Success Story

GEM Equipment of Oregon, Inc.


Food Processing Equipment


Woodburn, Oregon

Date Founded


Number of Employees



GEM Equipment of Oregon, Inc. employs about 175 people in two facilities, one located in Woodburn and the other in Mt Angel. GEM Equipment designs, builds and installs large French fry processing equipment around the world. Some of these machines are over 100 feet long, 15 feet wide and two stories tall. They are capable of processing millions of pounds of potatoes each day. As you can imagine, there are tens-of-thousands of individual components making up one of these complex assemblies.


Non-value added activities


Part identification system


Everyone to ensure continuous improvement team efforts

The Situation

OMEP and GEM Equipment partnered to minimize non-value-added activities related to moving, storing and retrieving materials as components as they move between the two facilities. Many parts were getting lost, so GEM staff spent large amounts of time searching for parts. In some cases, they had to re-make parts them, only to discover the originals later.

The Solution

OMEP and Gem Equipment conducted time studies to establish the time required to complete a task.  It was determined each employee was wasting between 30 and 60 minutes per day searching for parts they needed to accomplish their work.  To reverse this condition, GEM Equipment implemented a package of tools collectively known as the 5-S system (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain).

As is the case in many manufacturing facilities, leftover material from previous jobs fill storage areas, making it difficult to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary components.  The first step to resolve the problem was a major “SORT” activity.  Thousands of pounds of material were either recycled, sold, or scrapped.  Once the actual workspace could be determined, the second step ‘S’ (set in order) was implemented.  Racks were purchased, assembled and labeled.  In the third step, the GEM team working with OMEP set about organizing the racks by job number to ease location of components.

By rearranging the ‘yard’ where parts were stored into a numbered and lettered grid (similar to the game ‘Battleship’) clarity was gained.  Any part can now be located within a few seconds.  A unique location where each part could be stored was identified.  Using barcode stickers for parts as well as each location, forklift drivers can now use military-grade tablets to store, locate and retrieve parts quickly.


The Results

Now that parts are clearly organized and displayed, employees are performing far more efficiently and have significantly reduced non-value-added activities.  A new barcode system designed and implemented by the GEM Equipment IT Department has tapped into the power of technology to further the system. Now anyone in the organization can immediately identify the location of any part.

Everyone on the team was trained in the new system to ensure that the continuous improvement of team efforts and improvements would be adopted and sustained organization-wide.   When asked how this new process has changed the day to day activities for the team, the Sheet Metal Shop Supervisor stated: “Last week, no one asked me where any parts were.  Normally I would spend multiple hours every day searching for parts and answering questions for people.”

This project significantly cut down on non-value-added activities for employees. The new labor savings permits the team to spend their time contributing to value-added activities instead of nonvalue-added time spent walking and searching for parts. Financially speaking, the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

With a sustainable system in place, GEM Equipment is set up for successful growth and sustained continuous improvement initiatives.

Last week, no one asked me where any parts were. Normally I would spend multiple hours every day searching for parts and answering questions for people.

Metal Shop Supervisor