6 Reasons Vinyl Chart Tape Should Be A Tool In Your Workplace

Let’s Explore How Vinyl Chart Tape Can Improve your Workspace.

Every once in a while a product or tool comes along so powerful that it has the potential to completely revolutionize the way you do business, turn old preconceptions over on their heads, and bring you into the future as an innovator in your market. Admittedly, vinyl chart tape (which you can purchase here) might not exactly be one of these… BUT, it comes closer than you might think, and it should have a place in your office just the same. As one of the potential unknowns in the workplace planning and organizing world, I don’t think this handy little tool gets the recognition it deserves. Let’s take a look at the 6 reasons that vinyl chart tape should already be playing a role in your workspace.

6 Reasons Vinyl Chart Tape is Must

1. Regular tape just can’t compare: We don’t want to hate on poor ol’ regular tape too much, but there are some jobs that vinyl tape is just better suited for. While regular common tape varieties and brands are meant to be jacks-of-all-trades, vinyl chart tape has a few specific purposes and it excels at fulfilling each and every one of them.

2. Variety: Because vinyl tape is so often used in charting, plotting, and sectioning off various cells and diagrams, it is easy to get a hold of exactly the product you need for any given purpose. Widths, for example, are variable, as are the colors your can order in. This might not seem like much at first, but being able to color code a project is one of the oldest, most effective visual tricks in the book. That said, the classic ½ inch black vinyl tape can handle a lot of jobs on its own!

Vinyl Chart Tape Layout Board3. Whiteboards will thank you: As many vinyl tape charts are created on whiteboards, this is definitely a big one. When creating a chart, be it for training purposes in the boardroom or for worker usage in the hall, one of the most important factors boils down to how easy it is to update information. In the digital age, the click of a mouse or the tapping of a single key can update information quickly and without incident, giving it a distinct advantage in that department over physical displays. Because of this, when big, bold charts in the real world do have their place, you want to make re-writing or updating information as easy of a task as possible.

Vinyl chart tape achieves this in a couple of different ways. First of all, when placed on a whiteboard, you create semi-permanent cells that won’t smudge or distort when workers are erasing written information within a cell. This alone gives them an edge over any chart which has simply been drawn straight onto a board, saving you and your workers time and hassle. Secondly, “semi-permanent” doesn’t mean permanent, so when you need to change a chart or display, you can often remove and then place new tape strips with minimal obstructive residue being left behind.

Don’t want to have to deal with ink and erasing altogether? Using magnets as cell markers or placeholders along with a vinyl tape-created chart can turn any magnetic surface, whiteboard or not, into a sleek, low-maintenance chart.

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4. Employee organization couldn’t be easier: As a young child, I remember a teacher who used a tape-made chart on the blackboard to keep track of which children had misbehaved each day. Do something you shouldn’t, and you’d get an X in one of the squares next to your name; get three “strikes,” and you were out for the day. When I went to work in one of my first jobs, our manager had us display our week’s work schedule on a similar whiteboard so everyone could see what shifts were covered and plan their own schedules accordingly. While the system changed and became a bit less elementary, the principle in these two instances, to create simple, visual management tools, followed me through multiple stages of life. You can really let your imagination run wild here, as anything that would help to increase passive communication and organization between managers, workers, and any other affected parties is fair game, and can likely be achieved without all that much trouble.

5. People are visual: For training and learning purposes, most people are visual learners and absorb concepts and knowledge much quicker having things shown rather than simply told to them. For this reason, you should consider using various tape colors to block out concepts in your training sessions. Not only are workers likely to learn concepts faster, but being able to associate a procedure as a “red box” concept, or a certain material to be sorted as a “blue bin” item, can help to drastically increase long-term retention as well.

6. Lean applications: If you’re a follower of Lean business practices, you might already have some ideas how visual cues could help you continually improve your workplace in terms of productivity and flow. For example, you might use vinyl tape to create a chart that lays out your Kanban cards in an easy to understand fashion. Charts can also be used to track defects, worker improvement suggestions from employers, and more.

As you’ve hopefully got a better idea now, vinyl chart tape is a versatile tool that can likely be applied to your own business in a number of ways. Where you go with it now, is entirely up to you!

10 Safety Signs to Improve Your Workplace

safety sign, hazard

Are you updating your facility’s safety signs? Taking a sign inventory to make sure you’re OSHA compliant? Adding new signs for clarity? In any of these cases, it’s important to consider what signs will help keep your facility’s operations moving smoothly and keep employees safe. The number and type of signs you’ll want to include in your workplace obviously depends on your industry and your company’s size, but some basic kinds of signs will be beneficial for almost any workplace. This article will walk through a typical facility and look at 10 common signs that would make operations easier and safer.

