Applying Lean Principles To Facility Cleaning Programs

This article is contributed by Veritiv, an Atlanta, GA-based business-to-business distributor of print, publishing, packaging, and facility solutions. The company is also a provider of logistics and supply chain management services.

A recent study conducted by Veritiv’s Facility Solutions segment found that 87.8% of employees believe that the cleanliness of their work environment directly reflects the feeling of being cared for by their employers.

“This is a clear indication that cleaning should take priority in facility solutions management, and by incorporating Lean principles into the cleaning process, both companies and employees can benefit,” said Barry Nelson, senior vice president of Facility Solutions for Veritiv.

“There are five main reasons employers should consider applying Lean principles to their cleaning function,” said Nelson. “It helps increase the productivity of cleaning teams, enhance the company’s image, improve morale and engagement, protect valuable assets, and make every dollar count.”

The application of Lean principles is becoming increasingly prevalent in nearly every type of business and industry, and more opportunities are being uncovered every day. One such area is the holistic cleaning function in a facility. Many companies still view cleaning simply as a “housekeeping” function — somewhat of a necessary evil.

facility cleaning
Photo: Veritiv

Because of this view, facility cleaning is often a neglected process, shortcuts are taken, focus quickly turns to getting by as cheaply as possible, and employers become unaware of the waste created. These negative effects far outpace any dollars saved on the front end, and as a result, the facility as a whole suffers.

The more employers fail to maintain an environment or asset properly the faster the environment or asset will deteriorate, putting pressure on the employer to spend significant amounts to repair or replace.

Another important issue with poor cleaning practices is their effect on employee morale and engagement. Cleaning has a direct link to these factors, yet many companies take short cuts or ignore the cleaning process altogether. Instead, promoting and supporting a clean environment can be an easy and effective way to empower and engage employees.

“Employees will take personal pleasure and satisfaction in the work they do and the environment they work in,” said Michael Parks, Certified Lean Advisor for Veritiv.

“When we look at the 5S Principles (Sorting, Set-In-Order, Shining, Standardization, and Sustaining), cleaning is well represented. Sorting eliminates clutter. Set-In-Order creates organization. Shining cleans and polishes. Standardization and Sustaining allows employers to maintain the new Lean environment,” notes Parks.

“There are three Lean Principles that relate to how important cleaning is to any given employer,” Parks continues. “First, Lean is the pursuit of perfection. Most employers are fully aware they may never achieve perfection, but they must continually try. Second, is the principle of ‘what is the employer willing to pay for?’ In this, the belief is that if an employer is spending money and not getting exactly what the employer is expecting, the employer is wasting money. Lastly, Lean is a war on waste. We often find that waste is ‘invisible’ until Lean is applied.”

The end result should be a clear indication that when Lean principles are a priority in facility solutions management, both employers and employees are better off.