Top 10 Employee Training Tools: Housekeeping


Top 10 Employee Training Tools: Housekeeping

Cleanliness Saves Time & Money

Cleaning. It’s not sexy, and when a component manufacturer (CM) is cranking out trusses, it’s difficult to switch focus and make sweeping and picking up scraps a priority. However, a few simple housekeeping steps can help bolster a CM’s bottom line, and that is sexy. This article will look at some of the most common areas of the production facility where cleaning can have a big impact and explore easy steps to make it part of a CM company’s culture.

Housekeeping includes collecting and properly disposing of sawdust; keeping cords off the floor or organized properly, cleaning up during and after each shift; picking up scrap lumber and organizing usable end pieces; and making sure plates that fall on the floor are reused or recycled. Every one of these areas has an effect on production from ensuring employee safety and efficiency to reducing material shrink and liability.

The May 2014 article addressed production training for new employees. Beyond the basic skills training they need in order to successfully continue learning on the job, it’s a good idea to include training in proper housekeeping as part of their orientation. Specific areas where housekeeping training can be useful include collecting wood dust around saws; recovering reusable material around the gantry table and production area; keeping banding, finishing and maintenance areas free from debris and tripping hazards; and ensuring delivery vehicles are clean and well-organized.

Sawdust Collection

Thorough housekeeping is important in all areas where sawdust is produced, including component saws, linear saws and other cutoff saws. This is an area where OSHA has paid particular attention over the past few years following a few high-profile combustible dust explosions with several fatalities. If OSHA shows up to conduct a facility inspection, it is almost a given they will inspect for sawdust.

If a CM has a mechanical dust collection system already installed, the operation is ahead of the game. If a CM doesn’t have an automated system, it’s a good idea to take five minutes every four hours to sweep up accumulated sawdust and properly dispose of it in a covered container located away from areas where open flame or sparks may occur. Even if a CM does have a collection system, it’s important to periodically ensure it is working properly and sawdust isn’t collecting near intake areas.

Why is proper sawdust management so important? Safety is the primary reason. When sawdust builds up on a concrete floor it can get slippery, and when an employee is around any type of saw the last thing a CM wants is to have a slip and fall occur. Further, dust is combustible and while the chance of ignition or explosion is extremely small, it’s a risk easily avoided. Sawdust buildup can also gum up moving parts, causing them to bind, and can cause electrical switches to short, all leading to production-stopping equipment maintenance.

A CM should consider having a supervisor do regular checks of sawdust accumulation in high accumulation areas and train employees on proper collection and disposal. Shop vacuums, brooms and compressed air (if the psi is set low enough) can be effective tools in this process, as long as they are used correctly. Sweeping too forcefully, or using compressed air at too high a psi setting, can have the opposite effect desired because it can send fine sawdust particles into the air, which can collect over time in harder to reach areas than the floor and counters. If employees aren’t collecting sawdust properly, that’s a perfect opportunity for a supervisor to grab a broom, model the desired approach and give some quick on the job training.

Start with blowing off and/or sweeping high and hard to reach surfaces, get as much material to the ground as possible. Then sweep using short brush strokes, or vacuum up the dust, and collect sawdust in covered containers so that if the container is bumped or jostled it doesn’t introduce fine sawdust particles back into the air to recollect in hard to reach areas.

SBCA has created a combustible dust housekeeping program that gives CMs a good sense for what OSHA inspectors are looking for in the event of an inspection. It also includes an employee training module with industry best-practices on proper dust collection. Knowing what OSHA is looking for and mitigating potential infractions will help avoid the thousands of dollars in citations and fines other component manufacturers have been hit with over the past few years. In addition, proper sawdust cleanup can reduce the risk of injury and prevent unnecessary equipment maintenance.

Gantry Tables/Production Area

Housekeeping in the production area is vital to eliminate the possibility of slips and tripping hazards. It can also be effective at minimizing material shrink, which can affect the bottom line. While CMs know they won’t use 100 percent of their material inventory, increasing usage from 95 to 96 percent in a plant can represent significant cost savings. The areas under the gantry and assembly tables are common places overlooked during cleaning. These are areas where a lot of material can become a trip hazard, or simply go to waste because, when left there, it isn’t used for a valuable purpose.

While challenging, instilling in employees the habit of taking five or ten minutes at the end of each weekly shift can make a big difference. Consider strategically locating collection bins for assemblers to easily dispose of paper, metal plates and wood scrap. It is surprising how much of the plates and wood can be sorted through and reused. Keeping areas around assembly tables clean can also help prevent maintenance issues, particularly with the prevalent use of computerized equipment.

