Where's that wiper?

18th of July 2019
Where's that wiper?

When an industrial operative needs a wiper, that need will be pressing – whether it is because their hands are greasy, a component requires cleaning or a spill needs to be mopped up from the floor. So, what is the best way of equipping and organising a workshop to give staff quick access to cloths and wipers when they need them? Ann Laffeaty finds out.

Wipers and cloths are an essential tool in any industry for mopping up spills, cleaning delicate components and removing substances such as oil, grease and grime from the hands.

But when a wiper is required, that need is often urgent – otherwise that oil spill on the floor could quickly become a slipping hazard for other staff, or those dirty hands could go on to contaminate components or work surfaces.

However, items such as cloths and wipers rarely feature high on the list of priorities for the managers of factories and workshops. So they might simply choose to provide a single bag of rags for use by everyone, or they may install a centrally-placed wiping roll on a floor stand for general use.

Alternatively, they could opt to supply a few loose rolls of centrefeed wiper and scatter these around the premises in the hope that operatives will find and use them as and when they are needed.

But wiper manufacturers claim there are several disadvantages to all these strategies. “If there is just one centrally-placed wiping source in an industrial unit, operators may be forced to walk long distances in order to fetch a rag or wiper,” said Essity’s industrial marketing director Jenny Turner.

“Rags too are often supplied in compressed packs and when the bag is opened, the contents spill out everywhere which is inconvenient for operatives when moving around the workspace.

“And extra time will be wasted in trying to find the right rag since these tend to be made from different materials and come in different qualities and sizes. The performance of rags may also be variable due to these inconsistent materials.”

Loose rolls of paper also have drawbacks since some qualities of paper may not be suitable for the task in hand, she said. “Wiper rolls could also become contaminated before use or misplaced, and both scenarios will create employee frustration and result in lost time,” said Turner. “There is also a risk that they might fall into the wrong places and damage processing equipment.

“If you don’t have the right products where you need them and when you need them, it will have a negative impact on productivity.”

She says a chaotic environment in which a wiper cannot be swiftly located could also create a poor impression on customers. “Customer audit scores can make or break your business - it’s as simple as that,” she said. “And when your customers come to visit they want to see a modern, clean and well-organised production environment. But dirty old rags left behind in piles will create a messy and unprofessional impression, no matter how modern your facilities and machines actually are.”

Crisis situation

Metsä’s UK and Ireland vice president Mark Dewick says wipers tend to be used either as an integral part of a task or in a crisis situation. “In the first case, the wiper should always be available to hand when it is required whereas in the second scenario, a wiper will be needed NOW!” he said.

“Spills too should be quickly cleared up since these are a health and safety hazard and could be spread from one place to another via the hands or shoes.

“It is inevitable that time will be lost If wipers are not to hand – and time equals money. If an operative has to walk any distance to the wiper source or cannot find one when they need one, time will be wasted and delays will occur to the job in hand.”

He says locating wipers should not be an issue since most operatives who are familiar with their work environment will use wipers often enough to know where they are stored. “However, rolls should be held on a dispenser  - whether it is wall-mounted or freestanding – because a roll will quickly become mucky and contaminated if it is left lying around,” he adds.

So, how can the wiping process be speeded up and rendered more efficient? The answer lies in the dispensing system, according to commentators. Wipers supplied in rolled sheets in dispensing boxes or folded sheets in plastic packages will ensure that the product is always available at the point of requirement, says Dewick. “Mobile solutions can add value because each operative can have their own supply,” he said. “Where operatives are responsible for their own products it helps to ensure that ‘sharing’ does not become ineffective.”

He says it is also important to ensure that appropriate wipers are provided for the environment in question. “For example, wipers should offer the right qualities such as low levels of linting, heat resistance where required, and food safety certification in areas where foodstuffs are being processed or prepared,” he said.

Reduce accident risk

An industrial company can save time, create a better structure and reduce the risk of accidents if all wiping and cleaning products are organised on the shop floor in places where they are needed most, says Essity’s Jenny Turner. And she adds it is crucial all dispensers are easy to identify and located close to the task being performed in order to optimise productivity.

“Dispensers should also be available in a range of sizes and formats and should be sufficiently robust to suit their environment,” she said. “And if they are supplied in an eye-catching colour and have a consistent design across the site as well, this will help employees to spot them quickly.”

Essity’s Tork Performance dispensers for industrial cloths and wipers come in red/smoke housings to stand out against the walls of industrial units, she says. They are available in a range of temporary and fixed placement formats and can be placed close to the wiping task. The company also offers Tork Workflow, a free auditing service aimed at analysing industrial wiping and cleaning needs with a view to improving workstation efficiency.

Metsä’s Mark Dewick agrees that the type of dispensing system can play a large part in ensuring a clean, functional wipe is always available at point of use.

“Fixed dispensers should be lockable, easy to refill and easy to find in identified locations,” he said. “It is also important to make them easy to use. For example, the ability to use a single hand to remove a wiper is essential because if an operative is holding something in one hand they will need to be able to use the other to remove the wiper.

Reinforce morale

New from Metsä is the Katrin Master Range of wipes which may be taken out of the protective sleeve using one hand. The company also offers industrial wiping rolls which come in wall-mounted and floor-standing dispensers and that can also be operated with one hand.

So, what are the key benefits of a well thought-out wiping solution? “It helps to ensure better efficiency,” said Turner. “There will be less time lost walking to find a wiper and spillages can be dealt with swiftly, reducing the time spent cleaning up and reducing the risk of contamination. And the risk of workplace accidents will also be reduced.”

A clean shop floor and good housekeeping practices will also demonstrate a level of care regarding working conditions, she says. “This in turn reinforces good morale among the staff and goes beyond the scope of the individual worker – when enough people do the right thing, others will follow suit,” said Turner.

Metsä’s Mark Dewick adds that a well-organised wiping system helps to facilitate a clean and safe work environment while ensuring the right product is always to be found in the right place. “It also makes sure that no damage is caused by using the wrong product and no time is wasted in a hunt for wipes,” he said.

“Besides offering more efficient working practices and better results in terms of productivity, this also provides a more professional impression for customers which can result in more return visits, more recommendations and higher sales. And it also lowers the company’s environmental impact by ensuring that the least amount of the right product is used only where necessary.”


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