No doubt you know how messy a warehouse can get, and how quickly. We’re sure you sometimes feel like Mr. Incredible when he says, “I just cleaned up this mess, can’t we keep it clean for 10 minutes?”
But it’s obvious why warehouses get messy, especially if there’s not a warehouse cleaning procedure in place to make sure it happens. Forklifts can track in mud, oversized doors let in more dust, and you might have stock coming in that’s already dusty. On top of that, disintegrating wooden pallets and pallet wrap all end up in pieces on the floor, and unless it’s cleaned up quickly, employees will start to ignore it as it gets worse and worse.
Since you probably don’t have a cleaning crew coming into a warehouse — except for maybe the trash cans of modular offices and lunchrooms — it’s important that everyone pitches in to keep a warehouse clean. Here are a few cleaning tips for warehouse and how to make that happen.
Know Whose Job It Is
The primary reason that warehouses get and stay messy is that people have a “not my job, not my problem” mentality. Maybe the workers have come from previous jobs where the clean up was all taken care of, or maybe they never worked in a place that required them to be part of the solution. If you have professional cleaners who take care of your general warehouse cleaners, then great! But we don’t know of many warehouses that can afford to do that, especially when there are so many workers walking around the warehouse all day who are perfectly able to pitch in.
In other words, make sure that everyone knows whose job it is to keep the warehouse clean. If you’re relying on your workers to get every piece of pallet wrap off the floor, let them know. Their mother probably doesn’t work there, so make sure they’re cleaning up after themselves! (And if their mother does work there, threaten to sic their mother on them for being so messy!)
Finally, it will certainly help if you assign cleaning duties for certain parts of the warehouse to particular people. That way, everyone knows who is responsible for specific rows, and who to go to if there’s a cleaning problem.
Don’t Let It Get Out of Control
While some messes happen all at once — like a case of oil that didn’t quite make it onto the pallet rack and fell to the floor — most warehouses get messy over a long period of time. Dust builds up, tiny pieces of broken pallets get kicked under the racking, and tiny strips of pallet wrap blow into the corners.
While it might be tempting to have one big cleaning once a year (maybe during a warehouse optimization), it makes more sense to have a weekly walk-through of the warehouse and have all of the workers grab what they can. Maybe shut the warehouse down ten minutes early on a Tuesday and have them fan out to grab detritus. Just don’t schedule it for Friday afternoon, because they’ll hate that!
Clean Out The Cans
You never want an employee who’s cleaning to say, “There was no place to put it.” But this might happen when the warehouse gets behind on its regular dumping of trash and recycling bins. If a trash can is topped off, it sends a signal that the cleaning is “done” and that there’s no reason to do anymore.
The same can happen with cardboard balers and other types of recycling equipment. If it’s full and not being attended to, the cardboard can stack up beside it. That’s not only a cleaning issue; it becomes a safety concern.
Have Cleaning Supplies Close By
Another reason that people will ignore a mess is because it’s a hassle to clean up. If they come upon a busted-off slat from a pallet, they’re much more likely to throw it away if there’s a trash can nearby. If they spill a soda, they’ll probably leave it to become a sticky mess rather than walk across the entire warehouse to grab some paper towels and a cleaning bottle. But if the cleaning supplies are close by, they’re more likely to grab it and get it taken care of. They know they’re supposed to clean stuff up, but if you make it just a little too hard it’s more likely they’ll just bail on the responsibility.
What kind of cleaning supplies should be placed strategically throughout the warehouse? The most important are probably trash cans. You should also have spill clean up supplies, especially for forklift oil leaks. Keep broom strategically places all around the warehouse as well. In short, having the right tool nearby is the best way to make sure messes get cleaned up.
Use Wire Mesh Decking and Partitions
Dust is going to settle in a warehouse no matter what. But the fact is, you can help decide where it settles.
If you have solid floors in your pallet racks, the dust is going to settle not only on the inventory but also on those flat surfaces. Dust, wrapping, and bits of wood and nails from broken pallet racks can settle up there, and those areas can be very difficult to clean.
When you use mesh decking instead, all of that mess heads to the concrete floor of your warehouse that much sooner. Yes, it has to be cleaned up from the floor, but that’s a lot easier than climbing up on the pallet racks themselves to sweep or vacuum them.
Warehouse Cleaning Begins With You!
Whether you’re an owner or a warehouse manager, it’s important for you to be an example to anyone else working in a warehouse. If you see something on the ground that needs to be picked up, make it happen. When you’re walking around with floor guys, look for something small to pick up and toss in the trash. Just make sure that you’re not the only one who’s doing it, otherwise you become the cleanup guy!
Look, we understand that keeping a warehouse clean isn’t exactly easy. It’s an industrial space with lots of inventory and people moving in and out, bring dirt and dust with them. But if you use the tips above, we bet you can keep your warehouse cleaner than it’s ever been.
If your warehouse is getting crowded and needs an overhaul, maybe it’s time for a change in your warehouse layout design. While we’re reorganizing is a great time to give your warehouse and extra deep cleaning, a complete restart so that you can keep it clean from then on. Click here to learn more about our warehouse design and layout.