Plant & Works Engineering
Coming clean
Published:  02 January, 2018

Anders Hellqvist, assortment manager wiping & cleaning at Tork, looks at why non-woven wipes, rather than rags, could be an essential cleaning solution, helping to improve business efficiency, productivity and compliance to health and safety procedures.

Britain is on the brink of a fourth Industrial Revolution, with potential to unlock £455bn over the next decade, according to the findings of a government commissioned review on industrial digitalisation. Led by Jürgen Maier, head of Siemens, details of the report were published in October. Recommendations included putting Britain at the forefront of new technologies with a productivity boost, creating 175,000 highly skilled, paid jobs. Maier called the plans a bid to serve as an antidote to challenges facing the UK since the Brexit vote and said that although the UK has historically brilliant knowledge assets and skills in this space “It is sometimes not as organised as it could be.”

In the same month, Universities Minister Jo Johnson announced £15million worth of funding to support the establishment of a new higher education provider, focusing on high-quality engineering courses. Called The New Model in Technology & Engineering, NMiTE, the initiative addresses skills shortages, taking a radical approach to train the next generation of engineers. This includes integrated work placement programmes, recruiting graduates from non-traditional backgrounds, offering accelerated degrees with a two year completion target. Such plans will ultimately increase the number of engineering graduates and in turn, industry professionals.

Both initiatives have the potential to dramatically alter the landscape of the engineering industry as we know it, and the industry must get ready for such changes. An increase in skilled professionals and a dedicated drive to create new jobs means that, for the engineering sector collectively, efficiency could reach new heights.

To keep up with the potential rise in pressure that could occur with this surge in activity, employers must ensure that workplace processes in place now are working as effectively as possible. Investing in new machinery could be what’s needed to be ready to embrace the changes, but you also need to have the proper processes in place to support any new investment. What happens when workforces aren’t clear on how to use and maintain new equipment? Such tasks, including cleaning, account for a large proportion of work required in an industrial environment and must be done properly in order to maintain efficiency.

Lose your rags

Cleaning is a vital process that, if done correctly, could also improve health and safety practises and absenteeism. Under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act and the 1999 Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers have a legal duty to assess all risks that could impact the health and safety of employees. Historically, rags have been used in an industrial environment to clean machinery and complete other maintenance tasks. They are regarded as a cheap solution and, if made of pure cotton, generally are effective in wiping and absorbing vaseline, dirt, and leaked oils, removing larger amounts of dirt and scrubbing surfaces.

However, rags in the workplace could also cause problems. They can be completely soaked in solvent chemicals that evaporate into the air and any exposure to the vapour is potentially damaging to the health of operators. From a functionality perspective, rags tend to arrive on site in large bundles and not all are suitable for wiping, or are as absorbent as they need to be. Employees often have to sort the rags in order to find something useful for cleaning and wiping, taking up critical time. As rags tend to be stored in bins away from work stations, more time is used travelling to collect them. Rags come in very different shapes and sizes and often need to be cut into smaller pieces to clean particular details. Again, resulting in more wasted time.

Cleaning Up

Employers should take this issue seriously and look at new methods that could help to reduce health and safety risks and create a cleaner, more productive workplace. Nonwoven cloths use less solvents and storage space, saving valuable time. These types of cloths are dispensed from a fixed dispenser or portable box, reducing waste and environmental impact and enabling employees to easily pick out a cloth whilst wearing gloves. As the cloths are so easy to use, individuals can work in a smarter and safer way, increasing worker satisfaction as the maintenance task can be completed more quickly, ultimately improving processes in the workplace

When considering what you need in a cleaning solution, there a few key features to look for. Products must absorb fast and well, collecting different kinds of substances without smearing them. They should offer resistance, and be able to work with different chemicals and on different kinds of surfaces, ensuring that they don’t breakdown, create a pulp like consistency or tear off into tiny shreds. Cloths guarantee repeated, unwavering quality, optimising work time and the ability to spend more time on other tasks.

Clean machines do not just look better, they will typically work better with less frequent and costly breakdowns. This means a good workflow that will be able to adhere to deadlines positively impacting overall performance and profit for the business, reducing employee stress and frustration. Working in cleaner surroundings will motivate employees to keep the environment tidy and to work efficiently, with an increased desire to do well and an eagerness to get the job done. Employers won’t need to keep doing the same cleaning job over and over to see results, instead, being comfortable in the knowledge that the product is suitable for different maintenance tasks.

As the engineering industry continues to drive the Government agenda, take the time now to ensure that your processes are as efficient as possible. Cleaning must not be perceived as a mundane task but rather something that if done right, can impact bottom line. Employers must get such processes in place now so that when the anticipated changes and growth in the industry come into force, they are ready to reap the rewards.