Ehstoday 645 Jumpstartleanmanufacturing

Jump Starting a Safety Program with Lean Manufacturing

Jan. 5, 2012
A manufacturer of fire rescue vehicles started its lean journey in August 2008 and has undergone a visual and cultural transformation.

More than likely you’ve heard the term kaizen or kaizen blitz, but what is kaizen? Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning change for the better or incremental improvement.

Continuous improvement can take many approaches. Anytime we make changes because we’ve identified waste or standardized workflow we are improving that process.

Different companies have different kaizen philosophies. Companies starting out on their lean journey often will perform kaizen events at a slower pace and may have trouble identifying non-value-added work, whereas other companies have become lean-savvy with self-directed work forces that need very little help performing kaizen events.

The kaizen continuous improvement process basically is the plan, do, check, act (PDCA) cycle. As companies get more proficient at holding kaizen events, the faster the cycle gets. As more improvements are made to a process, the PDCA cycle gets faster.

One Company’s Experience

E-ONE Inc., headquartered in Ocala, Fla., manufactures custom and commercial pumpers and tankers, aerial ladders and platforms, rescues of all sizes, quick attack units, industrial trucks and aircraft rescue firefighting vehicles to meet the needs of fire departments, rescue/EMS squads, airports, Homeland Security agencies and the military.

E-ONE started its lean journey and initiatives in August 2008 and continues to improve all processes, undergoing not only a visual transformation, but a cultural transformation as well. Over the past 4 years, E-ONE continuously has improved in all safety metrics over previous years.

As part of this process, the company identified two types of kaizen events: major events and minor events. E-ONE considers something a major kaizen event when a full, cross-functional team is selected for the process improvement event. Minor kaizen events are driven on a department level and may not need the total resources of a cross-functional team to achieve results. Major Kaizen events were held to help improve processes in every department in every location, followed up by employee-driven, minor kaizen events.

A review of highlights from 12 major kaizen events occurring over the course of just 1 year demonstrated some startling results. Some of the accomplishments included:

➤ Reducing square footage used in all processes by 8,897 square feet.

➤ Reducing TAKT time in several product lines by 1,613 minutes.

➤ Reducing the amount of walking by operators to get tools, materials or parts by 56.9 miles per year.

➤ Increasing 5S scores on an average of 4.3 on a scale of 1-8.

➤ Reducing consumables by several thousand dollars while a seven-step process was reduced to five steps with an additional annual savings.

➤ Identifying and eliminating 13,886 SKU items in materials and supplies.

➤ Eliminating 28 steps in five different process reviews for all processes for building trucks.

EHS and Kaizen

As these improvements were made over the past 3 years, the EHS department helped identify and eliminate hazards from both unsafe conditions and acts. The EHS department utilized a fully integrated safety and health accident investigation and tracking system to help identify root cause and track corrective action, with six areas selected for review of incident data:

1. Injuries by Body Part

Body parts being injured were reviewed to determine trends. The following body parts trended and continue to trend down, some with extraordinary results:

➤ Eye injuries down 97 percent.*

➤ Back injuries down 90 percent.

➤ Leg injuries down 90 percent.

➤ Finger injuries down 77 percent.

➤ Shoulder injuries down 60 percent.

*(Eye injuries were down overall after 3 years, but eye injuries actually increased and spiked in 2009. Upon review of incident investigations, it was determined that due to the 5S activity, namely “shining” the facility, areas in the facilities were cleaned for the first time in recent history. This coupled with the use of cooling man fans on production lines increased the amount of foreign bodies in the air. The need for proper eye protection was reinforced and additional foreign material floating in the air was eliminated with the full completion of 5S activities.)

2. Injuries by Event

Next, injuries by event were reviewed for positive trends.

➤ Employees caught in, under or between objects were reduced by 72 percent.

➤ Employees falling from different elevations were reduced by 71 percent, while falls to the same level were reduced by 84 percent.

➤ Acute overexertion injuries from manual materials han- dling and other operations were reduced by 88 percent.

➤ Repetitive trauma injuries were reduced 87 percent.

➤ Incidents of employees being struck by tools or equipment were reduced by 87 percent.

3. Injuries by Source

Workplace injury sources were reviewed:

➤ Manual material handling sources were reduced by over 92 percent.

➤ Non-powered hand tools sources reduced by 68 percent.

➤ Sources that involved using ergonomic force were reduced by 82 percent. This includes the use of hand tools to assemble and disassemble parts.

➤ Obstacles on shop floors that created a slip/trip/fall hazard were reduced by 90 percent.

