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Monday, August 25, 2014

Is Six Sigma certification right for you?

Six Sigma, the business improvement system developed by Motorola in the 1980’s has been losing momentum to newer business improvement methodologies such as Agile, Kaizen, Kanban and 5S. With so many management systems to choose from, how do you know if Six Sigma certification is right for your organization? 

Let’s take a quick look at the evolution of business improvement in the industrial age. Henry Ford’s production innovations influenced W. Edwards Deming’s impact on Japan’s post-war manufacturing which spun off Total Quality Management (TQM) followed by Six Sigma, Agile, and a whole stable of Lean Manufacturing practices, most of them developed by Japanese manufacturing leaders who expanded upon Dr. Deming’s principles.
In the business world’s constant quest to do things better, it only makes sense that these numerous methods would wax, wane and morph to fit changing goals, trends, competition and resource management.
six sigma diagramSix Sigma certification and implementation requires strong executive buy-in and constant data measurement throughout all process steps. But, over-analysis of Six Sigma metrics stifles innovation. Too much focus on increased profits through metrics will trump creative ideas that aren’t easy to measure and don’t fit with program parameters. I have a friend who shared that the new Sigma Six implementation in the intensive care unit where she works was eliminating wiggle room for improvisation. As she told me, “you can’t measure emergencies.” You need to adjust, evaluate and improvise on the spot.  
No company illustrated the success of Six Sigma more than General Electric with Jack Welsh at the helm. That extremely profitable G.E. Six Sigma DNA spread to Home Depot and 3M through G.E. executive migration, where its success ranged from stuttering starts to downright failure.
Home Depot realized soaring profits at the same time the company dropped from first to worst for retailers on the 2005 American Satisfaction Index. Why wasn't Six Sigma's success at G.E. replicated at these other companies? If the executive authority in a Six Sigma system is too single-minded, organizational culture and customer service suffers regardless of greater returns for stockholders. Bottom line, Welsh’s charisma and leadership were a major factor in G.E.’s Six Sigma success; his junior executives who incorporated Six Sigma elsewhere could not.
Lean Manufacturing systems empower all players. The holistic approach of Lean Manufacturing looks at processes as open systems that encourage and rely upon input from all participants for successful measurement, assessment and improvement. Top-down system management like Sigma Six would render Lean inoperable.

If quantitative measurement of people and processes is where improvements lie, Six Sigma certification can work. If better facility and team organization is the goal, 5S may be just fine. If tight inventory management impacts profitability, Kanban may be the best fit. The objective should be to adopt the methodology that best fits the organization’s business model and stick with it, rather than hopping on the latest continuous improvement bandwagon.

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posted by GMcConnell - 12:37:00 PM - - Permanent Link to This Article

Monday, August 11, 2014

Do Safety Incentive Programs Work?

Written by guest blogger Alec Raymond, LSCI OSH Consultant

It is common for many companies that are looking to take a proactive measure towards safety to implement incentive programs for their employees. However, safety experts debate the effectiveness of incentive programs, while OSHA outright discourages them. Let’s discuss the risks associated with incentive programs and how can they be implemented in a way that actually does encourage safe practices.

The Downside of Implementing Safety Incentive Programs

The main reason that incentive programs are disparaged so much by OSHA officials is that employers tend to focus on lagging indicators—low workplace injury rates, near misses reported, etc— as the measure of the program’s success. For example, an employer looking to reduce on-the-job injuries might start a program where, if a certain period of time goes by without any recorded injuries, then all of the company’s workers will be entered in to a drawing for a cash prize. While effective in the short run, programs like these tend to lead to underreporting of incidents by employees for fear of losing the potential prize. This phenomenon has come to be known as “the bloody pocket syndrome,” named after the idea of an employee injuring their hand while on the job and, instead of reporting the injury to management, hides it in their pocket so as not to miss out on their potential reward for meeting the incentive goals. Companies that have incentive programs rewarding individuals or groups of workers for not having recorded injuries or time off violates OSHA policy, because of its discriminatory nature against those who report or incur injuries.

How to Make Safety Incentive Programs Effective

So how can programs be created that reward safe practices without encouraging workers to underreport injuries or ignore violations? Instead of focusing on lagging indicators, as a measure of company safety, management should incentivize employees based on leading indicators—events or measures that serve as indicators for future employee activity, such as:
Management must show their commitment by making their safety goals clear from the start, encouraging employees to be proactive about addressing potential workplace hazards, and giving constant feedback.
While safety incentive programs have the potential to be effective, they can also foster a culture of dishonest behavior and discrimination amongst workers. It all comes down to the management’s dedication, and what they base incentives around.

