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Cleanliness is a Virtue

This old proverb rings true for your plant more than ever: Take a closer look at how good housekeeping practices positively impact profit, productivity and purpose in metalworking operations.

Posted: July 29, 2019

Manual removal is simply not cost-effective when trying to manage large volumes of material byproducts that accumulate quickly and can block workflow areas. Using equipment like this in-floor trough conveyor to automate the removal of chips and coolant from the work area is an effective housekeeping solution.
Separating scrap metal and spent fluid as part of a routine housekeeping program can help improve everything from employee morale to sales and operating efficiency, because no one wants to work in grimy, smelly or unsafe conditions. Not cleaning your workspace, forgetting to maintain equipment or neglecting to remove debris and other obstructions from work zones can have an adverse effect on employees and eventually lead to a steady decline in productivity.
Vertical axis crushers and shredders that reduce dangerous metal turnings and bulky wads into shovel-grade chips are among several sensible, effective options for clearing the rapid buildup of spent material.
Proper handling of free-floating, mechanically-dispersed tramp oils, bacteria, slime and inverted emulsions is important. An ozone generator (shown here) contributes to a clean shop by directly injecting ozone into the coolant to kill bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungus and molds while eliminating coolant sump odors. Specially-designed fluid filtration systems like this can help to extend coolant and washwater life, reduce employee exposure to harmful fluids and alleviate unpleasant, foul-smelling odors from the plant.

“Cleanliness is a virtue” is an old adage your mother might have used to convince you to clean your room at one point in time. But in manufacturing – where a disorganized and cluttered workspace can negatively impact so many essential functions and processes – it’s a phrase that plant managers should take to heart. Outside of the obvious safety benefits, employing a routine housekeeping program can help tighten controls and procedures, such as keeping tabs on parts and materials, removing and disposing of scrap metal and spent fluid, and proper handling and recycling of wastewater. But the list of potential benefits doesn’t end there. A strong commitment to housekeeping can extend to improving everything from employee morale to sales and operating efficiency. While there are clear financial benefits in terms of risk avoidance and deferred maintenance, when put into action, good housekeeping practices have the potential to transcend not only the physical aspect of your business, but the mental as well.

In almost every discipline – whether it be cooking, writing, metal stamping or injection molding – how well you prepare is often a key determinant of success. When it comes to the shop floor, where space is often at a real premium, having an organized system for storing, locating and transferring raw materials quickly and effortlessly provides your employees with the organization and structure they need to focus on the primary task at hand. When all of the tools of the trade are prearranged from an ergonomic standpoint, it minimizes hazards, worker fatigue and unnecessary time spent searching for tools or materials. This is more than a sound organizational practice – it is also stated explicitly in the OSHA Materials Handling, Storage, Use and Disposal Standard (1926.250), which specifies that storage areas should not accumulate materials that present hazards for tripping, fire, explosion or pests.

In metalworking, where large volumes of material byproducts can accumulate quickly and block workflow areas, manual removal is simply not cost-effective. Instead, sensible options used to handle the rapid buildup of spent material include conveyors that automate the removal of accumulated chips and coolant away from the point of production, and briquetters that compress loose turnings and swarf into near-solid dry pucks for recycling. Other effective options for clearing scrap and spent fluid waste include:

  • Wringers and centrifuges that are designed for drying chips and reclaiming fluid.
  • Vertical axis crushers and shredders that reduce dangerous metal turnings and bulky wads into shovel-grade chips.
  • Tramp metal separators that can remove bar-ends, broken tooling and other solids from your chip flow, protecting scrap metal equipment from damage and reducing downtime and costly repairs.

