When in Doubt, Paint it Pink
Whenever there extra cash is left to spend when the project comes in below budget, it is always a pleasure to ask the client how he wishes to spend the extra money to improve the project. As Resident Construction Manager for General Electric’s corporate Real Estate and Construction Operation, one of my clients was the Aerospace Instrumentation Division in Massachusetts. They wanted an opinion for spending the extra money to improve the machine shop operations in their new manufacturing facility in Boston. I was in the finishing stages of construction with a Guaranteed Maximum Contract wherein the terms included a 75% split in cost saving between Owner and Contractor.
Part of the new construction included a machine shop which had been relocated to the new facility. The original equipment was grimy and looked like it had been used in a war zone. The machinists had a reputation of being nasty and contentious. They came to work spiting tobacco juice, and left with grease and grime all over. They also issued the most grievances and complaints for any of the plant’s operations. I hired a prestigious industrial engineering firm with a well known psychologist to study the situation. The answer: Clean up the old machines and paint them “pink”. This was a shock to both me and GE’s Manager of Manufacturing, but we decided to do it.
You can imagine the surprise when the machinist foreman and his staff returned to work in the new plant and stared at their “pink” drill presses and related machines. Instead of complaints, exactly the opposite happened. They no longer showed up in their greasy aprons, they wore brand new work clothes, clean shaven, stopped spiting tobacco juice, and even stayed late to clean up their own work area. Their complaints regressed to zero, and their production increased by 21%.
The reason: The color was selected after researching the effect of color in work environments where stress and anxiety prevail. This particular brand of “pink” was proven successful in several stressful environments including those of telephone operators working long shifts together in small rooms.
It isn’t often a color can make a difference. In this case In this it did.