1. Signs to Direct Foot Traffic

industrial floor tape

Begin by walking through your facility the way an employee would. Enter through an employee entrance and head to the break room, lockers or time clock – wherever your employees go first. Then proceed to the work floor like an employee. Are there signs pointing people in the right direction and helping them do so safely? Maybe these sorts of things seem self-explanatory, but to new employees, temporary employees and visitors, entrance and exit signs, arrows and labeled pedestrian walkways can be very helpful. Once inside the workspace, it’s possible employees will encounter obstacles like vehicles, machinery or tall shelves that block the view. Pointing people in the right direction with signs will keep them out of the way, eliminate confusion and save time; if an employee can easily read where pedestrians are allowed to walk or how to find the bathroom, they won’t have to waste time asking for help.

2. Signs for Drivers

safety sign, traffic sign

Similar to the way well-marked pedestrian areas can make for ease of movement, clearly labeled vehicle pathways will help drivers move about easily and safely. Signs directing traffic—such as speed limit signs, arrows and colored floor tape—can create well-functioning vehicle “roadways”. Look around and think of your workplace as a small street or highway system. Everyone needs to get where they need to go as quickly and safely as possible. Provide signs that will help accomplish this task.

3. PPE Signs

PPE, floor sign

Next, consider what tasks an employee will be performing. Approach machines or other workspaces. What signs do you see in these areas related to personal protective equipment (PPE)? Many tasks in industrial, manufacturing work settings require PPE for workers to safely complete tasks. This could mean wearing ear protection if equipment is noisy, goggles if liquids or dust could get into someone’s eyes or flame-resistant clothing if any chemical or procedure poses a fire hazard. Post signs in these areas alerting employees to these requirements.

Hazard Signs

In conjunction with those PPE signs, you’ll most likely need some signs alerting employees to the corresponding hazards, too. OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ASNI) list four types of hazard levels, which they call alert signal words. These four categories of hazard help you as a safety manager determine what types of signs you’ll need in your facility.

4. Danger

hazard sign, safety sign

The highest level of hazard alert is marked by a Danger sign, which can be used for a wide variety of hazards. A Danger sign might alert employees to the possibility of an arc flash or exposure to a poison, explosive or hazardous waste. A Danger sign means that should a hazardous situation arise, the result could be death or serious injury. Look around your facility for machinery or hazardous substances that could pose these kinds of threats. Then consider where to place a Danger sign so it will be most noticeable to anyone working in the area.

5. Warning

hazard sign, safety sign

Warning signs indicate a slightly smaller level of risk, but still highlight that a serious injury or death is possible in a given area. Examples of common warning signs include alerts about flammability, moving parts of machines, dangers of smoking in a certain location and the possibility of falling objects. Warning signs apply in many different circumstances, so consider the level of caution you want your employees to take in a particular area.

6. Caution

hazard sign, safety sign

Keep walking around and surveying hazardous areas in your facility. Have you covered the most dangerous areas and identified locations for Danger and Warning signs? Good. Now think about areas that are less dangerous, but where you still want employees to be alert to potential risks. For these situations, it’s best to use a Caution sign. This alert signal word indicates injury or harm is possible, but may be less severe than in more hazardous areas. You’ve surely seen Caution signs in all sorts of everyday scenarios—“Caution: Wet Floor;” “Caution: Merging Traffic”—and they can serve all sorts of purposes in your facility. For example, if there’s a place in your warehouse where pedestrian traffic and forklift traffic cross, you might post a sign alerting people on foot to the presence of forklifts. This type of sign is simple and effective.

7. Notice

safety sign

Now that you’ve inspected all hazardous areas surrounding employee workspaces, is there anything else employees need to know to do their jobs properly? If so, select a Notice sign, which can list anything from further instructions for using a piece of equipment to simple statements like “No Food or Drink.” These types of signs will help standardize rules and procedures in your facility, and in many cases they will also help ensure safety. Maybe keeping food out of an area seems most important because it will prevent messes, but it’s possible food could at some point pose a risk. An employee might be distracted while eating on the job or could drop food in a sensitive area.

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8. Emergency Equipment Signs

safety sign, emergency equipment

Now that you have most job-related areas labeled, consider what would happen if one of these hazards we mentioned actually turned into a dangerous situation. Would employees know what to do? To ensure your workers remember what steps to take, post signs for emergency equipment in very visible spots. Look around and see where signs would be most easily seen. These signs include things like eyewash stations, fire extinguishers, first aid kits and AEDs. You don’t want anyone to spend extra time looking for these things during an emergency, so label them ahead of time.

9. Evacuation Signs

safety sign

After assessing signs for emergency equipment, look up and see if you can locate emergency exit signs. These are some of the most basic signs that need to be present in any workplace, so you probably have them already. Do consider, though, how visible they are, where they’re placed—The floor? The ceiling? At eye level?—and whether workers could see them in the event of a fire or power outage. Glow-in-the-dark exit signs are a great option to help in these sorts of unexpected situations.

10. Storage Labels

safety label, organizational label

By now, you should have a good sense of your facility’s instructional, traffic, hazard and emergency signs. The last type of sign you’ll want to consider relates to what happens at the end of a shift. So look around one last time: where are materials stored in your facility? If an employee arrives at work and gets out certain tools, protective gear or chemicals, are there established procedures for keeping those items clean and organized? Signs can label where storage areas are located, where specific items should be placed and when employees should clean items or inspect them for damage or wear and tear. Having a system in place for storing supplies will not only make the workplace cleaner and more efficient, it will also keep it safe. A disorganized storage area can lead to tripping or to items falling off shelves. Those types of accidents don’t need to happen, and some simple signs can help ensure they rarely do.

