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Does Color Matter on the Plant Floor?

May 1, 2013
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 Color affects mood and perception. It’s amazing how a slight change in color can alter the look and feel of a room. I found this out first-hand recently after doing aColor on plant floor little painting at home.

Whenever I step into an assembly plant, I always try to take a quick look at the color of its floor, walls and equipment. Usually, it’s nothing to get too excited about.

However, several years ago, when I set foot inside a medical device plant, I was blown away by what I saw. The floor was painted an unusual shade of blue (I expected to see a dull shade of gray or white). It was a sharp, refreshing color that made the plant bright and lively.

Color can also send a message when it’s creatively used on machine tools and assembly equipment. For instance, to raise awareness of breast cancer research efforts, several equipment suppliers recently produced some machines and components painted in a pink hue.

According to a new book called The Color Revolution (MIT Press), “the layouts of factories and the design of machines are subject to changing fashions.” Back in the early 1920s, “mill white became the preferred paint for clean factories, and people forgot about the Victorian tradition of colorized machinery,” says author Regina Lee Blaszczyk.

Around that same time, “widespread electrification led to workers’ complaints about glare and sparked a new interest in color,” Blaszczyk points out. “Plant managers found that repainting the plain black machinery in bright, pleasant enamels reduced eyestrain, restlessness and errors at the workbench. They also began to use color-coded paint systems as an aid to factory safety.

“After the stock market crash of 1929, more and more factories colorized machinery as a means to improve their public image, their safety records and their production output,” adds Blaszczyk.

The book also offers insight into how color played a key role in product design at General Motors in the 1920s and Maytag in the 1930s. I didn’t know that once upon a time, most washing machines were light gray (white didn’t become the standard color until the early 1940s).

Do you think color still matters on the plant floor? Does your facility have any equipment, floors or walls painted unusual colors?
 

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Kevin
May 6, 2013
When medical device company Specialty Silicone Fabricators (www.ssfab.com) built a new facility in Paso Robles, CA, a couple years ago, they also stayed away from the typical gray/white and went with a deep, polished blue floor in their large clean room. Really looks sharp and elegant with polished equipment and white clean room walls. This encourages the team members to keep it clean and "tour ready." You can see some video of it in the Gemba Academy "Gemba Live!" series on SSF: http://www.gembaacademy.com

color can do wonders

Brian
May 8, 2013
I think color in general has an impact in factories - well noted above of the impact on mood. Some factories can be dark, depressing places (seen a few). Adding some vibrant color can do wonders for folks (the ones there everyday) mentally and make the place look sharp to those visiting. Seen some bright blue floors that looked great, and even some white floors. Tougher to keep them clean, but you can see debris, coolant, oil, etc from a distance quickly. Same goes with the walls and even equipment. As part of TPM initiatives, we have painted equipment white as well - a strong visual backdrop to keep things clean. It's not the color alone, but again, works at trying to shape the behaviors and attitudes.

color does matter

Alendandre
May 20, 2013
In my opinion, color codes are very important on the shop floor. Based on color codes, many standards can be defined, and processes and flows can be better understood by employees. It is linked with 5S, 5T, TPM, lean and WCM concepts, as well. Also, visual management based on colors and signals is important, as we can make it easy, direct and intuitive—easily showing or demostrating the problems or opportunities, which is true objective of a good shop floor visual management.

color is a good concept

Dinesh
May 20, 2013
I believe color on the shop floor is a really good concept for worker motivation and also for TPM and 5S.

color reduces stress

Mike
May 20, 2013
Color is incredibly important, even if we don't consciously recognize it. My proof: My son required a number of hospital visits in his early years. The primarly hospital walls were the standard green and while colors. Every time we were there, he would immediately become stressed. We went to hospital in a different town. It was painted with similar colors, and the results were the same: immediate stress. Then we went to hospital that specialized in pediatric care. Its walls were painted with bright and cheerful colors. Guess what happened? No stress. The doctor visit went smoothly. I commented to the staff about my observations. They had noticed the same thing I did, which is why they painted their walls the way they did. (By the way, the hospital is actively pursuing lean.) When I returned home, I shared my discovery with the local hospital. No change. Imagine that.

color preference is predisposed

Jay
May 20, 2013
Believe it or not, human beings are genetically predisposed to certain color preferences. Those color combinations that tend to mimic certain color patterns found in natural environments are most likely to elicit a favorable emotional state. However, these innate, biologically based predilections are highly influenced (and even overshadowed) by experiential-based associations. So, getting to a highly favorable color scheme within a work environment may require a bit of testing and experimentation. The reference paper cited below will provide a potential starting point. An Ecological Valence Theory of Human Color Preferences http://141.14.165.6/CogSci09/papers/602/paper602.pdf

Al
May 28, 2013
The impact of color was measured considerably from 1920 to 1950 by Dr. Faber Birren and Dr. Ernst Luscher. (Luscher’s system of using color preferences as hiring screening tool was used for millions of jobs in Europe and many in the United States.) Birren wrote many books on color and advised automakers, paint companies, apparel and furniture makers. Some of the books are still in print. It’s mostly lost knowledge now, replaced by the uninformed opinions of too many designers unaware or dismissive of color research. For instance, Birren found which colors of products sold most reliably and in what region, based on sunlight distribution patterns rather than acquired tastes or local norms. He found physiological constants about color perceptions far more significant than cultural exposures. Red and blue are the two favorite colors worldwide. There’s a recurring cycle to how colors pass in and out of popularity, which he also mapped out over a 50-year cycle to reduce making inventory in the wrong color scheme for current consumer demand and anticipating when to switch. His color research helped retailers like Macy’s drastically cut merchandise that had to be sharply discounted to ever sell and to increase turnover of seasonal merchandise with the right colors dominating the inventory bought and stocked. It resulted in huge cost savings for both manufacturers and retailers. Birren’s environment research probably peaked when Admiral Rickover had him test and research what could be done with color to make months underwater in the new nuclear submarines more bearable, and Birrens’ color results were implemented quite successfully. John Molloy did a lot of apparel color testing in the 1970s. Clothing colors had surprising effects on perceived credibility, authority, energy and other traits. You still see this research reflected in political image consulting and what trial attorneys wear.

Color is great

Darin Fisher
May 29, 2013
I would think it could add a different attitude or thought to the workplace. I would think the finish would be more important to ensure proper footing for safety.

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