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6 Ideas to Keep Your Warehouse Clean

Cleaner facilities outperform cluttered ones

Warehouse Inquiry

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.

In contrast, the safety pitfalls of failing to run a tidy operation are very real—

  • A forklift that leaks oil can create slippery spots where workers can get 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

You can help avoid these pitfalls with consistent actions, sometimes smaller than you might think. Here are six practical ideas for keeping your facility cleaner.

1. 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, you can spot slick spots, damage and other problems. 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.

2. 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.

3. Require clean-as-you-go.

Many companies simply don’t consider a task complete until the mess involved gets 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 those messes are gone. If a picking operation results in a pallet of stock left on the floor, don’t let it stay there.

4. Assign employees a cleaning zone.

If you are running a distribution operation, you might give pickers responsibility 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.

5. 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 trash can, it’s a waste of their time and your money. If you are asking people to wipe down machinery, make sure they have the right kinds of cleaners and materials close at hand.

6. Regularly turn inventory.

Aside from being expensive and taking space, outdated SKUs that sit in cartons or on racks are magnets for dust. They clutter and complicate the entire operation.

Commitment makes it happen

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. Consider implementing a cleaning program as part of your business objectives this year, and you’ll quickly reap the benefits.

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Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.

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