Picker, Packer, Warehouse Cleaner: Cleaning Warehouse Floors
As far as building types go, warehouses—also known as distribution or fulfillment centers--are pretty low on the "sexy" list. Unapologetically utilitarian, these back-of-house spaces are built for efficiency not curb appeal. Often 24-hour operations, they're big box hives of activity, filled with inventory, workers and heavy equipment like conveyers and forklifts.
While customers probably never see or even think about them, an orderly, well-maintained warehouse fills a logistics manager's heart with joy. Conversely, dirty, unkempt spaces can slow lines, harm workers and effect the bottom line. This makes cleaning warehouse floors an integral part of operations.
Big and Getting Bigger
The sheer size of the average distribution center makes cleaning warehouse floors complicated. Historically less than 10,000 square feet, today 27% of warehouses are between 25,000 and 50,000 square feet with 37% greater than 100,000 square feet, according to Cisco-Eagle.com. Amazon owns and operates the granddaddies of all fulfillment centers, and they are colossal. One Baltimore facility clocks in in at one million square feet, or 23 acres. A newer one in New Jersey is 1.2 million.
Sweep Before Autoscrubbing
Chosen for durability, most warehouses are floored with polished or coated concrete, although some specialized spaces may have epoxy, or anti-static floors. Either way, they are easy to maintain, as long as proper procedure is followed. Richard Bodo, director of training for Karcher North America, cringes when employees don't follow that protocol, as reported in Modern Materials Handling Magazine. "In a warehouse or distribution center 80% of soils…are dry particulate soils," he says in the article.
That dust, sand and grit must be swept up first or they embed in cleaning machinery like an autoscrubbers and "turn it into one large sanding disc." Larger debris like loose nails, screws or wood chipped off of pallets must also be removed before daily or weekly cleaning.
Any spills and leaks from forklifts or other machinery should be removed immediately or they become a slip and fall hazard.
Choose Simple to Use, Time Saving Equipment
Whether it's part of regular employees' duties or delegated to a cleaning staff, floor maintenance machinery should be easy to use. Considering the 24-hour aspect of the operation, anything that saves time and steps is an added bonus. An autoscrubber might seem like the obvious choice, but you'll have to remember to purchase either a direct throw or overthrow sweeper machine as well, adding to the cost.
Better yet, consider combining the two with a battery-powered AutoVac instead. This technology cleans as well and as fast as an autoscrubber and can easily be converted to pick up spills, extract grease and even clean rubber comfort mats.
Click here for more tips on cleaning warehouse floors.
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Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.