4. Unsafe Conditions

Unsafe acts and conditions also were reviewed with trends both in improvements and deficiencies:

➤ Unsafe conditions caused by congested or restricted work areas were reduced by 91 percent.

➤ Ergonomically poor work methods were reduced by 89 percent.

➤ Defective or inadequate tools and equipment leadingto injuries were reduced by 89 percent.

➤ Poor housekeeping and disorderly work cells were reduced by 84 percent.

At the same time, inadequate design as a cause of injuries under unsafe conditions increased by 30 percent. Inadequate design can include a part, material, workstation or process that is not designed correctly and caused an injury. Further review of root cause in these cases identified that operators as well as supervisors were better equipped to identify design flaws in either a process or part. In some cases, material presentation issues were corrected to eliminate the hazard.

5. Unsafe Acts

The following trends among unsafe acts emerged:

➤ Employees working on small parts were failing to secure these parts in a vise or similar equipment. These unsafe acts were reduced by 94 percent. Each work cell was equipped with a station or vise to secure small parts during fabrication and installation.

➤ Instances of employees not wearing the proper PPE were reduced by 90 percent. The implementation of standardized work helps identify the correct PPE.

➤ Instances of the wrong tool/equipment being used for a job task were reduced by 90 percent. Standardizing the workplace with the proper tools helped eliminate this category.

➤ Improper manual material handling was reduced by 88 percent. Identifying flow issues using a kanban system eliminated unneeded and double handling of parts and materials.

6. Safety System or Process Failure

The last category reviewed for safety improvements was the system or process failure mode. In other words, what process or program failed within the company that could have prevented the injury from occurring?

➤ PPE program failures were reduced by over 94 percent through the use of standard PPE, hazard assessments and creation of standardized work.

➤ Failures for good corrective action were reduced by 92 percent because standardized work cells and standardized work eliminated variation. Supervisors and managers drive to theroot cause of all injuries and implement value-added corrective action.

➤ Standards, policies or administrative controls (SPAC) needing improvement were reduced by 92 percent. The implementation of standard work and reinforcement of safe work practices helped reduce the need to improve standards.

➤ Material handling failures were reduced by over 88 percent.

Safety improvements rarely are documented in lean enterprise as safety, much like quality is built into the process. To try to link one specific kaizen event to improvement in a safety program is tough to do. Lean as a whole helps identify, improve and build safety into every process. Part of the process of developing good kaizen teams is the ability to “calibrate” team member eyes for EHS issues on the floor.

Waste Identification, EHS & Lean

One of the best tools that EHS professionals can use to help facilitate a safety program is to incorporate safety into the waste identification process. Ergonomic awareness usually is the biggest payoff for safety when identifying waste. During training exercises for kaizen team members or events, safety and health must be identified in every process step.

The sample waste identification and safety observation sheet in Figure 1 demonstrates how all kaizen team members can identify ergonomic stressors when identifying process waste. The identification of employee posture, the amount of force used to perform a task and the frequency can be documented and reviewed. Manual material handling and manual lifting also should be identified and targeted for elimination. Job tasks that require fine hand manipulation or pinching as well as manual pushing and pulling often are overlooked. Identification of these ergonomic stressors and job hazards may need additional training by the safety and health professional for the kaizen team to identify.

To also help create standardized work at a standard workplace, questions should be asked regarding job safety analysis for job tasks being reviewed during the kaizen event. If the kaizen also involves man and machine interface, this is an opportunity for the kaizen team to identify and audit lockout/tagout procedures. In Figure 1, a waste identification sheet has been merged with hazard recognition.

Keys to Success

In addition to identifying waste in a process, there also are several other ideas that will help drive safety and harness the power of lean enterprise:

➤ Kaizen team training – Training a team in hazard recognition will increase awareness and help identify issues at every level. The OSHA 10-hour class is a great training tool.

➤ Standardized work – Creating standard work for employees doesn’t stop at the production line. Establish standard work for supervisors, managers and senior management that involves your EHS program.

➤ Create standard work for yourself to ensure that no part of your program suffers.

➤ Get involved – If a kaizen team is being formed for a process improvement, ask to be on the team. If you don’t have time, check in on the team’s progress to make sure that additional EHS issues have not been created by the process improvement and always attend the closeout meeting.

Kaizen events and lean are all about changing for the good. The best way to manage change is to help create change. Take the time to learn about lean manufacturing and consider how to use lean to impact safety and health. Make the manufacturing process work for you and the EHS program.

Paul English, CSP, is an assistant professor of safety, security and emergency management for Eastern Kentucky University ( He can be reached at 859-622-7591 or at [email protected].

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