Tips For Warehouse Organization and Cleaning

To people in our industry, is there anything more beautiful than a perfectly-organized, efficiently-run warehouse? While the idea might not excite most people, a warehouse running at peak efficiency is something that some of us dream of (literally). Our warehouse layout optimization experts are those type of people.

Well, there might be one thing that’s more exciting than a well-run warehouse: one that’s clean as well! No one wants to work in a dirty warehouse, and cleanliness can actually lead to increased efficiency. Let’s take a look at why you should keep your warehouse clean and some ways to keep your warehouse looking as good as possible.

Why Keep Your Warehouse Clean?

Why is it important to keep your warehouse clean? Here are a few very good reasons not to let your warehouse become a mess.

Efficiency

If you’ve ever tried to work at a messy workbench, you know just how difficult it can be to accomplish even a simple task. If you’re trying to find a screwdriver but it’s buried under scrap wood and used sandpaper, the job can not only take too much time but can be incredibly frustrating as well.

The same holds true for warehouse operations. If a forklift operator has to stop the forklift in order to move some trash out of the way, they’re being less efficient and probably getting pretty angry too. Even worse, if they’re trying to load a truck but a pile of broken pallets is in their way, they’re annoyed, the truck driver is annoyed, and your shipment could go out late. Keeping a clean warehouse is a certain way to increase efficiency every day.

Clean Begets Clean

People tend to treat a space as it is currently being treated. If your neighbor has a broken-down car in their driveway, why shouldn’t you use your driveway in the same way? If a restroom floor is littered with paper towels due to an overflowing trash can, the average person is more likely to toss their paper towel on the floor as well.

Luckily, it works the other way as well. A well-kept space is more likely to be treated with respect and kept clean. If you keep your warehouse cleaned, it much more likely that the employees will take more pride in the space and help keep it looking good.

Workers Prefer It

Employees want to work in a space that doesn’t make them shudder every time they come to work. Sure, they’re working in a warehouse, but they still want to work in a nice warehouse that isn’t full of bugs and other vermin. Keeping your warehouse bright and clean can prevent your turnover rate and save you money in the process.

A Clean Warehouse Is A Safer Warehouse

Safety should always be the primary concern of any warehouse, and keeping the warehouse clean is one way to keep employees safe. Keeping junk off the floor can prevent employees from tripping over it, and regular sweeping can prevent them from slipping on errant screws and bolts (and also alert them to failing storage racks).

Spills are another concern that could lead to big problems. The most common is an employee slipping and falling, which could lead to insurance increases and a visit from OSHA. Spills can also cause forklifts to slide into pallet racks with such force that even rack protection might not help. Constant cleaning can identify spills before they become big problems

Tips For Keeping Your Warehouse Clean

Keep That Inventory Moving

Inventory that sits around just collects dust. If you have inventory you don’t need any more, sell it for cheap, recycle it, or pitch it. This frees up space in your warehouse, and that space can be used for something that will actually sell.

Another way to keep the dust from building up on a single pallet is to utilize pallet flow racks, racks that allow for first-in first-out access. This ensures that no one pallet sticks around long enough to gather much dust.

Use Wire Racks

There are many types of pallet racks systems out there, and the typical inventory you keep may or may not allow you to use wire decking. If you can use wire racks, it helps keep your dust under control by letting the dust fall to the floor. Dust on the floor is much more accessible and can be swept up on a regular basis, as opposed to dust that’s on solid decking that will seldom get dusted.

Create Cleaning Schedules

Let’s be honest: cleaning that “you’ll get to eventually” seldom gets done. If it does get done, it’s a huge project that could take days and create bottlenecks in the warehouse as some employees are taken away from their regular duties in order to deep-clean their area.

Instead of having that yearly cleaning of the warehouse, it’s a much better idea to set up regular cleaning schedules. The schedule can be time-based, such as having the entire warehouse crew spend 10 minutes at the end of every week cleaning up their area. Or it could be area-based, where the pallet rack rows are cleaned every Monday, the conveyor system every Tuesday, the material handling system every Wednesday, and so on.

Assign Cleaning Zones

Now we’re not going to go over the top and say that the average employee loves cleaning up because they take pride in their work area. While an employee might take pride in the job, whether that’s driving a forklift or organizing the pallet racks, few of them see “cleaning” as part of their duties. Yes, some employees don’t mind cleaning up, but most of them would rather do the job associated with their job title and leave the cleaning to someone else.

Still, having employees assigned to certain cleaning zones is an excellent way to make use of their down time and make sure the warehouse is safer at the same time. Framing the cleaning around safety is actually an excellent way to entice them to keep their workspace clean. Safety means fewer injuries to them and their co-workers, and it also helps keep their insurance premiums lower.

Let’s admit it, assigning cleaning tasks to specific people is a great way to make sure the cleaning gets done. If they know that a particular task falls on them, they are more likely to do it because they know it’s their responsibility. Create some sort of reward system and you can even foster competition for who can keep the cleanest workspace.