Workplace Safety & Foot Protection

Get this Foot Protection Floor Sign
Get this Foot Protection Floor Sign

When people think of workplace safety they often focus on hazards that are life threatening, or those that can cause a serious disability. Of course, these are extremely important and need to be taken seriously, however, it is also important to take steps to provide head to toe protection for employees. Specifically, foot protection is an important concern that often goes overlooked.

People don’t often think about their feet, and keeping them safe, until after they are injured. A foot injury, however, can be extremely painful and debilitating. Most people don’t realize just how much they are on their feet, until they experience this type of injury. With this in mind, facility safety managers need to make sure foot protection is a priority throughout the facility. There are many different things that can be done to keep the feet safe, and each facility will need to come up with an effective plan of action.

Potential Foot Hazards

According to an Occupational Health and Safety article on Footwear,

There are two major categories of foot injuries: those caused by punctures, crushing, sprains, and lacerations; and those that result from slips, trips, and falls.

OHS - Footwear in Focus

When thinking about foot protection the first thing most safety managers will think of is protecting feet from things being dropped on them. This makes sense because that is one of the most common types of foot injury. Dropping heavy items that are being carried or moved can quickly crush a foot, resulting in serious breaks or bruises. That is really just the beginning, however. Look at this list of potential risks to people’s feet in any given facility.

  • Electrocution – Most extension cords and many other electrical sources are run along the ground. In ideal situations the cords will be protected and so will the feet, but that is not always the case. Kicking a cord on accident can cause electrocution or shocks, which can result in very serious injuries.
  • Chemicals and Solvents – If a chemical is dropped or spilled, it can quickly soak through most shoes and socks, resulting in severe burns. Even if the spill is well away from the employee when it happens, it can spread quickly and silently, resulting in unsuspecting employees being put at risk.
  • Frostbite – When working outside, or in a freezer area, the feet are often one of the first parts of the body to get cold. Unfortunately, they often lose sensitivity more quickly than other parts of the body, leaving them susceptible to frostbite or other cold related tissue damage. In extremely cold temperatures, this can happen more quickly than most people would believe. The risk is even more significant when the feet get wet and cold.
  • Slips & Falls – While the risk affects the entire body, slips and falls often start at the feet.
  • Drops – Of course, dropping heavy items on your feet is a big risk. It takes just fractions of a second to drop something on your foot, resulting in significant injury.

Foot Protection

Each of the above mentioned risks to the feet should be taken very seriously. Safety managers can, however, provide proper foot protection to the employees in order to reduce or eliminate the risks. The following points are solutions to the risks listed above:

  • Electrical Hazard Protective Sole – The sole and heel of shoes can be constructed in a way that reduces the chances of electricity from coming in contact with the foot.
  • Chemical Resistant Shoes – Choosing shoes made from leather or a synthetic material that is resistant to chemicals and solvents is a great idea. This could be made from rubber, vinyl, plastic, PVC or some other compound. Depending on the work environment, choosing footwear that covers the foot, and part of the leg may be a good idea.
  • Insulated Footwear – To keep your feet safe from the cold, choose insulated footwear. You can combine this with insulated socks as well. Encouraging employees to come in from the cold and check on the health of their feet is another great way to ensure everyone is practicing proper foot protection strategies.
  • High Traction Shoes – Choosing footwear that is designed for the type of work environment people will be in is a good idea. If working in areas where there are often wet floors, for example, choosing a shoe with high traction can be a good idea. In icy areas, snow boots may be the right choice.
  • Steel Toe Boots – Keeping your feet protected from things dropping on them is often done with steel toed boots. These boots have a very strong toe, which will protect your feet if something smashes onto them. There are many different types of these boots to choose from, and finding the ones that work best in your facility is very important.


Prevention is Key to Foot Safety

While preventing special protective footwear is a good way to keep everyone’s feet safe, it really isn’t enough. Having employees actively work to prevent any sort of accident or other risk to their feet is a good idea. This can be done through facility training (using safety training DVD’s such as this) in many cases. Showing employees what types of risks exist in the facility, for example, is a good start. Then showing everyone how those risks can be avoided or minimized. This way, even if they have the protective footwear, they will be even safer.

If people are often carrying heavy objects, make sure they have moving carts or other tools that will help ensure the move is able to be completed safety. In addition to protecting people’s feet from drops, it will also protect their backs from getting trained. When you focus on foot protection, you’re actually protecting the entire body.

Incentives and Safety Programs – A Match Made in Heaven?

Incentives and Safety ProgramsToday more than ever businesses need to make sure they are putting a priority on their safety programs in order to get the best possible results. There are many reasons why facility managers are taking safety more seriously, including the fact that studies now confirm that workplace injuries are one of the most costly problems in the manufacturing industry. Of course, improving safety is also important for keeping employees, equipment and inventory safe, which is essential for running a profitable company.