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posted by GMcConnell - 12:36:00 PM - - Permanent Link to This Article

Monday, July 21, 2014

5S-ing the Home

Written by Angelique Sanders

A few years ago my rent increased dramatically and I had to find a new place and move while very busy with work. My new home had very little storage space and unpacking was done hastily, so I didn't put much of a system in place. I lived there for two years and never took the time to put together a solid system. Pans weren't near the stove, cups were far from the sink, and coming out of the shower in need of a fresh towel meant raining onto carpet while running to a distant hall closet. Everything I needed always seemed to be far away and I spent a lot of time running around unnecessarily.

The same situation is pretty common in workplaces. We inherit our work environment and though when we're new we might question why the hammers are here yet the nails are over there, we are busy with other things and eventually settle into the status quo. One day we find ourselves training our replacement and explaining that the hammers are here and the nails are there.
This is one of the glories of 5S. It mandates that we create a system, that we take the time to put the hammers and nails together and move them both to where we'd mostly likely be when we need them. 5S requires us to spend the time upfront, so that over the long haul we'll be less bogged down with time bleeds.

When I bought a new place, I learned from my previous mistakes and decided to bone up on 5S, so that the precepts I'd put into place at work could be enacted at home too. While the word 'productivity' typically calls to mind assembly lines and intense hands-on work, there isn't any reason to waste free time running around for towels or pans. Efficiency at home doesn't increase profit but it earns me the right to sit down and enjoy some found quiet time.

So if you'd like to be a machine of efficiency at home like you are at work, here are some suggestions. If you find this project too daunting, do it in sprints…just set aside time for the first step now. Once you feel the results, you'll find it easier to make time for future steps.

Step 1: Sort and Red Tag (in theory)

Though at work this step involves red tagging, at home I simply call it Making a Pile for Goodwill. Start out by defining junk. My personal standard is, if I haven't used it for a year it needs to be tossed. Some things just aren't used frequently because they're specialty, like a steam cleaner or turkey baster, but make sure these items are placed in non-prime real estate such as a bottom drawer, hard-to-reach top cupboard or back closet. This is the time to stop lying to yourself that you'll soon fix that broken-for-two-years-now clock. Get rid of it and don't look back.

Step 2: Set in Order (don't just relocate the garbage)

This step is my personal favorite because it's where the real magic happens. Identify time bleeds. When you're in the kitchen, do you criss-cross to get the right implements to the right place? What is in that hall closet? No one hangs out in the hall so those items are getting utilized from other rooms. If they're frequently utilized, they should be moved into the room where they're needed, with less frequently used items getting retired into that space. In other words if you have to dig for cotton swabs in the hall closet every day yet you have a stash of guest towels in the bathroom that you need once per quarter, trade those items. Think about your home as a series of workstations. Are necessary tools nearby? When you're getting ready for work do you move in a linear fashion or are you running around to different rooms and colliding with family members? If you can shave five minutes off your time, that's five more minutes of sleep every day, which is 30 hours over the course of a year.

Step 3: Shine, or at least make it less grubby

I think few people are big fans of cleaning but it can streamline your processes if you remove clutter from your path. Navigating around a pile of dirty laundry each day may not be just a matter of cleaning but in auditing the system so that the pile—which, let's face it, WILL accumulate again—is out of the way of foot traffic.

Now is the time to pay attention to frayed wire, leaking pipes, or other potential future issues. If you don't have time to deal with it then call in some help, trade specialized labor with a friend or bring in a specialist. Get 'er done, as they say. We all have infinite lists of pending tasks and the collective mental weight of this can be like schlepping around a backpack. When this stuff is taken care of, you'll feel less bogged down and ready to conquer new things.

Step 4: Standardize and Schedule

Just as in a workplace where an ideal environment finds the special abilities of each employee and hones in on those talents, a family should find the ideal niche for each member. If your son loves the outdoors, put him in charge of weeding. With task ownership comes accountability and pride, and he'll be more likely to put in 110%.

Set a schedule for these tasks and a penalty for noncompletion or reward for completion. Allowance or increased privileges are an obvious path for the kids but what about the adults of the family? To each his own pleasure. If you want to enjoy a favorite show, set that as a reward for recaulking the tub. Don't allow yourself that morning cup of coffee until the dishwasher is unloaded. Like Pavlov's dogs, you're retraining your behavior with positive reinforcement and enticing the transition to the more orderly person you wish to become.

Step 5: Sustain

Just as you might set aside Friday afternoons at work to sort through email or return tools to the tool crib, schedule regular time at home to clean and audit the organizational system, establishing a pattern. Did the laundry pile re-grow back into its former place? There will be some creep after a system overhaul as you are trying to defeat entrenched bad habits. Scheduling time to rectify is important not only to restore order but to remind yourself of the goals and help retrain toward more orderly habits. 

