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Painted Floors in Lean

Robert Parsons, March 12, 2008
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There are many different tools and methods in Lean, but the underlying theme of all Lean thinking is reducing waste, or muda.

There are 7 different types of muda which are:

·       Over-production

·       Wait time

·       Transportation

·       Processing

·       Inventory

·       Motion

·       Defects.


One method that helps reduce several different types of muda is improving the facility floor by painting. There are two different aspects to a painted floor in Lean thinking. First, by having a painted and sealed floor you can improve the working area by increasing efficiency and cleanliness. Second, by having painted lines, directions, and marked areas directly on the floor you help the organization and structure of the facility.

Lean Manufacturing incorporates a technique called 5S. The name comes from the Japanese terms indicating the 5 steps to a clean and organized facility.  Specifically, 5S is a “methodology for organizing, cleaning, developing, and sustaining a productive work environment1.”  To have a truly effective lean facility it must be clean and organized—and it must stay that way permanently.

One way to have a clean manufacturing facility floor is by painting and sealing the floor. This helps for several reasons. In order for employees to have a desire to maintain a clean and organized facility, they have to have a sense of pride and ownership in their workplace which can be accomplished by providing a unique and desirable environment.  Having a painted and sealed floor is also easier to maintain which allows a feeling of cleanliness and a sense of pride in the building. This will help deter employees from treating the building poorly.  “Workers take pride in a clean and clutter-free work area and will help create ownership in the equipment and facility.3


Depending on the environment and nature of the facility, there will be spills and other messes/accidents at one point or another. A painted and sealed floor will help the employees have a sense of ownership which will help them have a desire to clean up messes and spills quickly. “Workers will also begin to notice changes in equipment and facility location such as air, oil and coolant leaks, repeat contamination and vibration, broken, fatigue, breakage, and misalignment. These changes, if left unattended, could lead to equipment failure and loss of production. Both add up to impact your company’s bottom line.3”  It also makes the clean up effort easier and faster and improves the safety conditions, thus reducing the actual work an employee must do to maintain a clean environment and reduces costs and lost time from accidents or equipment failures.


A floor may also be made a certain color to help employees notice messes more easily. A well maintained floor will last longer, thus reducing long-periods of down time at inopportune times in the future with problems with the floor.


Another way that painted floors can be beneficial is by painting directly on the floor things such as aisles for walking, driving lanes for forklifts, places where equipment is supposed to be located and other items that may be moved out of place. There are several reasons for doing so. An effective plant floor will be arranged in a particular way based on the flow of products. Everything on the floor should have a place in that plant layout. If things are moved, or if things are out of place then time is wasted looking for those things.

The second step in the 5S process is called seiton, or “to set in order.” This emphasizes organization and efficiency in storage.  Ideally only the essential items are located in the facility and everything has a place.   “Strategies for effective ‘Set in Order’ are painting floors, outlining work areas and locations, and shadow boards . . .   Imagine how much time is wasted every day looking for a broom? The broom should have a specific location where all employees can find it.3


It is much safer to have driving lanes painted for forklifts and other moving equipment. That way people will know not place items in the way of the operator where he/she may not see it. A forklift operator should not have to waste time to drop a load simply to move products that are in the way. The plant may designate space for loading/unloading or preparing shipments and these areas should be outlined with paint so as not to conflict with other operations that are going on.


Different colors may be used to denote different things such as caution areas, temporary storage where items being packaged or prepared for shipment may be waiting for a short period, or permanent item locations. There are no set color codes as each facility has different needs, but OSHA has set a guideline for what types of things colors can be used to identify. According to the James Madison University Safety Provisions website the following is the OSHA color guide:


  1. Red - shall be the basic color for identification.

·       Fire alarm boxes (pull type), fire blanket boxes, fire buckets- pails, fire exit signs, to identify fire extinguisher location background, fire hose locations, fire hydrants (industrial), fire pumps, post indicator valves for sprinkler systems, sprinkler piping, all safety cans or containers of flammable liquids having a flash point below 80.

  1. Orange - shall be used to designate dangerous parts of Machinery or Energized Equipment which may cut, crush, shock or otherwise injure and to emphasize such hazards when enclosure doors are open or when Gear Belts or other guards around moving equipment are opened or removed, exposing unguarded hazards.
  2. Yellow - shall be basic color for designating Caution, and for marking physical hazards such as striking against stumbling, falling, tripping, and caught in between. Solid yellow, yellow and black stripes, yellow and black checkers or yellow with suitable background- using the combination which will attract the most attention in the particular environment.
  3. Green - safety and location of First Aid Equipment other than fire fighting equipment.
  4. Blue - color designation Caution, limited to warning against the starting, the use of, or the moving of equipment under repair or being worked on.
  5. Purple - Radioactive - Radiation Hazards such as X-ray, Alpha, Gamma, Neutron, Proton. Yellow should be used in combination with purple for markers, tags, labels, signs, floor markings.
  6. Black-White or combinations of white black - designation of traffic and housekeeping markings in accordance to local conditions4.

A more simple color standard is common in many 5S initiatives during a Lean implementation:

·       Green=Safety

·       Blue=Equipment and Inventory

·       Yellow or Orange=Standards

·       Red=Defects or Fire

·       White=Total Process Management

·       Gray=Racks and Storage7


Painted floors are useful in any manufacturing facility, warehouse, or other type of plant. They are especially useful as the facilities experience growth and have higher volume, but can help any plant run more efficiently and more safely throughout the lean effort. Painted floors are one step in the effort of continuous improvement and can help the employees have a mindset focused on reducing waste by keeping things where they are supposed to be located, keeping the facility clean, organized and safe, and helping keep all employees involved and on the same page.


A truly efficient plant floor will be organized and clean and is conducive to a safe environment. This organization should be clear to everyone who enters the plant. Employees should be trained and familiar with the various color codes and meanings of the painted floors. Posters should be in visible areas of the facility to remind/inform everyone who enters what the different colors/symbols mean.  Painted floors help to clearly mark and outline where everything should go. This will reduce training time as it will take much less time to show someone the floor than to have them try and memorize where everything should go. In addition, you will waste less time and motion avoiding possible injuries, ruined goods, lost goods, and the like. Thus, the true benefit from a painted floor in lean is the visual cues that lead to reducing waste and being able to immediately identify problems5.





1. Dailey, Kenneth, “The Lean Manufacturing Pocket Handbook.” DW Publishing Company, United States, 2003


2. “5S Footprints on the Manufacturing Floor.” Got Boondoggle. July 9, 2006. <>


3. “Essential in the Lean Manufacturing Structure is the "5S" Philosophy.” TPMonline Group. March 8, 2008. <>


4. “OSHA Color Code Guide.” James Madison University. October 21, 2004. <>


5. Wroblewski, Mike. Email sent to Rob Parsons. March 15, 2008.


6. “Safety Color Guide.” The Sherwin Williams Company. 2008. <>


7. Geck, Ben. Email sent to Rob Parsons. March 10, 2008.

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