There are many things that companies can do to help improve safety. Looking at all the different options is a good way to decide which efforts will have the best results. For many facilities, incentives and safety programs go hand in hand. They feel that using incentives to encourage safety improvements is a great way to get the desired results, while also improving overall morale. Other experts, however, believe that using incentives to promote safety can actually cause more problems. Looking at all the pros and cons of using incentives and safety programs together is a great way for any facility to make a more educated decision.

The Benefits of Incentives

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management reference guide regarding incentives,

Incentives and employee recognition are effective elements of hiring and retaining agency Talent. This means providing incentives to and recognition of employees for their performance and acknowledging their contributions to the agency’s mission.

Incentives and Employee Recognition by U.S. Office of Personnel Management

The following are some of the benefits that companies can enjoy by using incentives to help encourage improved overall safety. Look at them closely and see which ones your facility might benefit from if you implement great incentives for your safety programs.

  • Instant Motivation – When you offer employees some sort of incentive for a behavior, they are more likely to immediately change the way they do things. This is a much more rapid response than you would get from simply adjusting a policy or providing a training class, in most cases.
  • Measurable – When you use incentives for safety programs, it is easier to measure what types of results you’re getting. This is, at least in part, because you are forced to track what incentives you are giving out.
  • Employees Like Incentives – Most employees like the idea of incentives, because they will see a benefit for their hard work. For many, this is a more tangible way to get recognized for positive work.
  • Can be Effective Depending on what types of safety changes you are looking to encourage, it is possible to achieve those changes by using incentives. This is especially true if the thing you want changed is a fairly easy to observe behavior or activity.
  • Easy Implementation You can often set up and start an incentive program very quickly and easily. This makes it a great option for situations where you need to act fact and get some changes made to eliminate specific hazards.
  • Focuses Attention A good safety inventive program will focus the attention of management and employees alike on the biggest problems. Having everyone working toward improving one safety problem is a great way to get it solved permanently.
  • Easy to Adjust When you’ve got an incentive program in place, you can easily refocus the program to attempt to make other improvements in the overall safety of the facility.

As you can see, incentive programs in manufacturing facilities can really bring a lot to the table. They are often a simple solution to a complex problem. They are especially beneficial when you are using them to solve a very specific safety concern that has been occurring for some time. By offering a tailor made incentive program, you can often get the results you’re looking for much more quickly than any other safety improvement option available. Incentives can also be something as simple as just adding light hearted humor into the workplace. A little bit a laughter can go a long way in improving an employees outlook and mood while on the job. For instance, consider posting a sign such as this.

The Problems of Incentives

Of course, incentives aren’t always considered the best possible way to improve a safety program. In fact, some people believe that incentives and safety programs should not go together at all. Look at these potential issues you could run into when combining incentives and safety programs before you decide if it is the right move for your facility.

  • Encourages Under Reporting When employees know that they will get some sort of incentive for having good safety statistics, they are much more likely to skip reporting accidents or injuries. While this might make the safety numbers look good, it doesn’t actually solve the problems that are present.
  • May Cause Conflict – Some employees might be upset if they don’t qualify for the incentive when others do. This is a big problem in situations where some of the safety measurements are subjective or difficult to directly observe. If a conflict does arise there are always resources available to help foster positive relationships while in the workplace. DVD’s such as this, can be an effective tool towards maintaining a hospitable work environment for all.
  • Can be Costly These types of incentive programs can be quite expensive if they aren’t managed properly. Many managers are surprised at just how many people will qualify for an incentive when it is offered. Keeping the program within budget isn’t always possible.
  • Must be Monitored – It is essential that the program is monitored closely to ensure employees aren’t cheating the system just to get the incentive.
  • More Effective Options In most cases, there are other options available for improving safety, and using incentives isn’t always the most effective choice. Some facilities are tempted to start an incentive program because they are easier to implement, but that doesn’t always mean they are the best choice.
  • Broadly Focused – In most cases the incentive programs related to safety are very broad in scope. Rather than offering an incentive for a specific improvement, they give general incentives based on the overall safety numbers. This can make the program confusing and aggravating for employees over time.
  • Loses Benefits Over Time – While incentive programs have been shown to be helpful at first, they often lose their effectiveness over time. People get used to having the program there, and they begin to expect to receive the incentive, even if they didn’t continue to improve. Over the long term, incentive programs are rarely effective for consistent behavior improvement.

These are just a few of the many different problems that can occur when you try to use incentive programs to solve safety problems. If they aren’t implemented perfectly, they will lead to resentment, fraudulent record keeping and many other big problems. They could even lead to a workplace environment that is less safe than it was in the beginning. While it might seem tempting to use incentives to solve safety problems, it isn’t always the right answer to the problem.

Are Incentives and Safety Programs right for you?

When looking through all the benefits and problems that can be associated with combining incentives and safety programs, it is important to really think the idea through. Despite what many people believe, there is no one right answer for every facility in the world. For some situations, using an incentive program might be the right choice. In others, the incentives will cause more problems than they fix.

