Investing in Cleanliness

Machine shops are all over the map when it comes to cleanliness: numerous factors contribute to whether one can “eat off the shop floor” or if one is better off looking up so they don’t have to see the grime layer they’re stepping on.  Not every shop can look like a medical clean room, nor should they.  However, the right employees care about the space where they spend 8 or more hours a day, good customers care about the kind of place their parts are made in, and good vendors prefer to spend time in their favored environments.

So, after the ownership and much of the management of the business changed a few years ago, we cleaned up, we organized, and we removed clutter.  It took years to deal with decades of accumulation and with a culture that initially did not value it, either from management or employees.

We thought we had cleaned up a bit, then we upgraded the shop to bright LED lighting, and it looked dirty again, because it was.  Over time, we cleaned and deep-cleaned machines, removed materials we didn’t want to work with, filtered air, fluids and machines like we had never done.  Our COO conducted proper mop-handling training sessions.  We became fanatics of some totally awesome cleaner we probably can’t name, yet eliminated any cleaner that might have been remotely hazardous or environmentally questionable.  We went to every corner of the shop, from the stock room to shipping, and any mezzanine in between.  We took time from the shifts to do this and what a difference it has made: we have been able to attract people who would never have considered working here previously, we have a workforce who mostly “wants to work here” as opposed to “has to work here”.  We have vendors commenting about this and spending more time with us, not selling but helping us solve problems.  When customers visit, they are free to go everywhere, not just the orchestrated tour that previously only allowed them to see the acceptable areas.  We’ve been able to gain customers on that alone – that “care” factor, the one that says we’ll care about their parts since we care about our place, our employees and our equipment.Cleanliness is worth it – it may look like a cost, but it’s really an investment with constant returns.

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