Does Your Equipment Work Better When It’s Clean?

Poorly Maintained Tools

“What can I do to get my guys to keep the tools and equipment we own clean & ready to use? I’ve got them to keep their trucks washed, but the tools and equipment are usually not put in any order nor are they kept clean. I also get complaints that the equipment doesn’t work as good as it did when it was new and maybe we should buy something new to get better installation results”.

I’ve observed many well run sewer and drain cleaning companies and all of them have supervisors or bosses that demand, not suggest, but demand the equipment is clean and maintained. One in particular stands out. A company we’ve worked with would spend Friday afternoons cleaning and maintaining equipment. They all had to be back at the shop by noon and spent the afternoon getting any equipment repaired and┬ámaterials ready for the following week. at the end of the day, all trucks with tools inside were parked inside a building. The equipment doors were left open for the bosses inspection of each truck and they’d better be clean and loaded and ready for work at 8:00AM Monday morning. While the employees weren’t at their trucks, if a deficiency was observed, that employee was called on the carpet and time docked Monday morning while he got his truck in order. If he or she were a lead on the truck and failed inspection 3 times in a year, they were demoted to 2nd on the truck. Now many of you may think that this is a little militaristic, but I can tell you that the company was very profitable and were looked up to by the industry they served. Not only by the employees who were proud of their company but competitors who viewed them as the standard to meet.

I remember as a kid thinking that every time I washed my car and vacuumed it that it ran better than it did when it was dirty. I think most people like organization and shun chaos. People like things clean. They like things organized. Customers like to see clean trucks and clean employees and while they don’t necessarily know what equipment should look like, obvious dirt and wear and tear are a minus in their eyes. I also recall the story of the lumberjack who never sharpened his axe, but worked harder and longer hours to produce the same amount of wood he produced when his axe was new. His excuse for not being able to sharpen the axe was he “didn’t have time”. A little time to clean and sharpen the axe would have given him his production in a shorter time, but he didn’t see it that way so worked harder and longer than necessary to accomplish the same work as a new axe would produce.

There are several programs a person can use to motivate employees to maintain equipment. Time for maintenance is the simplest method. If they have time to maintain equipment without detracting from their mission of the job getting done everyone wins. A maintenance supervisor may help in motivating them. If the shop is big enough, a wash rack may be in order, but if a smaller shop, setting up a truck wash facility may be in order. Someone to inspect tools and maintain them may also help with keeping everything running.

Setting up a program can be easy. Maintaining it may take a little more effort to enforce the program, but once the program is set up and enforced becomes a standard and once it attains the “standard” level, it becomes a habit that is self sustaining.

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