The important thing is to figure out whether or not it is a good choice for your facility. Looking not only at whether or not the program will provide you with results, but asking if they are the best possible results. In addition, since these programs can be costly, asking whether or not the return on investment is sufficient. In some cases, these types of programs will be the best possible solution. In others, they should be avoided. When the facility manager and safety manager can work together to figure out how to make the necessary safety improvements, everyone will benefit.

How to Fix Human Error

human-errorComputers and machines have done amazing things in the manufacturing industry. They not only help to streamline processes, but also prevent a lot of mistakes and ensure things get done much more quickly. Even with all these advancements, however, there is still a great need for employees to take care of a lot of the work in any facility. For the most part, these individuals do a great job keeping the work flowing well, but occasionally there are human errors that occur.

It will never be possible to completely eliminate all human error from a workplace, however, it is important to work toward that goal anyway. Finding ways to minimize human error, and catch the errors that do occur as quickly as possible is very important for any facility. The following concepts are used in many factories and manufacturing plants around the world to help fix the problem of human error.

Catching Errors Early

When an error does occur it often ends up causing more problems along the line, until it is caught. Facilities should work hard to put processes in place to catch any type of human error as soon as it happens, so the process can be halted until it is fixed. If the error is something minor, it will only take a moment to fix or remove the problem. For larger problems, it is best to take care of the issue right away so it doesn’t continue on unchecked.

To catch these errors facilities can rely on mechanical processes to check on things like the measurements of parts or any other abnormalities that they can detect. It is also possible to have other employees looking over the work that people do to ensure problems are caught as quickly as possible. Human inspectors are a great way to catch and fix errors right away.


Proper Training

Training employees properly will go a long way toward helping to eliminate errors in the facility. In many cases, people make mistakes because they didn’t realize that they were doing something wrong. Training people to perform certain tasks in the right way will help to avoid many problems in any facility. It is important to ensure that a facility is not just providing a one-time training, however. Ongoing training is necessary to ensure problems don’t creep into the process.

Finding the Root Cause

root-causeThis is perhaps the most important of the tips on this list. When human errors occur, many people are tempted to just fix the problem and move on as quickly as possible. While sometimes that is necessary, it doesn’t actually solve the problem permanently. Instead, take a little extra time to identify why something went wrong.

In many cases it will be possible to identify a root cause for the error that occurred, and then take steps to keep it from happening in the future. This might be something like an employee was not shown the proper technique for doing the job, in which case they could be trained properly in order to prevent the problem from occurring again. There are, of course, many different types of problems, and the more of them you can trace back to a root cause, the easier it will be to eliminate issues.

Working Together

It is very important for management to remember that mistakes will happen. In the vast majority of cases, people aren’t intentionally causing problems or making mistakes, so punishment is not normally necessary. Instead, work with the employee who made the mistake to try to help find out why it happened. Employees who are worried about getting written up, or losing their job, will experience much more stress, which can lead to more problems.

When you work with the employees to find out why something went wrong, they will be more likely to trust you, and perform their job better in the future.

5S Supplies for Auto Shop

foam-organizersAuto repair shops are often in a perfect situation to take advantage of 5S strategies. These shops typically have a lot of different types of inventory, and perform a wide variety of different tasks each day. Since they are repairing all different makes and models of vehicle, not to mention the year, as well as fixing all sorts of things on each one, there are many places where waste can creep in. Using 5S supplies is a great way to help ensure a facility isn’t falling into bad habits and wasting time, energy, inventory or anything else.

There are many different things that an auto shop can do to help improve their efficiency. This can make it easy for the shop owner to pick a few things that will have the biggest impact right away. If, for example, they choose to simply implement foam tool organizers and shadow boarding, they will enjoy a noticeable improvement right away, and one that can help benefit the shop for years to come.

Foam Tool Organizers in Auto Shops

foam-tool-organizer-auto-shopThere are hundreds of different tools that a shop needs in order to work on vehicles. Some of them are as simple as a common wrench, and others are larger and custom made for working on cars. Many of the tools are used so frequently, that it can be beneficial to have several of the same one. All this can easily end up resulting in a big messy toolbox.

When people can’t find the tool they need, it can waste a lot of time. They will have to dig through the toolbox to find it, and if it is not there, they begin to search through the shop. It may be in use by someone else, or just not put away properly. Foam tool organizers (which can be purchased here) are a great way to help eliminate this problem quickly and easily, while also helping to ensure the tools are better protected so they don’t get lost or damaged.

Foam tool organizers are simply firm pieces of foam with cutouts for each tool that it will hold. One piece of foam might be used to hold all different types of screw drivers, for example. Another can be used for different sized wrenches. There are some tool organizers that come with the cut outs, and others need to be custom made. No matter which type you use, however, your shop will benefit from having a set place for every tool in the shop.


Storing and Tracking Tools

Many shops that have started using foam tool organizers begin putting tags or labels on the tools, as well as on their place in the organizer. When someone needs a tool, they simply check it out in a written or computerized log, so everyone knows exactly where it is. When they are done, they check it back in and place the tool in its proper location. Since the tool storage area will now just have one spot for each tool, people won’t be able to just toss all the tools in a drawer, causing an unorganized mess.

