Why bother with shop housekeeping?

You can get a pretty good idea of the overall quality of a technician’s work by looking at the shop area where he works. Is it swept and neat? What about his tools? Are they clean?

Of course the best technicians aren’t always the neatest and cleanest, but in my experience, I’ve found that they usually are.

Obviously, if the shop bay is disorganized, there’s more clutter to work around. If a technician is trying to get to a jack, or trying to get to an air wrench or trying to get to his toolbox, and there is stuff lying all over the place, a job takes that much longer and the work is more frustrating.

In a dirty shop, attitudes and the quality of work deteriorate.

Productivity and Safety

On the other hand, both productivity and work quality improve in a clean environment where everything is laid out in its place. Technicians know where things are supposed to be, and if they put tools back after use, they’ll actually be there.

It’s a more efficient way to function.

But productivity is only one benefit of a clean shop. Another is safety.

A clean work environment is going to promote safety. It’s far less likely that technicians will be injured slipping on oil or tripping on trash that should have been picked up.

Moreover, keeping the workplace clean helps prevent at least some premature parts failures. It could be bearings, it could be brake shoes, it could be injectors. It could be as simple as a valve cover.

Clean Parts

Let’s consider a valve cover in a dirty environment. Suppose the technician tearing the engine down doesn’t concern himself with keeping his bay clean. He just jumps in and starts ripping things apart.

Next thing you know, a valve cover is lying there while the technician is grinding, or the technician next door is doing a brake job or a cut weld. There’s splatter, dust and dirt, and some of that stuff gets into the valve cover.

The technician puts the engine back together and that gritty valve cover goes right back in on top of it.

Preventing just this kind of thing is part of the clean-shop mindset.

Quick Cleanups

In my experience, the shop bay needs to be cleaned after every job goes out. At the very least, have someone take a broom and sweep the floor of dirt and the dust, clean up any loose oil and grease spots and wipe down the tools.

I’ve seen shops that clean up at the end of the day.

Depending on the kind of jobs done, that’s just not often enough. For example, if a shop does brake jobs all day, that shop will be a mess and should be cleaned after each job.

Thorough Cleanups

In the shops that I ran, we did a major cleanup once a month or so. I would go in on a Saturday, or I would assign a technician or a crew. We had scrubbers and we would completely scour all the bays, giving them a thorough cleaning.

Yes, that cost money. But the cost of the water, chemicals and the time is nothing compared to one simple slip and fall, or one bad back.

Which brings us back to safety. There is absolutely no benefit in cluttered, messy work spaces; only increased odds for accidents.

Dave Reed managed a number of major fleets before becoming a fleet management consultant with Arsenault Associates - a fleet maintenance management software company. Based in Burlington, NJ, the company is the provider of Dossier fleet maintenance management software and related technology solutions. www.arsenault.com.