For many years, companies have painted stripes or lines on the floors of factories, warehouses, and other facilities. After all, traffic needs to be directed, pedestrians require safe walkways, hazards must be identified, and there are organizational systems to mark. How else would this be accomplished? Using paint seems inevitable.
However, painting has serious drawbacks. Here are six reasons why it is unwise to create floor lines using paint.
#1: Painting cannot easily accommodate layout changes
When paint is used, it is difficult to change the floor’s layout to improve efficiency. This is because concrete absorbs paint into its pores, making the paint hard to remove. Paint-stripping chemicals, to the extent they are effective on concrete, will also strip the background tint from the concrete, which is undesirable. Abrasive paint-stripping methods such as grinding will remove sealant and change the surface profile, likewise producing a ghost line. Of course, one option is to leave the old painted lines where they are, but unused floor markings are unsightly and may cause confusion when the layout is changed.
#2: Painting inhibits continuous improvement
This is related to #1. One of the key concepts of Lean production is continuous improvement (kaizen). As part of a company’s steady improvement, it needs to be able to change its floor lines when better layouts are found. Continually tweaking layouts is standard practice at companies that have Lean or 5S programs.
Dr. Gwendolyn Galsworth, a leading expert on the subject, gives the example of a company that painted a yellow safety border along a forklift traffic lane, apparently not noticing that the yellow border ran very close to a little-used door. One day, someone suddenly opened the door while a forklift was passing by, making the danger clear. Obviously, the safety stripe needed to be moved or adjusted so that forklift operators would know not to drive too close to the door.
As Galsworth says, “As we get smarter, our borders must get smarter.” If a company is going to continuously improve, floor stripes need to be able to move.
#3: Concrete is difficult to paint
“Concrete is a surface that presents a number of challenges to paint,” notes one paint manufacturer, “especially on horizontal concrete walking surfaces”–where the paint is subject to boots, spills, tires, and so forth.
In order for the paint to stand up to this beating, the concrete must be carefully prepared for painting. This includes roughening the surface, usually using mechanical means such as shotblasting, to provide “teeth” to help the paint “bite” (as painters say). Otherwise, the paint will not bond properly with the concrete and may peel or pull loose (see ASTM D4259, ASTM D7234, ICRI Guideline No. 310.2R).
“Concrete painting is trickier than painting most surfaces,” says Pat Curry, a former editor at Builder magazine. “While you can paint drywall in a day or two, you’ll need a week or more to finish painting concrete.”
#4: Painting requires a shut down of the floor
A common reaction people have when painting concrete is: “There is no way this could possibly need so much time to dry.” Concrete, a porous material, takes a very long time to dry after painting. Sherwin-Williams urges waiting between 48 and 72 hours before letting heavy traffic onto a painted concrete floor. Valspar Paint recommends at least 72 hours.
The BEHR painting company offers these guidelines:
“Allow 24 hours for light foot traffic.
Allow 72 hours for heavy foot traffic and furniture.
Allow 7 days before subjecting to automotive tires…
TIP: Premature heavy traffic will cause paint failure which will require spot re-coating.”
While the paint is drying, the floor area will need to be shut down. The resulting loss of productivity is an often-overlooked cost of painting.
#5: Painted stripes are hard to customize
For 5S and Lean purposes, it is important to be able to customize the workplace with words and pictures.
Pictures are best, since research shows that people find them easier to grasp and remember. “Avoid words, if possible, and replace them with pictures, charts, cartoons or whatever it takes to convey the message to anyone,” advises 5S expert Wayne Chaneski in an article in Modern Machine Shop. Also, pictures cut through language barriers, enabling workers who speak little or no English to understand the meaning.
For instance, what would be a good way to label a storage area? One idea to consider is surrounding it with a floor border that contains both the name and a photo-realistic image of the item that belongs there. Using an image of the item makes the storage location more memorable, which can translate into less time spent by workers hunting for the location.
Effective customization is hard to accomplish with paint. Using paint to create these effects is also quite inefficient.
#6: Painted stripes eventually get worn and faded.
We all know this. In most industrial workplaces, painted floor lines end up fading, getting worn, and sometimes peeling. Damage can also occur from equipment or hot tires.
Typically, there is one section of a floor line that experiences the most wear and tear. If this section is retouched, the unintended consequence is that it will stick out like a sore thumb—a fact that makes it extremely difficult to do quick touchups before top company officials or safety auditors visit.
To repaint correctly, old paint should be stripped off and the concrete carefully prepared, generally using a shotblaster. Since this is a major job requiring a closure of the floor that will likely be disruptive to operations, what commonly happens, in the real world, is that the floor stripe is simply allowed to deteriorate over time.
The conclusion: tape is better
Floor tape has none of these drawbacks and is a better option. Some of the advantages of floor marking tape are:
- Allows for continuous improvement in workplace layout
- More impactful messages through words, graphics, and photo-realistic images
- Less time and labor for installation
- No costly shutdown of the floor during installation
- No damage to the floor from aggressive surface prep
- Easy touchups when company dignitaries visit
- Easier color coding (which is important for Lean and 5S)
InSite Solutions’ Superior Mark™ is the most durable industrial floor tape available anywhere. Its U.S.-patented design includes a beveled edge to resist shearing.
Don’t paint floor stripes. For more information about our industrial heavy-duty floor tape, visit us at www.Stop-Painting.com.
 G. Galsworth, Work That Makes Sense: Operator-Led Visuality (Portland, Oregon: Visual-Lean Enterprise Press, 2011), 130.
 G. Galsworth, “Automatic Recoil: The Visual Where,” live webinar, The Visual-Lean Institute, 2015.
 “Painting exterior concrete,” Valspar Paint, accessed December 8, 2014, https://www.valsparpaint.com/en/how-to/exterior/special-challenges/concrete-final.html.
 “Concrete painting basics,” Houselogic, accessed December 8, 2014, https://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/painting/concrete-painting/#.
 Armorseal 1000 HS, product information sheet, Sherwin-Williams, obtained directly from store in 2014.
 “How to paint a floor,” Valspar Paint, accessed December 8, 2014, https://www.valsparpaint.com/en/how-to/interior/projects/how-to-paint-a-floor.html.
 “How to apply BEHR PREMIUM 1-part epoxy concrete & garage floor paint,” BEHR, accessed December 8, 2014, https://www.behr.com/consumer/how-to/floor-coating/how-to-apply-behr-premium-1-part-epoxy-concrete-and-garage-floor-paint.
 W. Chaneski, “A ‘Visual Workplace’ Can Improve Your Productivity,” Modern Machine Shop, accessed February 12, 2015, https://www.mmsonline.com/columns/avisual-workplace-can-improve-your-productivity.