manufacturing associates

Production and Safety

Do You Have to Choose?


Understanding the Relationship Between Production and Safety in the Workplace

Why is safety viewed as a competing priority with production in a manufacturing plant, throughput in a distribution center or simply getting things done? If we treat these elements as competing values, then people will respond by prioritizing one thing over the other and making compromises. This should not be the environment in any situation.  It’s important to understand the relationship between productivity and safety. Productive, efficient work can be completed while maintaining a standard and expectation of safety regardless of the setting.  The elements of safety and productivity should not be put in “silos” and must be discussed as one cohesive component – working safely to complete the task so we can maintain the health and safety of our associates and achieve business results. We know that when our employees feel safe and cared for, trust becomes stronger, and their productivity and quality of work improve.

Establishing a Strong Safety Culture

Safety must be the foundational element at every workplace.  With this solid foundation TRUST is established which provides the key to unlocking the power of your most valuable asset – your workforce.  If associates trust an organization then they will help improve the daily operations by sharing problems/issues and providing ideas and suggestions for improvement.  If a workforce does not TRUST an organization then the result will be higher turnover, “punching the clock” and repeated safety and quality issues.

The key to establishing this TRUST is to create a culture within the organization that is deeply rooted and defines who you are to your employees, shareholders, and the public.  Creating this culture will take time but each day you delay is wasted.  Like many things in life, taking the initial step is always the hardest. Once you get started it is about continuous improvement – evaluating where we are at today and what can be done to provide incremental improvement that leads to the desired result.

Milliken & Company, a 186-year-old privately held company, has developed a culture of safety, innovation, and excellence. This did not happen overnight and was the result of clear leadership vision for ownership; specifically, by:

  • Setting out a vision
  • Improving the measures
  • Changing the questions, we ask as leaders
  • Listening to our associates
  • Strengthening systems and insisting upon standards
  • Engaging all people within the organization

Historically, engaging ALL people seems to be the detail that most organizations either forget or struggle to implement. The age-old question of “how can we do this and fulfill orders?” creates a roadblock that some companies refuse to address. The solutions vary, but making safety or production process ownership a part of everyone’s everyday life is possible and will provide dividends.  To truly impact the way your employees work, they must be included.  Empower them by listening and providing the tools/resources for the associates to implement.

Drive ownership by working with associates to identify an area of focus that has been causing them issues and concerns.  The associates should utilize a standardized problem-solving methodology to understand the issue and develop and implement corrective actions.  Publicly share the process with the plant or company to provide recognition and accountability.  Celebrate the success of the improvement the associates implemented to create energy and enthusiasm for others to join and keep building the momentum.

Managing and creating safety in the supply chain

A supply chain is the entire process of making and selling commercial goods to include the flow of raw materials to manufacturer, to distributor, to customer, to consumer.   Supply chain management is integral to every product we touch in every restaurant, grocery store, pharmacy, or online purchase.

Managing and creating safety in the supply chain is and will always be an important topic. If people, product, and process in the supply chain are not safe then the results could be catastrophic – personal workplace injuries, defective/damaged products, or reduced throughput.  There are countless risks and possibilities to cause a disruption to the supply chain that must be mitigated.

Empowering people and teams to problem-solve where they work will drive the culture of innovation providing rapid solutions that drive the ownership of safety, quality, and productivity.  The risk of not engaging the supply chain workforce in problem-solving leads to a slow, disconnected response resulting in missed opportunities and the inability to rapidly recover.  Associates want to problem-solve, be part of something successful, and be respected by their colleagues.  If we work together to create this environment, a culture of safety, innovation and excellence will develop through practice and focus. These principles are consistent whether you are working in a large manufacturing plant, distribution center, small teams, or alone.

Everyone is responsible for their own and their co-worker’s safety.  We must ensure that safety is a company priority that is owned by every individual within that company. Are you ready to improve your productivity and safety? Learn how Performance Solutions by Milliken can help you put these practices into place.