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Continuous improvement & 5S 2.0 for Product Development in CAREL


Continuous improvement & 5S 2.0 for Product Development in CAREL

CAREL, an Italian HVAC/R introduced the Lean to the Product Development process back in 2009. After the R&D reorganization, implementation of visual project management and establishment of PDCA, CAREL decided the need to do more to support its product development teams. In 2012 company launched two Continuous Improvement (CI) initiatives: (1) Dedicated time for CI activities within “focus areas”, and (2) 5S 2.0 initiative for R&D workplace stabilization, maintenance and improvement. Continue reading to find out more about CAREL’s way to continuous improvement, 5S 2.0 and how this affects their product development.

CAREL is one of the world’s leaders in control solutions for air-conditioning, refrigeration, heating, and systems for humidification and evaporative cooling. CAREL prides itself as the company with a mission is to bring energy savings and reduce the impact of machinery and systems on the environment.

In 2007-2009, during the global economic crisis many companies were facing the challenge to remain competitive, but CAREL kept growing. This growth meant that leadership was required to find a solution, effective and flexible enough, to support that growth. They found the answer in the Lean Product Development approach.

CAREL takes continuous improvement very seriously and everyone in the company commits to it, from executives to shop floor workers. This helps the company to keep in touch with the latest technologies and scientific discoveries, enabling CAREL to stay ahead of its competition. To nurture this culture, CAREL introduced a dedicated time for continuous improvement across all product development teams. The company assigns 20% of employees’ time, solely to improving their “focus areas”. This means that no matter to which project an employee is currently assigned, they will dedicate their 20% of time to work on the improving a specific “focus area” they belong to. Regardless of their project tasks. This type of system provides multiple benefits besides regularly reviewed and updated “focus areas”. One of the key advantages, CAREL likes to point out, is that when you put together employees from the same “focus area” but from the different projects, they all have their own views and suggestions, influenced by their experiences, people they work with (on projects), and work they do. Having this diversity truly drives  innovation and continuous improvement within CAREL.

All product development employees spend 20% of their time engaged in continuous improvement activities in their 2 focus areas

Additionally, CAREL applies a systematic approach called 5S to stabilize, maintain and improve its working environment across offices as well as production lines. This helps the company create an efficient and safe work environment. The 5S technique is based on five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke. These words can be translated in English as: sort, stabilize, shine, standardize and sustain.

  1. SEIRI (SORT): Separate useful and useless things; eliminate useless things.
  2. SEITON (STABILIZE): Set useful things in order, so that other people can understand where their place is. “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
  3. SEISO (SHINE): Clever cleanliness of the workplace: reinstate and define optimal operative conditions.
  4. SEIKETSU (STANDARDIZE): Communicate standards and correct operating methods in the simplest and most effective way.
  5. SHITSUKE (SUSTAIN): Respect the defined standards and apply the first 4S in order to keep and improve the results.

To distinguish its 5S initiative in product development from the shop floor initiative, CAREL decided to name the product development one a “5S 2.0”. The company’s goal is to ensure 5S sustainability over time by analyzing and reviewing existing standards, extending 5S to the environments that are still not included, and by implementing an auditing program for every single group of desks.

How does it work? A 5S team leader (a person from each “group of desks” – previously defined) raises possible issues and encourages his/her colleagues to resolve them collaboratively. The same 5S team leader is also required to perform a weekly self-audit on his/her own group of each desk in the predetermined period of time, after which a new 5S team leader is selected.

CAREL estimates that the combination of these two approaches and their consistency results in three-hour savings in cycle times for every hour invested in continuous improvement.

Book 2017 - Mockup 01 (small-900px)

CAREL’s Best Practices are presented and described on more than 25 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. CAREL’s chapter is only one out of the 10 chapters presenting the real-world application of lean product development in multinational companies.

The hard copy of the book with the 10 cases is available for only 74.99 EUR.


CAREL’s Lean Product Development case is available digitally free of charge to our members.


Interested to become a member?



Lean Analytics Association

Matic has over 5 years of experience in working with global organizations from various industrial sectors, either leading or supporting the development and introduction of bespoke lean innovation and new product development solutions. Over the past years, Matic has co-developed a framework to enable better, faster and more integrated innovation across the entire value chain, enabling companies to maximize their innovation capability and deliver truly customer-centric products and services, while minimizing the risk of market failure.

Matic is a certified Service Design Thinking Facilitator, and the creator of the Set-Based Integrated Innovation Business Game co-developed with a multinational Swiss company. He completed his Master’s degree in Global Product Development and Management at Cranfield University in 2012.

Matic is a co-author of the Lean Product Development Best Practices book, and several journal and conference publications. He regularly appears as a speaker and workshop holder at various lean, product development and innovation conferences.

CAREL Industries

Alberto Rosso is a Lean Change Agent at CAREL Industries since 2007 after a very useful experience abroad working 3 years in the United States as ERP Manager.

He is also a Master trainer in Lean Management and has a vast experience deploying tools and impacting behaviors, working on leadership styles and applying change management approaches cross-functionally.

Now his main focus is in New Product Development, Innovation process, Road mapping.

Lean Analytics Association

Dr. Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.

She is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable Industry-University collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.

Myrna Flores
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