We’re pleased to have Cliff Lowe as a guest blogger today and for him to share his thoughts with us on what many of us take for granted: floor visual management and the importance of that type of communication design for lean manufacturing. Enjoy his article and read more about Cliff after the article.
My best customers are from companies that practice Lean Manufacturing. So I started to ask, what is it about Superior Mark floor tape that these Lean guys love so much? I had tested my tape thoroughly and knew that it was the most durable on the market. Was it the durability? Or was there something more?
I started to research Lean and learned enough to understand the reasons why Superior Mark made so much sense in a Lean Manufacturing environment. It came down to three core concepts: Muda, Kaizen, and Kanban.
Every industrial workplace is required by OSHA to clearly mark aisles and passageways to guarantee that pedestrians have a designated walkway to safely pass. Forklift drivers must also be keenly aware of where their driving lanes begin and end. There are various ways to “clearly mark”, but as we consider the most common method, painting, keep in mind muda, kaizen, and kanban. Let’s take an in depth look at the entire life cycle of a painted line on an industrial floor.
Paint does not like to stick to concrete, and so in order to use paint to mark a line, the floor must usually be prepped by bead blasting or etching to rough up the surface so that the paint will have something to grab.
In order to paint a nice line, two lines of tape are typically applied to create a clean border for the paint. The section of the facility is shut down to allow the paint to dry completely, which is usually several hours. Then both lines of tape must be removed. The entire process could take a few days and require areas of production to be shut down.
In industrial facilities, floor markings almost always need to be maintained. Due to the abusive environment, we have to consider the cost of any repair or maintenance that will be involved. In order to maintain a painted line to keep it bright and visible, basically the whole process has to be repeated.
If there was an alternative aisle marking method to painting, which eliminated the expensive floor prep, the extra taping, the shut down time, then the process of painting would be considered “muda” in comparison. Waste can be found in almost any process. When it comes to floor marking, consider the waste that can be incurred not only in the initial installation, but in the long term maintenance of the floor marking.
Now, about Kaizen, or continuous improvement, which is a key tenet of Lean Initiatives. When a certain floor layout is designed in a Lean facility, it is designed with Kaizen in mind. Everyone is encouraged to always look for ways in which the layout can be improved. Hence the placement of objects inside the factory is never permanent. Marking the floor should ideally be done in a way that could be easily and quickly modified when a “Kaizen burst” or great idea arises that could improve efficiency. Painting lines does not allow for this flexibility, but using a removable floor tape does.
Finally, a well thought out floor marking design can create the equivalent of a giant Kanban board. Sometimes it is difficult to clearly identify the WIP or Work In Progress Limits. The limits of the production capacity for an industrial facility have a limiting factor, and sometimes that limiting factor is space. Floor marking tape can visually organize the space to highlight the physical limitations. The best example of this I have seen from one of my customers was in an auto body shop. They had learned about creating a visual workplace, and had been applying Lean and 5S concepts to their garage, in an effort to make better use of their space. Once they installed clear delineating floor markings, they discovered that they actually had the space to work on twice as many cars as they previously could.
The method that a company selects to mark their industrial floors can have ripple effects on their overall operational efficiency. Choosing a method that is flexible (i.e. removable, and installs fast) yet very durable and long lasting, is the best bet for maximum operational efficiency.
About Cliff Lowe:
Cliff holds two patents in traffic marking materials and is the creator of Superior Mark aislemarking tape. He is the owner of InSite Solutions LLC and Stop Painting.com. When he is not busy perfecting the design of traffic marking materials, he enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids.