Here’s a glaring statistic: Eighteen percent of the 1,176,340 nonfatal work injuries resulting in days away from work in 2020 were related to slips, trips and falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In many cases, they’re the result of some sort of spillage or debris that’s been left on the floor.

Now, you probably don’t need me to tell you that spills should be cleaned up quickly whenever they happen. But it does point to a larger manufacturing philosophy that I think can lead to big results, be they in the realm of safety or otherwise. That brings me to today’s tip:

Don’t undervalue the cleanliness of your shop floor.

Keeping a clean manufacturing floor space sounds like common sense, but just like with regular maintenance, it takes a concerted effort to do consistently. It’s also a cultural issue—the attitudes with which shop employees approach their work makes a big impact on general cleanliness.

If you’ve had issues with disorganization or clutter on your plant floor in the past, there’s good reason to make a determined effort to rectify those problems. A clean plant floor can bring many benefits, including the following.

Improved Safety

As noted at the beginning of this article, cleanliness and safety go hand in hand. Grease, dust and liquid buildup can lead to slip hazards. General clutter can likewise become trip hazards or—in a worst-case scenario—an impediment to staff exiting the floor safely and effectively in the event of a fire. Remnants of broken glass pieces that have not been properly swept away can become serious hazards—after all, broken glass is something of an inevitability in a window manufacturing plant. Elsewhere, tools that have not been kept clean and in good working order are more likely to malfunction, creating another potential safety risk. All of these risks can be mitigated if your teams are dedicated to maintaining a clean shop floor at all times.

Better Efficiency and Quality

Last month I wrote about best practices for today’s glass manufacturing lines, including pre- and post-production. Proper organization is critical in these areas. If your technicians are scrambling to find the proper raw materials to feed into your line due to a disorganized storage space, you’re sacrificing the efficiency with which you could be making your products. Likewise at the end of your production line. If your completed units aren’t properly sorted, you’ll have greater trouble loading them on the right trucks for timely shipping.

There’s a reason that “set in order”—putting all necessary items in their optimal place for fulfilling their function in the workplace—is one of the guiding principles of the 5S manufacturing philosophy. Perhaps you’ve heard this concept phrased as “a place for everything, everything in its place.” In either case, when components, tools and workstations are organized (and kept that way) in a logical order, it’s easier for everyone to effectively do their job.

Employee Retention

It’s not uncommon for people to perceive manufacturing spaces as dirty, dingy environments. Or put another way: places where they don’t want to work.

Door and window manufacturers have faced the struggle of finding and retaining employees for years now. One way to demonstrate your commitment to them is by keeping their workspaces clean and safe. This is an organizational commitment that must come from the top, with the implementation of regular cleaning and maintenance routines. Ideally, it needs to be a part of the culture on the shop floor, where cleanliness is motivated by pride, not just a checklist. In these kinds of shop environments, you can typically sense the difference as soon as you walk in the door.

The modern manufacturing floor can and should be a place that bucks those old perceptions—but only if we work hard to make it so.

John Ryba is Technical Services Manager for Quanex.

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