The company described in this month’s cover story has a second-floor meeting room with a window overlooking the shop floor. One characteristic of the shop is immediately clear from this perspective: The shop is clean. Oil and grime are wiped from the machines; chips are swept from the floor; and loose items such as tools, gages and unfinished parts are not allowed to clutter, but instead are kept stored and organized. Aesthetically, the shop is pleasant to look at and comfortable to visit. The shop gives off a positive vibe.
But the company president has benefits in mind that are more tangible than an aesthetic effect. What he has in mind is more specific even than just a pleasant working environment, though this is certainly a consideration. He sees his well-cared-for shop delivering important strategic value. The very practical benefits he realizes are worth evaluating for any shop in which basic care and cleaning have been allowed to sink to a low priority. Those benefits include:
1. Employee retention. Shopfloor employees are weighing their options, as any alert shop owner recognizes. A shop has to market itself not just to customers, but also to its good employees.
The clean shop is valuable here. Odds are, any other given employer will have a shop that is less clean than this one.That visible difference creates the first impression in a searching employee’s mind, and it may plant seeds of doubt.The existing employee who visits another shop may legitimately wonder: Does this company value its shopfloor resources less? Does it value its business and its employees less as well? The employee who can’t answer these questions to his or her own satisfaction is less likely to make the jump.
2. Machine tool service. Machine tool suppliers sometimes give their service personnel some latitude to choose their own assignments, based on seniority. The company with a clean shop offers an attractive environment for these service personnel to visit. The president of this particular clean shop is convinced that his facility attracts a higher percentage of more experienced service personnel directly as a result of the commitment to cleaning.
3. Resale value. Other manufacturers in the region know about the company, and they know what the shop floor is like. They know how well the company’s equipment is cared for. Used machine tools the company is trying to sell therefore move more quickly, or command a higher price, based on the strength of this positive impression.