Start a lean manufacturing initiative by focusing on safety

Lean manufacturing can begin by focusing safety, according to Robert Hafey, president, RBH Consulting LLC. Hafey, speaking at IMTS - The International Manufacturing Technology Show 2010 conference, talked about “Transforming Your Safety Culture with Lean Management” and shared examples on integrating lean with safety.


Robert Hafey, president, RBH Consulting, LLCThe easiest entry point to get going with a lean manufacturing initiative is to focus on safety, according to Robert Hafey, president, RBH Consulting LLC. Hafey, speaking at IMTS - The International Manufacturing Technology Show 2010 conference, talked about “Transforming Your Safety Culture with Lean Management.”

Lean and safety personnel, put on the same team, may begin with different goals – safety staff members usually have the most concern about any situation being out of regulatory compliance.

Those working on lean initiatives readily realize that customers are most important, Hafey said, which inverts the traditional hierarchical pyramid.

IMTSCommon focus for both groups, however, is people, best approached in a coaching, rather than directive, style of management. A coaching style, said Hafey, asks questions of team members, such as, “Tell me how...,” “What would you do if...,” and “Why is it....”

Hafey gave examples from his experiences to illustrate how to pull people into lean initiatives.

Involve those interested: A manager for a series of small cells in his manufacturing area had a passion for lean. “I asked his supervisor if he could work on lean initiatives for 30% of his time.” Within five months, Hafey said, the manager had transitioned to full-time on the lean team. Asked what the manager thought about working on lean efforts, compared to quality assurance, Hafey said the manager felt he was having a greater impact in helping people improve the business.

What percentage of employees feel they’re engaged in making difference? Audience members in the IMTS session guessed 3%, 10%, and 30%. A Gallop poll said 29% employees felt as if they make a difference, and 54% of respondents said they were not engaged, Hafey said.

Reach out to other teams and outside the company: Hafey, put in charge of coordinating a safety Kazan blitz, involved two team members from within the company, two from the state Workman’s Compensation group, and six from other companies in the area. Purpose of the event was to improve safety by 75% in three days. Though most people were confused about the methods and mission the first day, Hafey said, by the third day, they were engaged in safety, understood the value of lean, and had a grasp of lean terminology. Among work behaviors seen and corrected: A worker stapling the bottoms of 300 boxes; standing on toes on barrel to rake; pushing boxes down conveyer, and sticking a hand in a potentially hazardous area.

He added that the Workman’s Compensation representatives were particularly impressed. Hafey said the Workman’s Comp personnel noted they often return to plants three months later to find that a laundry list of concerns still would not be corrected. A Kazan blitz applied to safety immediately identified and corrected hazards, he said.

- Also read:

IMTS 2010 coverage - links to all stories to date

Manufacturing: Get lean, flexible, and improve product flow

How to manufacture a 5S program for your facility

Lean and Green Becomes Lean and Safe

- Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering,, CFE Media,

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