Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Six sigma applied to safety improvement

Article "A Safer Way to Manufacture" by Walt Rostykus. Published on the Industry Week website September 2007

Goodyear wanted to improve safety in their tyre manufacturing process. They mapped out a strategy that was linked to Goodyear's continuous improvement process and applied Six Sigma's five steps to safety:

* Define: Establish a common goal for improvement and metrics to track process. Establish needed resources including a support infrastructure.
* Measure: Identify and assess tasks for ergonomic risk. Determine the level of exposure to risk.
* Analyze: Evaluate and identify hazards. Evaluate new tools and processes for risk.
* Improve: Control risks and hazards in the workplace. Validate reduction of risk.
* Control: Monitor, review and maintain controls.

Given the number and diversity of Goodyear operations, officials decided the long-term plan would focus on select locations each year, and be initiated in four phases:

* Establish common tools and approach. In addition to the Ergonomics Process Standard, officials selected common assessment and tracking tools to ensure consistent measurement and tracking. Consultant engineers conducted workshops to engage both plant leadership and leaders of the ergonomics process. Together, they developed implementation plans for their respective sites.
* Engage associates and make quick improvements. Consultant engineers led rapid improvement activities to make quick, simple changes in the workplace. This approach engaged associates, improved the workplace quickly, and started the momentum for the ergonomics process.
* Establish a sustainable improvement process. Key associates took special training to develop the skills to conduct ergonomic risk assessments and design/implement solutions in the workplace. This phase established a sustainable improvement process that could continue long after the consultants left the plant.
* Follow up and audit the process. Finally, officials audited each ergonomic process against the criteria to ensure the plant met company expectations.

To improve the chances of success, Goodyear started with five pilot plants. They were selected for different reasons including; high incidence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (need to do it), interest of plant management (want to do it), type of operations/products (opportunities for improvement), and agreement with labor (commitment to do it).

A Systems Approach

Based on the pilot implementations, Goodyear designed an Ergonomics Center of Excellence (ECOE) model, which allows for a systematic rollout that includes:

* Site visits by an ergonomics consultant. The purpose is to align expectations with the project charter.
* Conduct RAPID events. RAPID events are a form of Kaizen tactical activity that makes swift, measurable and relevant improvements to the workplace, eliminating non-value-added work elements.
* Follow-up audits to ensure that the process aligns with Goodyear's internal process document.
* Training for all team members, which includes plant manufacturing, functional leadership and floor employees.

Andy Brazier

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