One of the key objectives of Lean initiatives is to identify waste, or muda, in the operation. Muda can be found in almost any action that takes place in the facility. Every employee should be educated about identifying muda in their daily workflow, to maximize improvements in overall operational effeciency.

Every industrial facility that uses indoor vehicles such as forklifts are required by OSHA to mark the aisles and passageways for the safety of pedestrians. The method that is used for maintaining a highly visible floor marking may be creating unnecessary waste. Considering that this aisle marking will need to remain in place for the lifetime of the facility, let’s take a look at how the method used for creating and maintaining that marking could be causing wasted materials and wasted manpower. After all, OSHA’s floor marking requirement is not likely to change.

Aisles and passageways are commonly marked with paint, so let’s look at what is involved in using paint to mark the floor over the long term life of the facility. Paint does not adhere well to concrete, so 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.

To create a nice clean line to delineate the walkway, two stripes of tape are applied to create a template for the paint. Multiple coats of paint are applied, allowing dry time after each coat. Often production lines must be shut down to allow the paint to dry completely. The entire process could take a few days, and so the cost of the loss of production should be factored in to the overall cost of using paint to mark the line. Then the tape borders must be removed as well.

When the area is open again to traffic, the line is subjected to the abuse of the indoor vehicles. Paint does not tend to hold up very well to this constant traffic. I’ve seen painted lines get blackened within a day.  The line will constantly need to be repainted to maintain a highly visible walkway. Basically the entire process has to be repeated.

If there was an alternative method of creating a line that would eliminate the bead blasting floor prep, the shut down time, the tape removal, all while creating a line that lasted longer and required less frequent maintenance, then we could easily say that using paint for floor marking is wasteful.

Fortunately there is an alternative, and that is using a heavy duty floor marking tape to stripe the floors and create the walkways. There is no prep work other than alcohol mopping the floor, and no shut down required. The floor can be opened to traffic immediately after application. If you make sure to get the highest quality floor tape, then the stripe will last for a long time. The highest grade of floor tape features beveled edges and a recessed adhesive system. The beveled edges create a “ramp” effect, allowing traffic to be directed up and over the line. Because the adhesive is recessed away from the edge, the traffic never touches the adhesive, and the tape remains in tact for longer periods of time.

Heavy duty floor marking tape is completely different than standard vinyl floor marking tapes. Be ware of thin vinyl floor tapes, because they are not very durable, and when they need to be replaced, they are very difficult to remove. They do not have a recessed adhesive, and they are prone to tearing. Because they cannot hold up to traffic and are difficult to remove and replace, these tapes are another example of floor marking muda.

Lean initiatives strive to identify muda in every possible manifestation. 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. To make your operational efficiency as high as possible, take some time to analyze the method of marking aisles and passageways. There may be significant gains in efficiency to be realized.

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