Don’t Let Messes Linger

Letting messes stick around in one area of the warehouse is one of the most surefire ways to ensure that messes will show up elsewhere. When a mess is left by one person, it’s a signal to everyone else that no one cares about the cleanliness of the warehouse and that they can leave messes behind as well.

That’s why it’s so important that no one leaves a mess behind. The attitude of every warehouse should be that “the job isn’t done until any mess it creates is cleaned up.” If a pallet has been unwrapped and its contents loaded onto the conveyor system, then the job isn’t done until the plastic wrapping has been discarded. If one pallet of old inventory has to be moved to the floor so that three more can take its space on the storage racks, then the job isn’t done until that old pallet has found a home.

Be A Good Example

If you’re a warehouse manager, it’s important to walk the walk. If you have a modular office in the middle of the warehouse, make sure it’s not incredibly messy. If you’re walking along and find a spill, be a good example to your employees and get it cleaned up. They’ll notice that keeping everything clean is a priority, especially if you join in on scheduled cleaning.

At the same time, make sure everyone knows that cleaning up isn’t exclusively your job. But if they see that you have picked up pallet wrap that you didn’t drop on the floor, they won’t be so reticent when you assign a cleaning task to them even if they didn’t make the mess.

 

Clean Out Bins

Trash cans are there to collect trash and be a centralized location for getting rid of mess…but unfortunately, they can become a mess themselves!

Make sure that the trash bins are getting a regular cleanout, whether it’s the ones at the picking and packing center or in the lunchroom. Overflowing trash cans can convince warehouse workers that there’s no place to put their trash, so why clean in the first place?

Keep Cleaning Supplies Near

Most humans are guilty of the following ideology: “I don’t have the tools, so I won’t do the job.” Sometimes it makes sense: not having a $1000 lathe can certainly prevent someone from making a chair, but cheap cleaning equipment should never prevent someone from keeping their work area in good order.

Having cleaning supplies close by is a great way to ensure that employees do their part cleaning the warehouse. Simply doubling the amount of brooms and dustpans conveniently placed around the warehouse will make them more likely to clean up, especially if the only broom used to be in a faraway closet. Putting spill kits on more support beams will make it more likely that an employee will deal with the problem instead of just ignoring it. Taking away excuses and making it easier on employees will almost certainly increase their interest in doing so.

Block Off Areas

Have you noticed that restaurants often prefer to seat customers close together, especially later at night? The primary reason they do this is that they are trying to keep a particular area of the restaurant clean, and avoiding that area means less vacuuming at the end of the night.

Something similar can be done with a warehouse. If you have a lot of extra room in your warehouse — like if it has recently had warehouse optimization performed — then you might consider blocking off sections with warehouse safety barriers. By doing so, you’re ensuring that no one is creating a mess in that section of the warehouse. It means less cleaning for your crew, which is sure to make them happy.

Deal With Spills

Some warehouses are more likely to have spills than others. Are you a beer distributor? It’s much more likely you’re going to have some broken bottles and burst cans from time to time. Do you carry any sort of oil, whether it’s cooking or motor? Something will eventually leak out and create a dangerous situation in your warehouse.

Of course, it’s not just about safety (though that should be your primary concern). It’s also about looks; spills left to linger will usually end up staining. That’s why it’s important to clean up those spills as quickly as possible in order to keep your warehouse looking nice. While no warehouse will ever look like a fancy hotel lobby, it’s important to keep it looking as nice as the nicest warehouse!

And while we’re talking about floors…

Get A Floor Sealant

Floor coatings are a great option for many warehouses, and we detailed the many advantages they offer in this article. The most obvious is that they offer easy cleanup, whether something on one of your pallet racks bursts or a forklift is leaking motor oil.

Warehouse floor sealants can also offer other advantages, such as anti-slip additives. This can give forklifts better traction and prevent employee falls should there be something slick on the floor. You can clean any skid marks more easily than from concrete, and a white substrate covered with a floor sealant can actually reflect more light and reduce the amount of artificial light needed in the warehouse. Oh, and floor sealants just look good, too!

Increase Your Recycling

One way to keep your space cleaner is to increase the amount of recycling you do. Many employees will go out of their way to pick up something that can be recycled, simply because they are interested in doing what they can to help the environment. Other employees may engage in recycling because of their innate interest in seeing stuff sorted…which might partially explain why they’re working in a warehouse in the first place!

There’s no doubt that recycling takes up a little extra space in a warehouse. But it can also be a cost-savings measure, which often more than makes up for the space the extra bins take. For example, recycling is often free while you have to pay for other trash to be removed. Some metal-heavy recyclable waste could actually end up making money.

Organization and Clean Go Together!

A clean warehouse is one that simply works more efficiently, so keeping it clean can increase productivity. How can DAK Equipment and Engineering help? We can provide you with warehouse layout optimization that can lead to more efficient space and cleaning opportunities. Contact us today to get the process started!

 

 

 
 

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