Appearances really do matter – when big business deals come calling that require walk-throughs or closer inspections of your facility, a plant that looks cluttered or worse can put those deals in real jeopardy. It’s like asking yourself whether you would continue eating at a restaurant when you know the chefs don’t wash their hands: If they aren’t attentive enough to do something that fundamental for their customers’ benefit, what other details are they missing? Where else might the plant operator be cutting corners? Could this disorganization compromise throughput and negatively affect my business? This pitfall can easily be avoided by establishing a regularly-scheduled housekeeping program that incorporates automated equipment to maintain a clean and orderly workplace first and foremost. Don’t give customers a reason to second guess whether the service or product they are getting from you is substandard or defective. If you stake your brand’s reputation on quality, then it is wise to take all steps necessary to ensure a clean, efficient and well-organized plant.

“Respect is one of those subtle lubricants that keeps the engine of management running smoothly,” says Forbes contributor and management expert Victor Lipman. “But when, like oil, it gets low, parts start grinding.” Just as good personal hygiene ties into self-respect and self-esteem, good housekeeping translates into overall respect for the workplace. If you put off cleaning your workspace, forget to maintain equipment, or neglect to remove debris and other obstructions from work zones, it can have an adverse effect on employee morale and engagement – two key ingredients for performance and success. Eventually, you should also expect to experience a steady decline in productivity. No one wants to work in grimy, smelly or unsafe conditions. While there are those who might put up with these inconveniences, which can easily be dismissed as the nature of the beast in metalworking operations, everyone has their limits.

One case in point is in the handling of free-floating and mechanically-dispersed tramp oils, bacteria, slime and inverted emulsions. By incorporating specially-designed fluid filtration systems, you not only extend coolant and washwater life, you can also reduce your employees’ exposure to harmful fluids and alleviate unpleasant and foul-smelling odors from your plant.

Maintaining machinery to avoid unnecessary downtime, repairs or replacement is all part of the cycle of life in the world of manufacturing. Everyone wants to prolong the life of their equipment for the highest output and longest return on investment possible. This can more likely be achieved through implementing a housekeeping program that incorporates a set schedule for employees to inspect your equipment and evaluate whether all of your automated processes are in good working order. This additional layer of checks and balances – which can include testing fluid and lubricant levels, inspecting signs of wear and tear, and confirming components are clean and clear of foreign objects or obstructions – provides an extra measure of protection beyond scheduled maintenance. Automated processes can also help extend the life of your machinery. In the case of grinding applications, adding paper bed or candle filters that are designed to filter fine particulate matter from oil and fluids can help to prolong coolant and tool life.

Saving space, time and money are worthy goals that can be achieved with a proactive and innovative approach to the cleaning and removal of workplace clutter. By implementing housekeeping system innovations, such as the application of automated conveyors, scrap processing, fluid filtration, and/or wastewater treatment systems, metalworking operations can:

  • Boost productivity by limiting the time machinists have to clean or remove material.
  • Increase throughput by speeding up essential functions of the manufacturing process.
  • Reduce metal turnings to flowable chips and separate them from spent fluid for recycling or reuse.
  • Decrease maintenance time and increase the life of working fluids by recycling used coolant, washwater and other fluids.

When your workforce doesn’t have to stop to clean up scrap or replace fluid after every production run, you can reduce costly bottlenecks and increase worker productivity and throughput. Furthermore, numerous case studies demonstrate how scrap, wastewater treatment and fluid recycling systems can – in addition to cutting out manual labor – lead to more substantial sources of revenue when materials are separated and compacted with precision and fluid is recycled or reused for an optimum return on investment.

When established as part of an overarching housekeeping and volume reduction plan, automated systems such as conveyors and/or scrap metal shredders, separators and crushers have the capacity to greatly reduce the need for workers to stop what they are doing and clean up. In addition, applying paper-bed filters, coolant recycling and wastewater filtration systems can do much to reduce costs and increase efficiencies while addressing the risks involved with slips and spills. In all of these cases, overhauling or re-evaluating internal housekeeping processes is a logical place to start – especially when you consider the list of options available for automation that relates to the indisputable and long-lasting positive impact a clean and orderly workplace can provide.

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