The End-of-Shift Cleanup

The shop-wide benefits derived from this 10-minute activity far outweigh its use of time.


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I started my career in a manufacturing company with many different departments spread over a five-story facility. (The elevator was the most important piece of equipment we had.) In those days, production always stopped 10 minutes before the end of each shift, and all employees were required to clean their work areas during that final part of the workday. This included wiping down machines and equipment, cleaning off workbenches, putting tools and supplies away, and sweeping the floor. Nobody complained about doing this, and everyone took part because it was expected. The message was clear: Leave the area in the condition in which you would like to find it the next day. Unfortunately, over time, this 10-minute, end-of-shift cleanup became: Wash your hands and stand by the time clock. Expectations had changed, and this was the new norm.

I look back at those days and wonder why this valuable use of time was no longer deemed important. It was replaced by “lost” time. The benefits of the end-of-shift cleanup disappeared, never to return to that company.

Today, I see very few companies in which production stops at a predetermined time and a cleanup of the area commences. Yet there are still real benefits to the end-of-shift cleanup, and I believe the practice should be instilled in every company’s culture. Really, 10 minutes is all that is needed. The results include:

  1. A cleaner workplace. Although it is best to clean as you go, an end-of-shift cleanup will ensure that the area will be cleaned at least once per shift. The longer the duration between cleanups, the more dirt, dust, oil and grease will accumulate and the longer it takes to clean. This is one reason why the weekly cleanup is only minimally effective. The time-consuming “all hands” approach attempts to return the area to the desired condition are just temporarily in this case.
  2. More effective organization within the workplace. The sooner any item can be returned to its proper location, the better. Putting things where they belong removes clutter from the area and enables others to find what they need sooner. As with cleaning, the preferred approach is to put things away as you finish with them, but the end-of-shift assignment of this task ensures this daily occurrence. Visually, you will see shadow boards that contain the required tools, better organized cabinets and drawers, and quantities of tools and supplies more likely to be within their minimum/maximum limits. Simply put, the more frequently any area is checked, the less likely items will be misplaced or lost completely.
  3. A safer workplace. An end-of-shift cleanup reveals safety-related problems such as trip hazards resulting from improperly placed electrical cords and hoses, sharps incorrectly stored on workbenches or in drawers, items not properly secured in place, liquid spills, damaged tools, and even defective or improperly operating equipment. Discovering such problems provides an opportunity for correction so that accidents or near misses can be avoided.
  4. Easier access to cleaning supplies. If employees have access to cleaning supplies, they will likely use them to keep the area clean. If employees cannot readily access such supplies, they will not. Scheduling an end-of-shift cleanup forces organizations to identify locations for cleaning supplies, which in-turn makes them available when needed. Making these locations clearly visible is another step to achieving a clean workplace.
  5. A commitment to a safe, clean, organized arrangement of the workplace. If a workplace has a place for everything that is needed, then everything should be in that place. Dedicating time to an end-of-shift cleanup sends a powerful message about the importance of safety, cleanliness and organization. Such action is far better than speeches and meetings in which management hopes for employee buy-in.

If you have an end-of-shift cleanup in place in your company, congratulations. You have likely seen the benefits of this small commitment of time first-hand. For those who do not, try it on a pilot basis in one or two areas of the company. It will not be long before it becomes a company-wide valuable use of time.