Spring Forward on Facility Cleanliness for Safety, Efficiency
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published March 12, 2021
It is easy to get into a clutter rut. Sometimes we quickly shuffle it along into a pile or simply move the mess. Having a tidy workplace is not just for aesthetics. In places like a warehouse, those messes eventually grow and cause problems with efficiency. There are several ways workplaces can start eradicating clutter and creating a leaner, more efficient workflow through proven strategies that make the 5S method a success.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Something was hiding in a dark corner of a maintenance warehouse. It was shelving full of clutter, and it was starting to bow.
“That mess was creeping beyond that southeast corner,” said Bob Freeman, a paint supply warehouse supervisor in Indiana. “We put it off for a while, but I knew it was time to clean up.”
After looking around, Freeman began to realize there was a lot more TLC needed. The company had previously tried and failed a 5S system, he said, but over the past year, he’d found ways to support goals and implement them again.
5S organization consists of sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. It is the sustaining part that most people and businesses struggle with. So, how can operations sustain 5S? It takes time and dedication to the system from top management and on down the chain. Knowing that the benefits of sustaining a solid 5S plan help improve productivity, limit waste, and create a safer, more positive work culture are what propel businesses and their teams to keep going.
“When everything has its place and is saving space, it’s nice to see,” Freeman said. He and other workers typically use the tag and bag method in clearing away clutter. “We do real-time reporting and take pictures with cell phones or work iPads of areas that need safety and quickly print what we need.”
It shouldn’t take a new season to force good cleaning habits in a workplace. Yet, it does. There is something about spring that helps people feel like they should prepare for new vibrancy after being released from winter's clutches. Communication and coordination of cleaning and moving materials help get the work done safely and efficiently.
Facility managers can harness some spring-like motivation and create a checklist that pinpoints problem areas. Utilize the expertise and assistance of the janitorial team or other maintenance professionals, according to ServiceMaster Clean in Tennessee. “Trusted experts are excellent at pointing out problems you might not have noticed otherwise,” the company said.
Besides cleaning away clutter, being more organized increases productivity. It also helps businesses focus on necessary repairs that might have fallen to the wayside. Find ways to streamline operations, improve the process, and re-examine new approaches. Here are additional tips to consider:
- Digital cleaning: Check your company’s website links, analytics, social media, and other eCommerce strategies. Make sure it is neat, professional, and in working order.
- Operations: Evaluate the aesthetics of the facility. Look for ways to color-code activities, which helps link lean with visuals. Improve barcoding and asset reporting of all inventory. Consider worker feedback for improvements.
- Check outside: Look for tree damage from winter storms to avoid potential building or other property damage. Make sure entrances are secure and clear of debris. Evaluate exterior shipping and receiving areas for damage. Watch for hidden slips, trips, or fall hazards.
These tips have benefits that extend beyond cleanliness and are part of continuous improvement in sustaining 5S. They can also improve customer relations. Customers, as well as employees, will notice and appreciate the effort the company is making. This effort begets more effort from employees who will take pride and ownership in their workplace, which then elevates the business culture.
Once momentum starts, focus on sustaining so that the business doesn’t fall into old habits. Training workers new and old on the process provides another opportunity for everyone to keep the facility in tip-top condition. Communicate goals and successes to help motivate work teams. Visual communication can serve as excellent marks to instruct, direct, guide, and more. When real-time reporting, real-time action is helpful to create and print signs and labels when you need them. They are also helpful during inspections and auditing. For example, color-code wide tape on hard flooring can define the different walking, working, and traffic areas. Pipe markings can indicate what chemicals are flowing. These types of signs and labels are cost-effective and lasting ways to reinforce safety, efficiency, and compliance. A clean, organized facility makes work easier and achievements measurable.