Published 05.13.24

Empowering Frontline Employee-Partners to Lead and Create Change

Cintas’ employee-partners continue to show why they are leaders in ergonomics through its award-winning program.

Part of a company's ability to grow and succeed comes from never settling for the status quo. It requires employee-partners with positive discontent, always seeking ways to improve both individually and as an organization.

Cintas strongly believes that to get the best in innovation and improvement, it needs to invest in its employee-partners and programs so they can be empowered to lead and create change where needed. The proof is in Cintas’ award-winning ergonomics program, where frontline employee-partners from different locations and divisions have created meaningful and impactful efforts that have improved the workforce’s safety, design quality and overall productivity.

Since 2018, Cintas’ ergonomics program has been regularly recognized during its in-house ergonomics competition and at the Applied Ergonomics Conference (AEC). The company has won four Ergo Cup awards (2018, two in 2021, 2022) and four Excellence Awards (2019, 2022, 2023, 2024) in that time.

“Our program is driven by frontline employee-partner activity,” said Dr. Davana Pilczuk, Cintas’ Corporate Ergonomist. “At Cintas, we feel the employee-partners have inside knowledge as to how to improve their jobs, so our program is designed to listen to them. Most other companies have ergo programs that are expert-driven, meaning they have a staff of ergonomists making decisions and solving problems.” 

Rex, Service Sales Representative (SSR) at the Cintas rental location in Erlanger, Kentucky, noted how this was a unique opportunity to be able to represent Cintas at the competition. 

“I've been told by a lot of people that it's not very common for a service rep to be able to go to a conference and represent the company,” said Rex. “It's been a really cool process, and everyone has been supportive.”

Rex was representing one of the three teams for Cintas at this year’s Applied Ergonomics Conference in Louisville, Kentucky and was the winner of this year’s Ergo Excellence Award for “Transferability/Scalability.”

His invention, Rex’s Kaivac Handle, helps employee-partners move their cleaning carts more ergonomically. The attachable handle allows employee-partners to securely grab and move the cart without hunching over or putting awkward stress on the body. 

“I’m about 6’5”, and the original handle for this machine is a lot lower for someone of my height to use,” said Rex. “This machine weighs about 300 pounds when it's full of water, and pushing it at a bad angle for long periods of time is not fun. This model helps fix that and provides several other benefits, like reducing the force it takes to tilt this back on the back wheels by 40%.”

Rex understands that sometimes, you must be on the frontline experiencing the issue to know what needs improvement.

“It’s good to hear from the people that work directly in the field because they're the ones that are going to see and experience the problems,” said Rex. “People who don’t directly handle a machine or tool aren't going to see the complications or different hurdles that you have to go through every day.”

Employee-partners also take pride in knowing their invention is appreciated and helps improve their peers’ well-being and work experience.

“We enjoy being able to come up with different devices that help our employee-partners,” said Woody, a Maintenance Supervisor for Cintas’ rental location in Greensboro, North Carolina. “So, when we're recognized by our peers, I mean, it's a good thing. They can see that we're trying to help them. We want everybody to be able to return home the way that they came in to work or even feeling better.”

“It's nice when they come up to us and say, ‘Hey, I just really appreciate you helping me,’ and it lets us know that our work is important,” said Brian, a Maintenance Supervisor for the Graham location. 

Woody and Brian were another team representing Cintas at the AEC. Their handheld device was designed to help employee-partners attach hydraulic shocks to their location’s industrial washing machines to help prevent them from shaking. 

These hydraulic shocks require nearly 80 pounds of force to attach, which can be difficult and tiresome for a person to do, depending on how many are needed each day. Their electric handheld device helps attach these shocks with the squeeze of a trigger, saving the employee-partner time and energy and helping them be more efficient.  

“Not only does ergonomics help employee-partners be safer, but it helps in terms of efficiency,” said Woody. “Oftentimes, the devices that we come up with allow them to be more productive, which benefits us in the long run as a business and individuals. So, it's a win-win for the employee-partner and Cintas.” 

The ergonomics program has also seen an increase in the participation of teams and employee-partners from other divisions and locations. A perfect example is the Cintas manufacturing location in Honduras, whose team won the Cintas-hosted ergonomics competition this year and was also presenting at the AEC. 

Michelle and German, Production Managers at the Cintas global supply chain location in Honduras, helped create a machine that measures and cuts safety reflective strips with the push of a pedal, eliminating the time and strain of cutting thousands of these by hand every day. 

Michelle and German note that the location went from one person producing 1,000 pieces a day to over 4,000 pieces a day.

“It was difficult for employee-partners to cut these by hand all day,” said German. “Now, all the employee-partner has to do is grab the tape, bring it to the machine and press the pedal with their foot.”
Michelle and German reflected on representing their country and employee-partners at the AEC, beyond just competing for an award.

“To represent not only Cintas but another country is something we’re really proud of,” said Michelle. “Most of the teams at the conference are from the U.S., so for us to be here, it is truly a special achievement.”
With an organization as large and diverse as Cintas, the ergonomics program provides opportunities to feature frontline employee-partners from across the company and the incredible solutions they are creating at a national and international level. 

“Having employee-partners represent at the Applied Ergonomics Conference is a huge win for us,” said Dr. Pilczuk. “It gives us the opportunity to show our reputation with safety and lets us know we have earned a place on the ergonomic stage.”