I like to walk through the house before going to bed to verify that things are in good order—the stove is off, no food has been left out, the alarm clock is set. Schedule a few minutes each day to assess, then you know what needs to get done even if you can't tackle it then.

Changing your household system won't happen by just walking through these 5S steps; you have to set better systems in place and adhere. If bad patterns creep in again, imagine that you're at work and click into productive mode while attacking the house. Home contains a lot of associations of relaxation whereas the workplace atmosphere has a way of herding people into active mode, and you need that type of thinking to conquer the mess.

It's too bad that dirt will perpetually accumulate on everything and things will always break, but with a new system and good habits in place, you'll be a step ahead of the chaos.

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posted by GMcConnell - 2:40:00 PM - - Permanent Link to This Article

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

What's not to like about OSHA?

Written by guest blogger Allison Richards, LSCI OSH Consultant
Throughout every industry, there are a lot of different opinions regarding OSHA. Some opinions are positive, but a lot of them reflect a negative attitude toward the agency. Often, companies blame OSHA for the loss of production and profit. It is widely believed that an OSHA inspection will result in a negative outcome. With personal opinions aside, what do the statistics prove? What attitude toward safety and OSHA should you as an employer take?

The numbers don’t lie; since OSHA was formed in 1970, the workforce has more than doubled in size while work-related deaths have been reduced by 65% and workplace injuries have been reduced by 67%! While we can all agree this is promising news, further studies have shown how OSHA is affecting the individual employer, which is just another motivational factor for seeking OSHA compliance.

Aside from saving lives and protecting workers from injury or illness, OSHA has been linked to the reduction in workers compensation costs. A study by professors of business at Harvard, University of California, Berkley, and Boston University titled, “Randomized Government Safety Inspections Reduce Worker Injuries with no Detectable Job Loss.” The study focused on businesses that were selected by Cal/OSHA’s randomized inspections. Data showed that work related injury claims were reduced by 9.4% at the businesses who had been inspected by OSHA. Additionally, these companies saved a total of 26% on workers compensation costs in contrast to companies who hadn't been inspected. In 2011, this resulted in an average savings of $355,000! The study concluded that the nation’s employers could have saved around $20 billion from OSHA inspections similar to those studied from Cal/OSHA’s randomized inspections. Keep in mind that on top of the direct savings, employers would have saved in indirect costs such as loss of production or a decrease in employee morale.

Safety is like any other aspect of running a business. On the outside, it may seem like you are
continually forking out money to implement a safety program, purchase engineering controls and PPE, or paying fines to OSHA after an inspection. However, complying with OSHA’s regulations and establishing an effective safety program at your company will undoubtedly reduce workplace injuries and illnesses, improve employee morale, and increase profitability! So, I’ll ask again, what’s not to like about OSHA?

Harvard Business School

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posted by GMcConnell - 9:32:00 AM - - Permanent Link to This Article

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Why Having a “We’ve Never Had An Accident” Attitude is Dangerous

Written by guest blogger Brandon Moore, LSCI OSH Consultant

“We’ve never had an accident.” It is a sentence we hear all the time. It is a similar argument to car insurance and health insurance. “I’ve never wrecked my car,” or “I don’t have major health issues,” do not always win the argument for not having car and health insurance. After a prolonged period of time with things going smoothly, we get a false sense of security that nothing bad will happen. We can feel invincible (like an elephant walking on a tightrope). Unfortunately, that seems to be about the time an accident happens, and it is too late. So why should companies invest in safety even though they haven’t had an accident or an OSHA citation?

In normal day to day activities, we tend to see a lot of the same things at work and at home. The repetition may cause us to not even think twice about what we are seeing.  For example, some office workers may type an email addressed to “Brain” instead of “Brian”. Without Spellcheck catching the error, the mistake can go unnoticed. In our homes, we may not give second thought to a non-skid surface in our tubs and showers. That one time you almost slip and fall in the tub can make you reconsider those little rubber ducky mats. The same can be said for a construction site or a production plant. Ask yourself this, are there any hazards I see at work every day that I am not giving thought to?

Investing in a safety program is an excellent way to prevent accidents and injuries. Utilizing an outside safety consulting company, such as LSCI, is a great way to bring in someone with fresh eyes. We can inspect your facility or jobsite to see what hazards exist that you may be walking past every day, or conduct a training with information that may have never been presented before. LSCI can even help to form your own safety committee in the workplace so that you can work as a team to assess hazards.

You may have never had an accident, but why risk it? Frequent and periodic training, coupled with site inspections and a safety committee are the best preventative measures to utilize to keep your employees safe. Call LSCI today to see where we can assist you.  Let us be your “rubber ducky mat”.

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posted by GMcConnell - 10:36:00 AM - - Permanent Link to This Article