How to Get Buy-In for Industrial Cleaning Equipment

Manufacturers are always looking for ways to cut costs. And in some industries, the budgets that plant managers have at their disposal for new equipment are shrinking.

In this situation, it can be difficult for EHS personnel to get buy-in for new safety-related equipment, like vacuum cleaners for combustible dust. 

This article provides three strategies for getting decision-makers to loosen the purse strings for industrial cleaning equipment.

1. Show them the money

Often, the main objection to purchasing new cleaning equipment is the cost. Budgets are tight, and it’s difficult to justify any investment that doesn’t track directly to revenue.

But as any company that has ever had a major incident knows -- there’s no price too high for safety.

Consider the $8.8 million fine OSHA handed Imperial Sugar after the 2008 combustible dust incident that left many workers dead or wounded. The company received more than 100 citations for willful violations of the combustible dust hazard, “including the failure to clean up dust and not using appropriate equipment or safeguards where combustible dust is present.”

The average OSHA fine isn’t quite that steep, but citations for violating the combustible dust hazard can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that’s just the OSHA fines -- costs associated with worker injuries and facility damages are added on top.

Compared to that, a few thousand dollars for industrial cleaning equipment is a bargain!

2. Identify the risks of non-compliance with standards

Cleaning a manufacturing plant isn’t just a good idea. In many cases, it’s required by law, and not just a recommendation by OSHA.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also issues standards all manufacturing facilities including food processing, metalworking, woodworking, plastics and pharmaceutical. Failure to comply is a finable OSHA offense.

Again, faced with such extreme potential consequences, a proactive approach will always be the best one.

3. Focus on safety as a broader issue

Your goal shouldn’t be to convince the plant manager to buy a particular piece of equipment. Your goal should be to convince them to buy into safety as an important issue.

In their Harvard Business Review article, Susan J. Ashford and James R. Detert identify seven tactics of successful “issue selling”:

● Tailor your pitch. This means speak to your audience. Is your plant manager most concerned with efficiency? Demonstrate how safety boosts efficiency.

● Frame the issue. Show how the issue of safety fits into the larger picture of business objectives. For example, companies with strong safety programs not only benefit from lower costs related to injuries and illnesses, but also have higher productivity and a healthier bottom line.

● Manage emotions on both sides. The idea here is to keep your emotions in check. If you allow negative emotions to sneak in, you run the risk of being perceived as a complainer.

● Get the timing right. Purchasing cleaning equipment is always a good idea. But if your plant manager is currently dealing with other difficult issues, you might want to wait to propose it. Ashford and Detart suggest keeping your ear to the ground to “notice when more and more people are beginning to care about a larger topic or trend that’s related to [your] issue”...and then “positioning [your] idea to ‘catch the wave.’”

● Involve others. Don’t try to go it alone. Reach out to others -- particularly experts or other people your plant manager trusts -- to help build credibility for your case.

● Adhere to norms. By this, Ashford and Detart mean the norms related to organizational decisions. For example, what kind of data does your plant manager like to have before making a decision? Is it better to approach the topic in a casual conversation or a formal presentation?

● Suggest solutions. This one should be obvious, but offer specific solutions to problems. Here are some questions that will help you choose the right industrial vacuum for your cleaning job.

Getting buy-in for industrial cleaning equipment doesn’t need to be difficult. The key is to place the investment in the larger context of safety and risk prevention. For help finding the right solutions to your industrial cleaning problems, contact a Nilfisk expert.

Written by Stephen Watkins, Application Engineer at Nilfisk, Inc., Industrial Vacuum Division

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