Visual Identification Helps Increase Productivity and Safety

Brady Corporation

Many companies are developing lean manufacturing programs and protocols, designed to increase efficiency and decrease waste in production and procedures. Brady's Identification Services Team helped one industry giant start a 5S program with a complete on-site assessment of one of their plants. The company maintains the program with additional Brady labels and a GlobalMark Industrial Label Maker.


Lean manufacturing involves developing and maintaining a process improvement program that helps companies lower costs by eliminating inefficiencies and identifying ways to save time, materials, and resources. The "5S" program is a tool for reaching this goal. The five S’s are Sort, Straighten, Scrub, Standardize, and Systemize. This program encourages companies to organize (sort) their workstations so everything workers need is easy to find, and configure each workstation (straighten) for maximum efficiency. By keeping every area clean (scrub), it is easier to identify machinery problems or leaks. Consistent procedures (standardize) help workers maintain quality and increase safety – especially in areas such as lockout/tagout procedures. Finally, an ongoing implementation and maintenance plan (systemize) allows companies to ensure that process improvements remain in place over time.


Visual systems are vital to any lean manufacturing program – workers must know at a glance where things go, what path or process to follow, and how to safely and efficiently complete tasks to avoid accidents and minimize equipment downtime. This can be a daunting task for a company with 28 plants across the country, producing hundreds of products involving thousands of employees and countless machines, tools, and other resources. That's why one large household product company contacted Brady to help them get started. The Brady Identification Services team went through one of the company's plants, inspecting the entire plant and then providing pipe markers, electrical panel labels, safety signs, and more.


In particular, the Brady team focused on a company initiative called the "Lube Label Project." Because of the vast number of machines on the plant floor, the company found that they had well over 1,000 different oils and lubricants, each designed for different machine gearboxes and other specialty components. Each machine, in turn, has its own maintenance schedule. When the Brady team arrived, neither the lubricants nor the machines were clearly labeled to indicate which lubricant went where, or how often maintenance needed to be performed. The Brady team helped the company set up a standardized color-coded labeling system that the company now maintains using a GlobalMark printer.


The GlobalMark printer has become one of the company's essential tools, allowing them to maintain the Lube Label Project as well as printing other safety and instructional signs throughout the plant. One significant safety improvement is in the company's Arc Flash Labeling. Previously, a worker would have to walk right up to a machine to read the arc flash label – at which point they might already be too close for safety if there were an arc flash incident. With color-coded Arc Flash labels printed on the GlobalMark printer, employees can now quickly identify the arc flash risk from a safe distance.


The company also uses the GlobalMark printer to create gauge labels and oil level indicators, so that workers detect any operating abnormalities at a glance.  


By using visual devices at the point of need to eliminate guesswork for employees, the company increases productivity, improves worker safety, and ensures high-quality products. The company is now in the process of implementing the new plant labeling and process improvements in their plants across the country.

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