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Doing Lines: Choosing tape over paint when marking industrial floors

Monday June 13, 2011 Written by  Cliff Lowe
Painting lines on the floors of factories and warehouses seems inevitable: traffic must be directed, pedestrians need safe walkways, there are hazards to identify and organizational systems must be marked. However, using paint is almost counterproductive. 1. Getting paint to stick to a concrete floor can require extensive surface prep. Painting a stripe on a concrete floor is not as easy as it sounds, especially if the concrete is polished, which is often the case with industrial floors. Some paint manufacturers recommend acid etching or other techniques intended to help paint adhere. 2. Paint is short lived. Lines painted on industrial floors are typically destroyed before the end of the day, especially in facilities with forklift traffic. Paint is not designed to withstand this type of traffic. When paint dries, the edge of the painted stripe sits at a 90-degree angle from the floor; this angle makes the line vulnerable to damage. 3. Painted is costly to maintain. If damage occurs, the lines have to be retouched, which is almost the same task as completely repainting. Often this requires the facility to be shut down to accommodate dry time, and this loss of productivity is often not factored into the cost of floor-marking material. Maintaining such lines is not something that can be done on the spur of the moment. Often painting is relegated to private contractors working during off hours, which can be more expensive than if floor striping could somehow be managed in-house. Furthermore, a small section of a line cannot be retouched without sticking out like a sore thumb. Typically, there is one section of the line that experiences more traffic, such as a 15-foot section of a 200-foot line that gets more forklift traffic than the rest. When repainted, it may look too bright compared to the rest of the line. 4. Paint cannot easily accommodate layout changes. Occasionally, the layout of an industrial facility must be changed to improve efficiencies; if companies have Lean or 5S Programs, continually improving the layout is an ongoing effort. When paint is used, removing it can be expensive and labour intensive, and there is also a risk of damaging the floor in the process. Because removing paint is so costly, sometimes grey paint is used to hide old markings, which can become another mess to clean. 5. Paint stinks. Most paints emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that compromise air quality and can adversely affect the health of employees. The more durable paints often have even higher levels of VOCs. 6. Paint is messy. Everyone knows the routine: rollers to clean, trays to rinse, work uniforms permanently stained and tape borders to pull. It doesn’t help knowing the lines will be blackened with grime by the end of the shift. Moving to tape If industrial floors require stripes, and paint is not the solution, what are the alternatives? Most facility managers are familiar with vinyl floor tape; most brands on the market are only about three millimetres thick and can present almost as many of a problems as paint. These tapes have no reinforcement, so they stretch and tear easily. They are often die cut at a 90-degree angle, meaning their adhesive comes all the way out to the edge of the tape. This not only makes them vulnerable to the friction of objects crossing their path, it also makes removal difficult. Removal typically involves someone on their hands and knees tediously scraping with a putty knife. Even the best efforts can still leave a gummy residue that accumulates dirt. This type of tape cannot handle forklift traffic and is not a wise long-term investment. Fortunately, paint and cheap tapes are not the only options. When one knows what to look for, a little research will reveal the superior tape option on the market. The highest quality floor marking tape will be extruded (not die cut) and feature beveled edges and a recessed adhesive system. This type of tape is designed to handle the pushing and dragging of pallets and forklift traffic. In addition, a high-quality tape will be easily removable and should come off the floor largely in tact. This facilitates layout changes and also make maintenance less costly. Maintaining floors with high quality floor tape can be done in minutes when one is equipped with the right tape and the right applicator. While the price of heavy-duty floor tape is much higher than thin vinyl floor tapes, the increased durability and reduced cost of maintenance mean a more cost-effective floor-marking solution in the long term. Cliff Lowe is an expert in traffic control solutions and holds a patent for traffic marking tape. He is also the creator of Superior Mark floor tape, with a patent pending design for industrial floor marking applications. To learn more, visit www.stop-painting.com.

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