Shadow Boarding

shadow-boardingWhile foam tool organizers are great for many types of tools, they don’t work for everything. For all the other tools, shadow boards can be an excellent option. These boards hang on the wall and have hundreds of small holes in them where hanging hooks can rest. Each tool will have its own area on the board, which will have the outline, or shadow, of the tool painted or printed on the board. This helps ensure everyone can easily see exactly where each tool has to go.

This is a simple way to organize the many types of tools that don’t really fit in a foam tool organizer.  Larger tools, or those with power or air cords, for example, often can be placed on a shadow board much more easily. In addition to keeping these tools better organized, it also helps to keep them displayed out in the open so they are easier to find.

All the mechanics can quickly see the tools, and grab the ones they need. If the tool they are looking for isn’t in its proper space, they can check the log to see who has it. The shadow board is a great way to help make it faster and easier to find all the necessary tools.

Damage & Loss Prevention

In addition to making the shop much more organized, these two items can help reduce the risk of tools getting lost, damaged or even stolen. When everyone knows where things have to go, missing items will quickly be noticed so that the shop owner can investigate. The foam organizer or shadow board will help keep cords from being tangled, or tools from banging into each other, causing damage.

These are two simple and affordable items that every auto shop should own. They will quickly pay for themselves by eliminating all sorts of waste in the shop.

Faster – 10 Tips to Increase Your Productivity

Faster – 10 Tips to Increase Your ProductivityEveryone knows that there are only 24 hours in a day, and it is impossible to get any more added on. When thinking about increasing production in a facility, this means you must always think first about how to become more productive, rather than just trying to get people to work more hours. Improved productivity is a great way to eliminate waste in facilities, and get the added production that you need for the company.

The following great tips will help any facility run more efficiently.  The best thing about these tips is that they can be implemented by individuals or entire facilities with great effect. Even just implementing one or two of them can be a great way to start down the road toward improved productivity.

10 Tips to Increase Your Productivity

1. Improve Technology

Technological advancements over the past century are absolutely astounding. Every industry has benefited from machinery, computers and other technical advancements. When working on improving productivity, start by looking at the technologies (or lack thereof) that your facility is using. Consider updating systems or implementing new technologies to help get more work done for every hour of the day.

2. Take Action

While thinking about what the best approach to certain things is a good idea, many people (and companies) make the mistake of over-thinking every little decision. In many cases you’ll waste far more time contemplating the best course of action than you could possibly save. Make sure you know when it is more productive to just take action instead of thinking about every possible scenario.

3. End Procrastination

Procrastination is one of the biggest killers of productivity in the world today. When people put something off to do later, it is not only wasting time at the moment, but also in the future.  Find ways to break the cycle of procrastination and learn to get things done right away.

4. Raise the Bar

Setting the bar high for your goals, and those of your facility, is a great way to get more done. When more is expected of people, they almost always raise to the occasion. Whether it is someone’s competitive spirit or their desire to succeed, setting the bar high can often encourage people to accomplish more than they would have dreamed possible.

5. Forget About Perfection

Perfection is great, but in reality it is not attainable. Focusing on getting everything 100% perfect every time can be a huge waste of time. Figure out what level of excellence you need to hit for each task, and then make sure to get to that point. Constant improvement can continue, but in the meantime your productivity will go up dramatically if you stop worrying about making sure every tiny detail is perfect.

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6. Eliminate Interruptions

Phone calls, co-workers stopping in to chat, smoke-breaks and any other interruption of work is a real productivity killer. While it is impossible to eliminate every interruption, every one that can be gotten rid of will be a great accomplishment. When people are able to focus on one task they can complete things far faster than if you have to stop and start the activity over and over again.

7. Delegate

Many people think that the only way to get things done right is to do them yourself. While there are certainly tasks that are best left to one person, many others can be delegated. Delegating work to others is a great way to get more done each day, because you’re effectively adding more productive hours by allowing someone else to help.

8. Prioritize

A lot of time is wasted on unimportant tasks each day. In fact, many of the things people spend time on really don’t have a big impact on the bottom line at all. Prioritize the work that needs to be done and focus on the most important things first. The trivial items can get left behind without causing too many problems.

9. Make a List

Lists are a great way to keep track of what you need to do, and when. Combining a list with the prioritization can help ensure less time is wasted on things that don’t really need to get done. Checking items off of lists is also a great way to get a sense of accomplishment, which can be very motivating.

10. Focus

Focusing your efforts will help you to accomplish a lot more with the time you are given. Focusing is a term that can be used to combine many of the above mentioned tips. When you’re focused, you are not distracted or interrupted or procrastinating or wasting your time thinking about perfection. If you can focus on what you’re doing, you’ll become much more productive.

Is Your Smartphone Sabotaging Your Success?

Is Your Smartphone Sabotaging Your Success?Smartphone’s have become more than just a luxury for many people and businesses today. They give you easy access to essential communication tools like email, text and, of course, voice. In addition, you can access most types of documents on them through the Internet, and do many other activities that can help make working much easier.

