manager at AFPRO Filters explains why and how they have refined their improvement processes step by step with the power of 5S. Curious about how they implemented 5S at all levels within AFPRO with our help and made their employees enthusiastic (and managed to retain them)? Then read on and be inspired!


AFPRO Filters was founded in the 1970s and grew on the strength of its people, rather than streamlined systems and procedures. Everyone did everything based on their own abilities and their own knowledge. Although this approach was effective for a long time, it came to a standstill when new employees arrived. To tackle this challenge, we were given the opportunity to support AFPRO Filters with our 5S expertise. By implementing the 5S method.

“Our goal was crystal clear: everyone had to know exactly where they could find their supplies and how our processes worked. We strived for efficiency to process orders faster and serve our customers faster. It was crucial that every employee understood this – that they saw how these changes were not only important, but also delivered tangible results,” said Joachim le Loux, Warehouse & Distribution manager at AFPRO Filters.

A flying start in the Netherlands and Poland

We started immediately and gave a powerful kick-off at AFPRO in both the Netherlands and Poland. While Poland was already quite structured (with around 50% of the process completed), AFPRO Filters in the Netherlands was still in the early stages, perhaps around 10%. During the kick-off, AFPRO focused on two important questions: What does 5S actually mean and why is it relevant? We then put together a new core team, consisting of four team leaders and three shop floor employees. “We wanted to involve people in the core team who were already enthusiastic in advance and saw the usefulness of it to inspire other employees,” says Joachim.

From unknown to essential in small steps

“Under the leadership of Miranda Suijkerbuijk (from 5S Company), who took the lead with determination and expertise, the 5S process was activated and inspired. To create awareness among the employees at AFPRO Filters, 5S-Company has always tackled a small part of the process and made it as small as possible. We then looked at these small steps together with the employees, so that it was understandable for everyone. “At first, employees on the floor found it a bit scary because they thought it was too bulky and that it would be a waste of time and money, but with the support Miranda and from management we were able to do this relatively quickly and well unroll."

Awareness among employees

“When I look back and explain how we did the current method last year, they look at me with amazement. Because 5S-Company let us work with 5S in a targeted manner, we discovered how many small daily inefficiencies there actually were. If twelve people each act identically, without seeing the bigger picture, we are wasting valuable time. But by letting one person invest half an hour, we make immediate profits and can work more efficiently from early in the morning.

As a manager, it is our job to keep the principles of 5S alive, encourage and monitor them, because this does not happen automatically. Fortunately, we see that people pick up more quickly what needs to be done and understand why it is important. By involving employees and rewarding their ideas, we increase involvement and motivation. An example of this is handing out vouchers during our daily meetings for good ideas. In this way we show our appreciation for their efforts and encourage others to also contribute to improvements.

Recentelijk zijn we overgestapt naar groepen van 10-15 mensen voor de dagelijkse opstart, in plaats van één grote groep van 50″, deelde Joachim zijn recente aanpassing. “Dit maakt het veel interactiever en efficiënter. Mensen voelen zich vrijer om te praten in kleinere groepen, waardoor we sneller kunnen aanpassen en controleren.”

“The group had very positive experiences about both 5S Company and the 5S roll-out“, said Joachim. “With a pragmatic approach and full of enthusiasm, 5S-Company managed to get us moving. Their hands-on approach and clear communication made the process effective and stimulating. This proved to be the most effective approach, especially for logistics tasks. The fact that the practical aspect was well integrated and that people worked actively on the work floor was experienced as particularly pleasant.”

The result and next steps

“As a person ultimately responsible, you know all too well the danger of the daily hustle and bustle. It is so easy to let the important things fade away in the hustle and bustle of the day. I also caught myself: “Oh, Miranda Suijkerbuijk (from 5S-Company) is coming next week. What have we actually done over the past 12 weeks?” And then you suddenly realize that nothing has actually happened, just like when you start studying for five minutes before an exam. That is not the path we want to take, and it makes no sense. Fortunately, thanks to Miranda, we learned in that first period that it has to be a daily process and that is exactly what takes the most energy to maintain.”

Although the results are difficult to measure, Joachim clearly sees a difference! “Efficiency increases significantly. You see it in the processes; people no longer reach for products wrongly, there is a feeling of peace and regularity. All work tables are uniform, no more mess or chaos. It makes it possible to replace employees, instead of them being stuck at their own work table. It has become much more efficient and calmer for everyone, thanks to the stimulating approach of 5S-Company.”

Continuously improve and grow with 5S

AFPRO Filters is currently in the assurance phase. “The next step is to standardize and maintain these improvements in our processes. The human factor again comes to the fore. People are more difficult to adjust than a line on the floor or a table layout. What appeals to me personally is that these changes have come from the employees themselves. In large organizations, an external person often comes in to change things, but for us, as a small company, that would not have worked. While it may take longer and not everything can be changed immediately, it is important that this process is open and accessible to all of us. It fits who we are and what we want to achieve.”

Joachim's golden tip: Be aware of the fact that change always yields something!

“It's easy to stick to familiar processes, but that can lead to business blindness. With a 5S or Lean approach we can always strive for improvement and efficiency. It is a continuous process of new insights and adjustments, which is essential for growth and success. So get help from experts and stay alert, even for the small details, because they can ultimately make the difference between standing still and moving forward.”

We are grateful for the trust that AFPRO Filters has placed in us. Would you like to stay informed about the further steps we take in their journey towards continuous improvement? Then keep a close eye on us!

Meet AFPRO Filters

Everyone has the right to clean air. AFPRO Filters produces and distributes filters and solutions for air filtration. Since its inception in 1979, AFPRO Filters has achieved a leading role in the international air filtration market. With sales offices in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Poland, Australia and Finland and an extensive international dealer network, their filters are available worldwide.

Website AFPRO Filters

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