How kaizen can guide your post-COVID cleaning protocols

April 21, 2021
Optimize your cleaning efficiency to enhance preventive maintenance and keep employees engaged.

For manufacturers, maintaining and implementing proper cleaning protocols is critical to ensuring employee health and safety, while maximizing productivity. It’s no secret that COVID-19 transformed hygiene protocols in facilities to meet the heightened need. However, hygiene protocols can’t come at the expense of production, as facilities are a vital part of streamlined supply chains and ensure consistent delivery of essential goods to communities.

With this in mind, now is the time for facilities to invest and refresh their approaches to hygiene, cleaning and ultimately productivity. A reimagined approach to workflow – that incorporates cleaning, hygiene and productivity – is possible with the Japanese concept of “kaizen.” The core principles of kaizen call for all aspects of the workplace to be continually improving – “kai” means change and “zen” means better.

So how does this relate to productivity in manufacturing facilities? A kaizen-based approach fosters positive change, an agile work environment and encourages new ways of approaching productivity that promotes employee engagement and confidence. By implementing kaizen-inspired practices, your facility can achieve a culture of continuous improvement – starting with a plan for preventive maintenance – that amplifies productivity.

Here are some examples of how the principles of kaizen can be applied and the benefits they can yield.

Plan for preventive maintenance

The philosophy of kaizen is grounded in staying dynamic and implementing changes on an ongoing basis. According to Tork research, 87 percent of employees say preventive maintenance reduces machine breakdowns and lost production time.  Facilities should take a dynamic approach to updating their preventive maintenance routines to ensure employees are regularly carrying out tasks that will reduce the risk of potential problems before they cause downtime. Preventive maintenance can address standard operational issues such as leakage, dirt contamination, and improve access checkpoints on an ongoing basis, allowing facilities to continuously improve and achieving productivity metrics with small ongoing checks.

Optimize cleaning efficiency

Another element of kaizen is making incremental changes that can have a big impact, such as ongoing cleaning checks throughout an employee’s shift. While preventive maintenance is critical, ongoing cleaning enables employees to optimize efficiency with a continuous approach to cleaning.

Appropriate cleaning products are key to optimizing ongoing cleaning routines and implementing this doesn’t have to be resource intensive. As many as 89 percent of machine operators agree that having robust, professional industrial wiper dispensers placed exactly where they are needed would support efficient cleaning and preventive maintenance.

Facilities have an opportunity to listen and act on this feedback. One way of doing so is opting for wiper and cloth dispensers that have flexible mounting options, so they can be placed at mission-critical parts of the facility – right where employees need them most. Facility managers can also consider tailoring the cloths and wipers employees use based on the task at hand – from multipurpose wiping papers to advanced heavy-duty cleaning cloths – for even more improvement. 

However, it can be difficult to know what’s right for a specific facility. Third-party workplace consultations are one way to find a tailored approach to incorporating new cleaning solutions that work best for a specific environment. Small measures to support continuous cleaning can have a significant impact on a facility’s production quality, cost and delivery. With these measures in place, implementing employee feedback should also be considered to achieve a culture of kaizen.  

Implementing employee input

Organizational buy-in and empowering employees are critical components of kaizen. Leaders should seek out employee input to create positive change. Doing so shows employees that their contributions are valued, and it can also generate real benefits for facilities.

Employees who work in day-to-day operations experience first-hand where the key areas of improvement are within an organization. By creating forums for consistent and transparent employee feedback, leadership can better understand where employees have uncovered opportunities for improvement. Subsequently, implementing changes based on dialogue shows employees their suggestions are heard.

For example, 89 percent of machine operators believe it is easier to inspect and detect faults on a clean machine.  In this case, leadership can work with employees to uncover what additional products or increases in maintenance routines are needed to achieve a higher level of cleanliness that also allows for more productivity. Following this, managers can encourage them to autonomously maintain equipment, so they have a better chance of discovering problems before they result in downtime. This builds a sense of employee ownership of their work, and it will also improve overall morale and productivity.

About the author: Jill Henry

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