Recipe for Improving Manufacturing Safety

Both vigorous safety and manufacturing processes are necessary to achieve operational excellence.  Each requires an effective utilization of resources working together for the common goals.  Given this, consider that safety and manufacturing processes should not be exclusive of one another.  Their co-existence and interdependence are foundational to operational excellence. Improving manufacturing safety is worth the effort. For real, sustainable safety improvements to hold, it should be an employee driven process that is owned at every level of the organization. But how is it done?

Here’s a simple recipe to create – or improve your manufacturing safety process.

Prep work: Let’s ensure we have the right ingredients:

  • People: pick, from all levels of the organizational tree, those ripe for your process, ensuring they have the right mindset and passion. It’s important to select a cross-functional team to make sure that each department is represented.
  • Energy: our yeast or catalyst for growth, is provided by the desire of the people and strong organizational support. Starting with, and maintaining, momentum is vital to keeping the process fresh and flexible to adapt as environments change.  Occasionally spicing up the process is recommended to regularly enhance the overall appeal.
  • Process; a program to engage the hearts and minds of both those creating and affected. The is the point in the process where you must let go of rigidity and embrace creativity.  Catered to your specific safety needs, employ subcommittees to address the priority issues.  These teams are empowered to cook up solutions to improve performance and awareness from hand safety to hazard awareness based on your specific safety performance gaps and concerns.
  • Kitchen; you’ll need a space or environment that is conducive to positivity, creativity, and experimentation. You know the saying “too many cooks…”, but that doesn’t apply here – in fact the more the better.  To support the efforts of cooks, you will need both sacred space and sacred time for them to create the many dishes needed to serve everyone facility wide.  Dedicated locations for work and time to execute safety processes drives consistency and builds confidence.

Creating our safety main course [or just desserts]:

  • Start with combining the people, energy, and process. Here, it is a good idea to go heavy on the people and energy – more is better!  Don’t worry about making it pretty – focus on developing something that works at first.  At this point, perfect is the enemy of progress. Start with the basics, something highly visible and achievable, allowing people to touch and experience the creations.  The key is to get started and build something to show what good looks like and model the process.  Continue until well mixed.
  • Bake in, slow and steady, a culture of discovery and collaboration. We want to make sure we give time for our people and energy to fully absorb the process.  You will know when it is ready to serve once all ingredients have become one – working in unison.  Often it takes time to get this right, so keep working at it until you achieve something satisfactory.  Don’t worry – it’s hard to overcook this dish.  When you include everyone in the safety process you are more apt to achieve the flavor (and results) that mirror the diversity of your site.

Presentation:

  • This dish is best served warm. Enjoy an ample serving and savor what you’ve achieved. Don’t forget to share with others, discussing the fruits of your labor, including what you think went well and collecting everyone’s ideas to improve.  This is the time to soak in the feedback, noting ways to tweak the recipes for continuous improvement.

Enjoy:

  • Serve ample portions to everyone in the organization. Staying true to your base ingredients of people, energy, and process, experiment to enhance the overall offering and customer experience.  Try different additions to keep it fresh and to generate excitement.  Awareness activities campaigns, like safety calendars and gate greeting events, help prevent your safety processes from getting stale.
  • You will know when you’ve found the right mixture when the positive feedback is high, and the safety incidents are low. The more people savoring your process the better – here positive reviews, and constructive feedback are both welcome and desired.
  • Continually enhance your recipe – there is always more you can do to improve safety. Actively seek feedback on current processes and what else your customers are clamoring for.  Changing up the cooks can help infuse new ideas and offerings.  Researching what works well at other locations may offer replication opportunities. Frequent reviews of your safety results, both leading and lagging metrics, should drive both the frequency of activities and needed impact of your products/processes.

Improving the safety process is something all organizations should strive for.  Apply to safety the proven associate involvement and empowerment strategies applied to your manufacturing systems.  Ensure the right people are not only engaged, but also supported with the time, encouragement, resources, and recognition to produce the needed results.  Regardless of the current state of your safety processes, continuous improvements should always be the primary goal.  These improvements, including enhanced safety awareness and results, should be developed, implemented, and sustained with ample measures of energy, ingenuity, and experimentation.  Managing a dynamic safety system can be challenging but is worth the journey.

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