Managing Chemicals by Eye

Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M.  She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.

My friends said I worked in the Black Hole. In the lunchroom, people moved away because of the smell of solvents in my work clothes. Let me tell you how that changed.

Working in the Black Hole a.k.a. Screen Print Prepress

We were in the business of screen printing. My job was to get the screens ready, which means cleaning off the old stencil and applying the new image. I used quite a few chemicals and yes, it did get messy.

One time I was measuring out the emulsion remover when Greg moved into the room, and I didn’t hear him until he was close. I jumped, and the solvent went all over my shoes and the floor. And the fumes were so strong!

Another time I was carting off the old ink and I realized the waste tub was outside. By this time, I had both hands full, so I ended up using my foot to open the door and nearly tripped myself.

Bad for Business

Sometimes we’d run out of a chemical and I wouldn’t be able to clean any screens until new supplies arrived. Terry, the supervisor, would complain about orders being late, but there wasn’t anything I could do.

The delivery would eventually come in (often at high shipping costs for expedited delivery), but always in barrels so big I could hardly move them. I’d have no space to put them, either, so I’d pour the chemicals into smaller bottles. That was okay, so long as I didn’t spill much, but sometimes I’d forget to write on the side what was in them.

The other problem was I couldn’t tell how much was in each bottle, so I’d run out. And sometimes I’d mix up the wrong proportions so I had to throw it away and start again.

As you can see, things were pretty disorganized.

Visual management

Terry had been taking a Lean Manufacturing training course when he came in and said, “Danielle, we need to make you lean.”

Well I knew I was carrying a few pounds, but really! Terry explained that if we organized the chemicals I use there’d be fewer stoppages, less waste, and I’d find the Black Hole a nicer place to work. He called it “visual management.” Here’s what we did:

  • Installed a yellow “Point-of-Use Storage” cabinet. (The EPA has a lot of information about POUS on their website.)
  • Labeled the POUS shelves so there’s “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”
  • Stopped buying big barrels once in a great while and arranged for smaller, 1 gallon deliveries more frequently. This is called vendor-managed inventory, or a “milk run”.
  • Used clear containers so I could see how much was left.
  • John got special diamond pattern labels for the containers and showed me how to fill them in with the chemical name and date.
  • Terry bought mixing jugs and put lines on them showing the appropriate fill level.
  •  John also set up a Safety Point. This has all the Material Safety Data Sheets in a binder along with a cabinet for safety equipment like goggles, a lab coat and gloves.
  •  We had the floor marked out to show where the waste containers should be. Now I can see at glance if they’re missing.

No more Black Hole

It took a while to get used to things, but it’s so much better. I don’t waste time looking for various chemicals. We never run out, so there are no stoppages. I don’t spill solvents and there’s less waste. Best of all, people don’t wrinkle their nose when I sit near them in the lunch room!

Posted on September 18, 2012, in Guest Post, Improvement, Tools, Waste and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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