An industrial environment, like any other workplace, requires a certain degree of cleanliness and organization in order to function properly. While different industries and facilities face very different challenges in this area, they all share the need for industrial housekeeping; solutions that facilitate staff safety and product quality, primarily through fume, particles and dust extraction.
Industrial housekeeping is about more than just order and tidiness
The Japanese 5S system can be seen as a precursor to industrial housekeeping, with the five s's representing seiri/sort, seiton/straighten, seisō/shine, seiketsu/standardize and shitsuke/sustain, respectively. First developed by Toyota in the 1960's, 5S has since become an international standard method for workplace organization, especially in the manufacturing industry.
While keeping things tidy and neatly organized is certainly part of the concept, the primary goal of industrial housekeeping is to have a system in place that reduces the amount of dangerous dust, particles, fumes and other emissions within a certain facility. Exposure to these substances is often indirect, and may affect far more people than merely the operator of a certain machine. Take a sector like welding, for example, where protective clothes, helmets and other gear have been a safety standard for most welders for a long time. A much more recent discovery, however, is the hazard created by welding fumes to a wider scope of people, such as visitors and less protected coworkers. By applying efficient fume extraction solutions to the welding equipment, one has been able to reduce the toxic fumes and improve air quality.
Combustible dust is a common, although largely unknown, problem
Various types of dust spread easily in many industrial facilities. While far from all of them are outright hazardous, they are not exactly healthy or desired either. Some dust is even combustible. Awareness of these problems and which substances that are the most problematic is growing steadily among operators and other production staff.
Even so, a lot of work still remains in this field, and there are considerable differences among countries and industries as to how and to what extent proper industrial housekeeping is being implemented. The food and pharmaceutical industries are in many ways at the forefront of this development, as good hygiene is essential to their production. Compare that to an older, heavier industry – a metalworking plant, for example – where the milling machines may merely be cleaned off by using compressed air, meaning that the dust and oil from the machine essentially just gets blown into the air.
How does Nederman work with industrial housekeeping?
The solutions we offer range from compact equipment like small vacuum cleaners – usually as part of a package in which a certain machine comes with its own cleaning equipment – to greater, stationary systems with specific maintenance accessories. In terms of components, all of our equipment contains at least some form of vacuum generator, usually a fan or pump connected to a filter. If needed or requested, control and surveillance systems, piping and additional cleaning features (tubes, nozzles, valves, et cetera) may be added as well.
Part of our job is to inform our customers and users about the potential problems and health hazards that may arise if the equipment is not used or maintained properly, or if there is not a working strategy in place for making sure that the work environment is safe. If the facility and the machines are dusty and dirty, the quality of what is being manufactured is likely to be affected as well. A clean, well-kept work environment might also very well make a company more attractive to customers as well as existing and potential employees.
Each of our customers is different, and while the need for at least some kind of industrial housekeeping is ubiquitous, the details and prerequisites vary widely. We strive to be a one-stop-shop solution in terms of everything from supplying the equipment to its sizing and installation, but this is also something that differs significantly between customers.
The benefits of industrial housekeeping are many, and important to stress
Taking care of the actual dust or waste is usually not all that difficult. Convincing customers of the need for a reliable cleaning system, however, can be a challenge. While awareness of industrial housekeeping and its benefits is undoubtedly increasing globally, it is still predominantly a Western phenomenon. In many parts of the world, workplace cleaning is still mostly done with brooms and dustpans, meaning that most of the bigger particles are indeed collected but that the smaller ones are also often stirred up into the air in the process.
The benefits we tend to emphasize the most when speaking with operators and site managers are improvements in workers’ health, work environment safety and production quality, as well as a lowered risk of dust combustion and a decreased need for maintenance (thus minimizing downtimes). In addition, some of the waste collected through industrial housekeeping – like metal shavings or wood waste – can be reused or sold.
Increasing customer knowledge calls for safer, more efficient solutions
Industrial housekeeping methods vary considerably among different industries and nations. Even so, the overall tendency is clear: Industrial housekeeping is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon, which also ties in with a general, global development where industries and facilities are becoming safer and more sustainable. New technology coupled with stricter regulations on emissions and workplace safety has in turn contributed to making industrial housekeeping more common and technologically advanced.
The awareness surrounding combustible dust is arguably increasing as well. At Nederman, we keep getting requests for even more efficient filters, capable of capturing even more and even smaller particles. Handling and maintenance also factor into it, as we need to make sure that the operators who change the filters or clean the equipment are able to do so in a way that does not actually expose them to the dust. Energy efficiency is also something that is brought up frequently by our customers. New generations of factory workers and operators will often be more knowledgeable than their predecessors, and probably question old work methods. We can also expect industrial housekeeping solutions to become more and more integrated with individual machines, thus taking care of the dust, waste and/or fumes very close to the source.
Should you have any questions about industrial housekeeping, or how we might be able to help you and your company, feel free to contact me. Please visit Nederman’s Knowledge Center to learn more about fume and dust extraction in a 3D printing work environment, combustible dust, waste metal recycling and a range of other related topics.