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Ideas to Keep Your Warehouse Clean

Cleaner, more organized facilities outperform cluttered ones

One easy way to gauge a warehouse or manufacturing plant ‘s effectiveness is to check how clean it is. Cleaner facilities are more productive, tend to be safer, and tend to be more organized.

Whether your facility features gleaming floors or just keeps debris from packaging materials, pallets, and accumulated junk under control, being cleaner is well worth the time investment. People who work in a disorganized facility where things just feel sloppy won’t work as well. They may make more errors. They won’t have pride in the operation.  An inch of dust on rack beams or beneath conveyor legs sends a message to workers. You don’t need a sparkling facility with floors so clean you could have lunch on them, but a well-lit, organized, pleasant place to work can be helpful in employee attitudes and retention.

Clean facilities are the result of consistent leadership. If you don’t create and enforce clean facility rules, your facility will degrade in terms of organization and cleanliness.

The safety pitfalls are very real. A forklift that leaks oil can create slippery spots where workers can be hurt. Piles of banding, pallets, or processing debris can limit forklift driver visibility. Overflowing garbage bins can be dangerous when people try to shoehorn more into them than they should, in particular if the debris is heavy or sharp. Even tiny inventory labels, with their waxy backing, can cause falls if they are allowed to languish on a polished cement floor.

Warehouse cleaning tips:

  • Create regular cleaning goals. It’s much easier to keep a facility clean than it is to do a massive cleaning (which will quickly become dirty again once complete). Assign cleaning tasks based on need to daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly rotation. Create documentation and calendar items for these tasks. For instance, floors should be swept daily. During that sweep, slick spots, damage, and other problems can be spotted. Racks could be scheduled for dusting on a monthly basis. Critical areas like shipping doors or work cells could require a daily regimen to ensure a clean appearance and safe operation.
  • Empty your garbage bins regularly. Don’t let them get to the stage of overflow. Overflowing bins means people won’t dump trash when they should.
  • Require clean-as-you-go. Many companies simply don’t consider a task complete until the mess is cleaned up. If a machine creates metal shavings, or a work shift results in a ton of packaging material waste at individual packing stations, the day isn’t done until it’s cleaned up. If a picking operation results in a pallet of stock left on the floor, don’t let it stay there.
  • Assign employees a cleaning zone. If you are running a distribution operation, a picker might be made responsible for a certain amount of space around a conveyor line or shelving row. Don’t allow shift workers to leave a mess for the next shift. Reasonably quick cleanings on a daily basis help maintain your operation and make every shift more productive. These duties can be simple – sweeping, picking up debris, wiping down equipment, reorganizing materials, etc.  Simple things like coffee cups left at a station can easily be addressed.
  • Make cleaning supplies and equipment readily available. Obviously if you’re asking a picker to sweep, don’t make him walk half the warehouse for a broom. Garbage cans positioned near work areas are inexpensive and help encourage people to throw away papers and other trash. If they have to walk long distances for a trashcan, it’s a waste of their time and your money. If you are asking for people to wipe down machinery, make sure they have the right kinds of cleaners and materials.
  • Regularly turn inventory. Aside from being expensive and taking space, outdated stock that sits in cartons or on racks are magnets for dust. They clutter and complicate the entire operation.

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Scott Stone is a 23-year veteran of the material handling industry.

  • blazesad74

    I’ve been tasked with developing a comprehensive aisle maintenance and preparation plan that maintains both the pick faces and asile,while also reducing the cardboard build up.

    Any advice, this is my first real project.

    • http://www.cisco-eagle.com/ Scott Stone

      Hi Blazesdad. Sorry it’s taken me a month to see this. Aisle maintenance is a good project because it helps speed picking and also can make your operation safer. I’d definitely require pickers to never leave cardboard behind when they pick. If they are using carts, provide trash bags. One of the keys is to always have a convenient dumpster or hopper for the discarded material. Guys will do it far more often and easier than if they have to walk a good distance.

  • Ronny

    Hey! Thank you for great article. We have a problem at our warehouse – we are a producer of bottled drinks and although we clean warehouse once a day, the bottles get dusty. I suspect its from all the forklifts as there is an intensive traffic. Our bottles are just put in the bottle boxes that are not isolated. We have strong regulations and shops do not accept dusty bottles, therefore, we have a real problem. Any suggestions how to keep production clean in the warehouse?

    • http://www.cisco-eagle.com/ Scott Stone

      Ronny, I have a couple of thoughts here. Could you position fans in such a way that keeps the air moving in/around the palletized bottles? If the air circulates, dust might not settle as much on them. If you could isolate them, you could build curtain walls around the racks, but it sounds like you can’t do that. If the bottles are each or case picked, it’s tougher to do the other alternative I’d suggest, and shrink wrap them once they go into storage. There are also pallet wraps that might be easier (they fit over a stack and a person could lift one to pick bottles or cases). If your bottles are picked by pallet, then you could do that. The important thing I’d think is to try to isolate the bottles in some manner where they can be protected. But that may not be practical.