All this convenience, however, comes with some problems as well. Research performed by the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, has found that people who use their smartphone during meetings are very likely sabotaging their own success. Whether the phone is used for texting, checking email, surfing the Internet or taking calls, most people agree that it shouldn’t be done. Despite this fact, however, many people continue to do it.

Details of the Study

When evaluating just how important it is to put the smartphone away during meetings, look at the following information about the study:

  • 86% think it’s inappropriate to answer phone calls during formal meetings
  • 84% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during formal meetings
  • 75% think it’s inappropriate to read texts or emails during formal meetings
  • 66% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during any meetings
  • At least 22% think it’s inappropriate to use phones during any meetings

Study Provided by: Keven Kruse – Forbes.com

Based on this information, it is clear that the use of smartphone’s is widely frowned upon, and it can have some very negative implications for those who use it.

Why Put the Phone Away

When people pull out their phones in meetings, regardless of their intention, it will come across as if you have a lack of respect for those giving the meeting. It can also cause people to think that you don’t have a sufficient attention span to be able to stay engaged with the meeting at hand. Of course, none of these things are opinions you want others to have of you.

Even if the meeting is being put on by a peer, or a subordinate, it is never a good idea to pull out the phone, unless it is absolutely essential. Even if the person giving the meeting isn’t someone who you report to, other people in the meeting will also have a negative opinion of what you’re doing. This could include your boss, or someone who might pass on their opinion.

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What to Do When you Must Use the Phone

While it is always best to put off taking phone calls or texts until after a meeting has concluded, there are times in today’s business world where it is essential to respond quickly. If you get an important call, text or email during a meeting, make sure you follow some basic etiquette in how you respond.

Rather than simply pulling out the phone and responding, step out of the room so the others aren’t distracted. If it is possible at the moment, apologize to the individual who is hosting the meeting and let them know that you have to respond to the call, text or email. Once out of the room, handle the message quickly, and return. After the meeting has concluded, go to the individual running the meeting and apologize again, offering a brief explanation of why you had to take it. You don’t have to go into full details, but make sure they are aware that you valued their meeting and didn’t intend to disrupt it.

How LEAN and 5S Can Improve the Productivity of Your Business

5s-posterEvery business is—or should be—interested in finding ways to cut costs and increase profits while still providing a quality product for its consumers. Many components of a business are essentially beyond a company’s control, so one of the only real options for a business that wants to lower its costs is to streamline its efficiency and productivity. Two excellent practices any company can use to increase its efficiency while maintaining a quality product are known as the 5S and LEAN techniques. Both of these strategies were developed within the manufacturing industry; however, the principles are applicable to any type of business and will help any organization that chooses to examine itself and is interested in streamlining its property, processes and policies for greater efficiency and productivity.

Using the 5S Principles in Business

he 5S principles are derived from five concepts which are useful for everything from housekeeping to multi-million dollar companies. The five words which comprise the principles known collectively as “5S” begin with the letter “S” and are roughly translated from Japanese to English this way: sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. The goal of the 5S principles is to help businesses get organized on the most basic but profound level and has to do with de-cluttering space in order to increase productivity. None of these concepts is particularly new or unique; however, by strictly applying each of these things, a company will able to streamline its operations in several ways.

Step 1: The first step, sorting, refers to getting rid of anything which is not essential to the running of the business. This is applicable both to office and production spaces, and it requires that a company honestly assess its own facilities. Anything that is not essential to its current production or operational needs should be removed. Just getting rid of the clutter is likely to increase the efficiency of any business, as everything will be easier to find and use.
Step 2: Set in order is the next step in this process, and this, too, is a rather common-sense approach to increasing productivity. Every item used by a company’s staff and workers should be put in a specific place that makes sense for where, by whom and how often it is used. Once all of these things are properly placed, they should be labeled so that everyone who needs or uses the items can both find them and put them away after using them.
Step 3: Shining is just what it sounds like: cleaning each work space thoroughly and then keeping it clean. This simple practice ensures that materials are always clean and ready to use, but it also allows for a simple visual inspection of the space and work materials by anyone at any time.
Step 4: In order to standardize facilities, the fourth step in the process, a company must identify any abnormalities or anomalies in the facilities or the items used by its workers and try to “normalize” them. While there are undoubtedly things which must remain aberrations, a standardized work space is more efficient, especially if that space is used by many people.
Step 5: Once all of these techniques have been implemented, companies must have a plan to implement the final step, sustaining the changes. All workers must be trained or taught how to maintain the changes of their new, uncluttered work spaces. If everyone is not invested in the changes, of course, the result will eventually be the same cluttered, inefficient space. Sustaining what has been accomplished is the key to maintaining the efficiency and productivity gains.

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Using LEAN in Business

lean-signOnce a business has streamlined its physical facilities, it can then implement the principles known as LEAN. The goal of the LEAN techniques is to eliminate waste, which is defined as anything that does not provide value to a customer. This process initially requires more thinking than doing, and it always keeps in the forefront the features the customer most values about the product. A company must examine the processes by which its end product is created. It is especially important, at this stage, to include representatives from the various aspects of the business to ensure that all phases of production are engaged in the discussion.

