Manufacturers: Keep plants clean and lean to achieve optimal productivity

Manufacturers suffering through less-than-ideal plant conditions can move things in a more positive direction by developing detailed housekeeping strategies.

Cleanliness and productivity often go hand-in-hand within the manufacturing sector. Production or shipping facilities devoid of established cleaning programs break down over time, as loose materials stack up and interior spaces fall into disarray, ultimately inhibiting shop floor personnel and the mission-critical assets they manage. This sort of situation is, of course, fairly easy to avoid with the some planning and onsite vigilance.

Manufacturers suffering through less-than-ideal plant conditions can move things in a more positive direction by developing detailed housekeeping strategies. Here are some of the key components such procedures should include:

Spill cleanup protocols
Slippery surfaces are common in facilities with heavy machinery or processes that involve the production of liquid byproduct. These dangerous plains pose a serious threat to workers who, caught in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day operations, can easily slip and fall due to spills. In fact, slip, trips and falls accounted for 27 percent of all nonfatal worker injuries in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These scenarios not only cause harm to employees but also negatively impact productivity and leave the business vulnerable to legal action or fines.

With this in mind, manufacturers must do what they can to ensure all walking surfaces are spot-free and safe. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers a blueprint for such activities via the Walking-Working Surfaces Standard, which includes guidance on liquid cleanup and flooring selection. However, many manufacturers go further than simply developing reactive floor-cleaning policies. Many use what is called the "5S" strategy, Industry Week reported. This industrial housekeeping methodology features five central components: sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. Standardization and prevention are the key goals here. Instead of simply cleaning up a small oil spill on the shop floor, a manufacturer practicing the 5S strategy would investigate why the it happened in the first place and collaborate with maintenance personnel to fine-tune the shop floor asset that produced the spillage, thus preventing another risky situation from materializing.

Machine maintenance
While incorporating asset maintenance into a housekeeping plan via the 5S method is a good start, manufacturers would be wise to make it an even more prominent part of their plant cleaning strategy. Instituting a preventive maintenance program is the ideal action, as such a plan could drastically improve cleanliness on the shop floor. Installing an asset maintenance management system is the logical first step, for this software makes it easy to schedule and perform machine management activities. Plus, it allows maintenance teams to compile large amounts of performance data on assets which can be used to add context to cleaning procedures and make for sustained progress.

Additionally, employees should be trained to perform regular equipment checks throughout the day, Plant Engineering reported. This way, workers can catch small mechanical inefficiencies before they devolve into major issues that require extensive repairs and, therefore, have the potential to disrupt and dirty the work environment.

Industrial housekeeping policies keep production facilities clean and safe.Industrial housekeeping policies keep production facilities clean and safe.

Storage and waste disposal
Manufacturing firms in the midst of production tend to focus on meeting targets and little else. While this strategy can lead to wider profit margins and new business opportunities, it can also lay the groundwork for cleanliness and safety issues that can have the opposite impact on the budget. Of all the small things that slip between the cracks during work hours, equipment storage can prove the most harmful to the business. One misplaced ladder or machine part can lead to a dangerous fire hazard or serious penalty-worthy worker safety breach.

Consequently, it's important for manufacturing operations leaders to maintain strict materials storage policies, according to the National Safety Council. Again, OSHA offers extensive advice for developing such strategies. The agency's Materials Handling, Storage, Use and Disposal Standard includes guidance on how to safely store materials so that corridors and key shop-floor areas remain debris free.

Firms should take a similarly serious stance on waste disposal. American companies produce roughly 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste per year, according to research from the Environmental Protection Agency. Operations must consistently look out for and dispose of non-hazardous waste such as cardboard and other packaging materials to keep workspaces clean and safe. When it comes to hazardous materials, more extreme measures are called for. Manufacturers must deal with chemical byproduct and caustic production additives in accordance with OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standard. Materials management software can provide a helping hand here, giving operations managers the power to track hazardous assets as they cycle through production facilities.

Of course, as these activities unfold, workers involved must have the protection they need to do their work safely. Respiratory protection is an absolute must, as individuals who encounter hazardous materials without this gear sustain injuries regularly. Manufacturing firms recorded 1,700 worker injuries due to respiratory conditions in 2015, according to the BLS.

"American companies produce roughly 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste per year."

Procedural notice
Simply developing plant cleanliness procedures is not enough. Organizations in the manufacturing space must draft formalized documents detailing the policy and, more importantly, design worker communications that encourage staff to mind the code as they navigate the shop floor and perform their duties. For instance, hazard communications related to spills, or signage describing materials storage practices keep cleanliness in the forefront of workers' minds even as they set about performing their primary tasks, according the NSC.

External review
Manufacturers overseeing new-and-improved plant housekeeping procedures will surely be satisfied with the progress – as will the workers moving about freshly cleaned interior spaces. However, firms focused on gaining objective data on their updated policies should schedule an onsite review with an external entity. OSHA is, of course, the ideal partner, as the agency can deploy consultants who will review production and shipping facilities to ensure they not only function well from a commercial perspective but also fall in line with federal regulations, the Houston Chronicle reported. The agency offers this service free of charge and normally provides operations managers with insight they can use to further enhance housekeeping protocols.

Firms navigating the manufacturing space have much to gain by designing and deploying plant cleanliness programs that include the above components. Of course, supporting such efforts with industrial-grade digital platforms can facilitate further growth, allowing for automated asset maintenance and hazardous waste management processes. Is your organizations interested in building out streamlined, data-backed housekeeping workflows? Connect with eRPortal Software today. Our computerized maintenance management and materials management solutions can buttress such an effort and give your company the digital infrastructure it needs to support sustainable plant cleanliness operations.

Contact us today to learn more about our industry-leading CMMS and the other offerings in our expansive product catalog. 

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