Why the urinal fly in men’s toilet is a bright idea



I’M SURE many gentlemen here know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, instead of an etched housefly or a menacing bangaw (blowfly), you’ll see a bull’s eye target icon just above the urinal drain as it tempts you to hit it like mad while you’re doing your personal business.

That’s Lean thinking, and you don’t need a macho label of a Six Sigma Black Belt to create a brilliant idea like it. Well, yes. As you can imagine, this article is a follow-up to my piece last week on “How and Why Lean is Better than Six Sigma.”

Indeed, the urinal fly is an excellent idea on how to reduce, if not eliminate, cleaning costs. Ask your loving mother or your long-suffering wife, and I’m almost sure she’ll tell you how a poor shooter you’ve become when you use the family bathroom. Imagine this happening in public toilets millions of times by poor shooters splashing their pee on the floor as they unconsciously betray themselves for being short horns.

Sometimes, one valid reason is that you don’t want to get too near to the urinal as you try to avoid a splash back to your pants, even unmindful of a curious eye nearby.

According to Blake Evans-Pritchard of “Works that Work,” the urinal fly was invented by AadKieboom who gave credit to Jos van Bedaf, manager of the cleaning department at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, where it was first introduced in the early 1990s.

“In the men’s room a little psychology goes a long way towards keeping things clean,” writes Pritchard. “Guys are simple-minded and love to play with their urine stream, so you put something in the toilet bowl and they’ll aim at that… It could be anything (like) a golf flag, a bee, (and) a little tree.

The fly for men’s urinal is a favorite choice because it represents an unsanitary condition, where everyone doesn’t feel guilty hitting it. Just the same, Pritchard says, “(j)ust about anything can be put at the bottom of the urinal to serve as a target, but psychologically it is much more effective to put something there that men want to pee on.”

One version that makes people smile is the one from Iceland. “Rather than flies, the targets in the urinals were pictures of Icelandic bankers. This was around 2008, shortly after the country’s three main commercial banks had collapsed.”

Now, if you want to rally your employees to achieve a new target for the New Year and beyond, you can simply stick the logo of your biggest competitor, to replace the urinal fly, like for instance, in the case of McDonald’s restaurant using a Jollibee mascot and Jollibee doing the same thing with the image of Ronald McDonald in their men’s toilets

Creativity is unlimited. In many of my workshops on Lean thinking, I teach people how to solve many problems without spending money in the process. And that can only happen if the employees are tasked to work like an army of problem-solvers submitting as many ideas to management.

One good example of Lean application is the branded Toyota Production System. It was the focus of Yuso Yasuda’s 1991 book entitled “40 Years, 20 Million Ideas” on how Toyota employees are required as a matter of practice to submit as many as low-cost, common-sense solutions to operational problems.

But why “low-cost, common-sense solutions?” The simple answer is – because common sense is uncommon to many of us who are blinded by proximity to problems as we think that any change is bad for our comfort zones. The most valid reason, however, is that – it is easy for management to accept solutions that require no budgetary allocations.

The point here is that – if the urinal fly were not invented, would you imagine the number of janitors working 24/7 to maintain the cleanliness and hygiene of a massive international airport? Can you simply recommend to management to hire as many cleaning staff to maintain it? I’m almost sure that your idea will be simply thrashed even if you don’t know TaiichiOhno’s precept – “use your brain, not the company’s money.”

Indeed, the urinal fly is a brilliant idea, but alas, in the end, it should be top management that should create an environment where free employee ideas can be harnessed systematically to turn them into wealth.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn,or Twitter for his random management thoughts.


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  1. This totally works. I’ve been in the urinal business for many years. The fly or target is the best idea, even if a urinal cake is there that can help. And for those times that a little spill an enzyme-based urinal cleaner remove any further smells.