Once each step of production has been identified, the decision-makers must identify anything which causes a lapse in productivity or efficiency. Once that has been done, the company will be able to eliminate anything that does not add or create value to the final product. Some examples of inefficiency might include unnecessary movement of people or products, ineffective inventory control, excessive down time caused by any number of factors, and the amount of inventory produced. Whatever actions or procedures do not add directly to the value of the final product should be modified or eliminated.

Of course, any production system must still be able to flow smoothly and efficiently without these eliminated steps or proposed changes, so each company will undoubtedly need to experiment a bit before identifying the smoothest and most effective flow of production and achieving the maximum benefits of this process.

The Benefits of 5S and LEAN for Businesses

5s-and-leanUnfortunately, while business owners may want to be as efficient as possible, they often spend more time searching for “quick fixes” than just digging in and starting something. Both the 5S and the LEAN principles require a rigorous self-examination and the willingness to make changes. The two most significant and measurable direct benefits of utilizing these two business strategies are increased efficiency and productivity. Using the 5S techniques will help create a clean, organized work space which eliminates such time-wasters as looking for an item or a piece of equipment, cleaning or repairing items before they can be used and distracting others to ask where things are located. These procedures can also keep businesses from having to replace items simply because they cannot be found or having to repair them because they were improperly stored. Using the LEAN principles will also create a more efficient production system by eliminating anything that is unnecessary to production, such as wasted movement, overproduction of products or parts and excessive wait time anywhere in the process. In both strategies, involving everyone in the process is an added benefit, as it affirms workers at every level even as it ensures the most effective way to promote the greater efficiency and productivity of the company. Both the 5S and LEAN strategies promote thoughtful self-examination; any business that is willing to do this and then implement whatever changes are necessary to increase efficiency and productivity is almost guaranteed to succeed.

Six Sigma Certification Belts – Is it Worth It?

six-sigmaAs more and more companies move toward six sigma standards, millions of individuals are evaluating whether or not they should attain their certification belts.  Companies are also looking at whether or not it is worth it to send their employees through the training necessary to earn any of the various belts.  This isn’t an easy question to answer, because you need to measure the costs (both in time and money) against the benefits that you’ll receive.

What are the Certification Belts?

Before you can decide whether or not it is worth it to pursue the Six Sigma certification belts, it is important to understand what they are.  This will not only help you to see if it is worth it, but also to determine which level of belt you should be going for.  The certification belts are:

  • Six-Sigma-Certification-1004x954-300x285Yellow Belt – This is the lowest level of belt, and it is actually not used by all companies.  Individuals with a yellow belt should have a rudimentary understanding of the six sigma system, but don’t need to be an expert.  There is also only minimal experience required to attain this level.
  • Green Belt – The green belt holder should be very knowledgeable about the entire six sigma system, and how it works.  To earn this belt, one must have three years of experience using six sigma tools, as well as have a detailed understanding of the Six Sigma system.  Holders of this belt will most often work under the supervision of an individual with a black belt.
  • Black Belt – In addition to all the requirements for a green belt, the black belt holder must possess strong leadership skills.  The bulk of the black belt’s job will be supervising and mentoring green and yellow belt holders.  They will also be teaching others the Six Sigma system.
  • Master Black Belt – This is the highest certification belt in the Six Sigma system.  Those who attain this level are recognized as experts in their field.  They may be involved in reviewing and updating Six Sigma teaching materials, and will spend a lot of time teaching lower level individuals about the Six Sigma system.

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Understanding Your Needs

Figuring out whether or not these belts would be beneficial to you is important.  In many cases, employees and employers can work together to understand what an individual’s goals should be.  Depending on your role in a company, or where you feel your career should be going, it is very likely that getting at least the yellow belt will be very beneficial.

Companies that have adopted the Six Sigma systems will often want most of their employees to have at least the yellow belt.  Even if they aren’t directly involved in many Six Sigma projects, the knowledge and understanding that they will have from earning the Yellow Belt will help individuals understand how things are being done.

In addition, this level of certification can help encourage a culture that embraces the Six Sigma mindset.  This can result in people identifying problems, and presenting solutions to benefit the company.  Given the fact that the yellow belt can be earned without too significant of an expense, it is often a good idea to seek this belt.

How High to Go

how-high-to-go-six-sigmaOnce you’ve decided to get your yellow belt, it will be necessary to figure out how high up the certification chain you would like to go.  The green belt requires significantly more time and effort to complete.  Unlike many types of certifications, it is not simply a matter of studying for a test.  You typically need a lot of experience working on Six Sigma projects, as well as classroom or book experience.  While difficult, however, earning the green belt is a very valuable accomplishment.

The black and master black belts are long term goals that can be very helpful to companies and individuals.  Once you’ve gotten the green belt, moving toward the black belt can be done over the course of years.  As you gain experience running projects, and work with existing black belts, you will often learn whether or not this level of certification is right for you.  In most cases, you’ll be mentored by a black belt, who can help you make this decision.