Again, properly cleaning sawdust out of crevices and keeping debris away from moving parts will help to protect the investment made in equipment. Keeping these areas clean can also promote efficiency by removing potential obstacles to smooth material throughput. In turn, improving material flow will have a direct impact on labor costs. The shorter the distance material needs to move, the less employees have to touch it, the lower the production costs.

Banding, Finishing & Maintenance

Tripping hazards can also be a significant source of potential injury in banding areas. Loose scrap banding that isn’t recycled or disposed of properly can be one of the leading causes of cuts during the material handling process. While cuts aren’t always serious, the labor stoppage time caused by even minor injuries like these can cause bottlenecks in the production process and add to overall costs. Keep a broom, magnet and collection bin in this area to make collecting scrap a snap.

Given the nature of the production and shipping process, it’s easy for refuse to quickly collect in finishing areas. One good practice to consider is having a trash bin attached to each forklift. If the forklift operator sees something as they move material, they can pick it up and place in the bin. It’s not uncommon for an operator to have to get out of a forklift to adjust something anyway, so there is little reason not to.

Another benefit is this keeps tripping hazards and potential punctures to tires to a minimum.

Keeping maintenance areas clean and organized can also have a big impact on the bottom line. For one, given the types of materials stored in maintenance areas, this area can easily become a fire hazard if allowed to become unkept. Two, imagine how much time can be lost if the tool area is not tidy and no one can find the right sized wrench. Three, during repairs, if the work areas aren’t kept clean, it can be difficult to quickly find a convenient place to fix a part. Worse yet, employees can easily misplace replacement parts if everything is haphazardly stored in this area, leading to reordering repair parts that are actually in stock but can’t be located when they are needed. Beyond the cost of the part, the additional production delay as an employee retrieves or waits for another part to arrive can significantly increase costs.

Delivery Trucks

A clean cab is important for many reasons. Besides a CM’s sales staff, their truck drivers are the people who represent their company to their customers. Making a good impression on the jobsite is an integral part of ensuring a happy customer. Having a driver show up to the jobsite in a clean, well-organized truck sends a clear message to the customer about how a CM chooses to run the business.

In addition, trucks can carry considerably more than just the finished product, they can also transport jobsite equipment like strapping, hangers, connectors, installation tools and protective equipment. Having these items stored and well organized ensures time isn’t lost during delivery while the driver tries to find something they need. Not only does the lost time look bad, a disorganized truck can have many of the same problems associated with an unkept maintenance area: inventory can be misplaced and unnecessarily reordered; it can cause tripping hazards for drivers climbing in and out of the cab and/or on and off of the trailer; and having loose refuse or materials in the cab of the truck can increase the risk of an accident if something were to shift and impact the driver’s ability to steer, shift or work the accelerator and gas pedals.

Given all this, it’s not a bad idea to have each driver spend five minutes at the end of the day clearing refuse out of the cab, sweeping out dirt and mud, and storing equipment back in its proper place. Label trailer storage bins and, if there is room behind the seats, install storage boxes for organizing tools and materials. Besides the time savings and good impression, putting a focus on keeping the vehicle clean and tidy will likely spill over to all other facets of vehicle maintenance, reducing the risk of unforeseen mechanical failures, or worse, accidents.

Housekeeping Made Simple

The best way to have an effective housekeeping program is to invest time in showing employees what is desired and having the management team model it. It’s vital that a CM’s management shows they care and are invested in keeping a clean facility; periodically walking through the production floor and picking up refuse, pushing a broom to collect a pile of sawdust, or recoiling and storing a loose hose. All of these actions can go a long way in illustrating what a CM wants employees to do.

When the production teams see their employer cares about cleanliness and order, they will also care. Another thing to consider is making housekeeping a part of a safety bonus or productivity bonus program. One idea is to measure material shrink, and when there are improvements through proper housekeeping, consider contributing a percentage of the savings toward the productivity bonus.

As another example, if a targeted waste lumber cleanup and reuse policy is implemented, track its effect on the percentage of lumber material used. If there is a marked improvement, set aside a portion of the increased margin towards an incentive program to encourage continued success. The same can be true for eliminating minor injuries associated with trips and slips. These types of injuries don’t typically lead to worker’s comp claims, but they do contribute to lost labor hours or a decrease in worker effectiveness or efficiency, depending on the injury. Track minor injuries like these and consider implementing a small reward program for consecutive days without an injury that could have been avoided with better housekeeping.

Beyond modeling behavior and incentives, good housekeeping occurs when it is easy to do. Having plenty of brooms throughout the plant and in the cabs of delivery trucks, locating several collection bins throughout the production area, and providing tools like magnets and step ladders will make cleaning tasks easier for everyone. 

Ben Hershey is a Lean Management & Manufacturing Expert with 4Ward Consulting Group. The topic of Safety Communication will be covered in the September/October issue.