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March 20, 2012

Achoo! Uh-oh, I think it’s the flu

By Esteban Pedraza March 20, 2012
The flu shot prevents recipients from contracting the flu.

Have you gotten your flu shot?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2003 American businesses lost earnings due to influenza illnesses and loss of life was $16.3 billion. What does this figure mean in a day to day business context? In 2005, the average per-employee cost of absenteeism was $660 a day in lost productivity according to CCH incorporated (a leading provider of human resources and employment law information). How can companies eliminate this loss of money, this waste?

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu, according to the CDC, is to get a yearly flu vaccine, but good health habits and antiviral medications are other measures that can help protect against the flu. Studies have shown that American companies have had some success reducing the number of sick days taken by workers by offering the flu vaccine at the plant or office, not only is this more convenient for employees but it also reduces the time employees have to take away from work to receive the vaccination.

Whether the flu vaccine is offered through an employer sponsored event or off site one of the biggest barriers for employees to taking the flu vaccine is lack of information/understanding about the flu and flu vaccine. Some misconceptions regarding the flu vaccine are that you can get the flu from the vaccine itself or you are protected from the vaccine you received three years ago. One of the company’s measures to prevent seasonal flu should always include educating the employees on what the flu is, how it can hurt you and how the flu vaccine can help.

Companies should always educate employees on good health habits and strategies to prevent the spread of germs.

Always Remember:

  • Wash hands with soap and water and/or use an alcohol-based hand rub
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze & throw the tissue in the trash after using it
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them

The CDC has put together a FREE toolkit for businesses and employers that provide educational material that can be used to fight the seasonal flu and help companies eliminate the loss of money caused by the flu (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/business/).

March 13, 2012

Uncovering the Hidden Factory through SMED

By Rodney Reddic March 13, 2012
Stopwatch

Is time on your side?

Too often, companies are quick to implement new equipment in order to meet increased customer demand for products, without maximizing the utilization of their current equipment.  Equipment changeover time is one area of the business that is often ignored and companies accept long changeover as a part of doing business.  The changeover time of equipment can be a Hidden Factory just waiting to be uncovered.  It is very common for equipment changeover from one product to the next product, to take a couple hours for completion.  Companies often make several product changeovers per week, consuming hours of potential production time.  If we could somehow reduce the changeover time from hours to minutes, we could have a dramatic effect on providing additional production capacity.  This is what Dr. Shigeo Shingo discovered while helping to develop the Toyota Production System.  Dr. Shingo terms his discovery SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies), and it prescribe that changeover time should be less than ten minutes for a given product.

What does SMED Involve?

Companies can systematically reduce changeover time on their equipment by following a simply four step method.

  1. Document the current changeover process and break the process into elemental steps.  This is typically done through the shooting of a changeover video of the process and reviewing the video to document the steps and times associated with each step.  The steps are also classified as internal (Step occurs while the equipment is not running) or external (Step occurs while the equipment is running and producing product).
  2. Review each process step: Is it necessary or can it be eliminated.  During the review, ideas are generated on how to convert internal steps to external steps.  Internal steps in the changeover process are the driving factor for the overall changeover time on the equipment.   Thus, reducing the internal steps has a dramatic effect on the overall changeover time for the equipment.
  3. Re-examine the remaining internal steps with the goal of (Streamlining, Combining or Eliminating) the steps.   Often steps can be performed in parallel with the addition of Assist Operator during the equipment changeover.  Working as a team and performing parallel operations can have a dramatic effect on reducing the time on the equipment changeover.
  4. Focus on eliminating adjustments for the remaining internal setup steps.  In this step, the reliance on “Tribal Knowledge” is significantly reduced or eliminated through the development of hard settings for the equipment.  Often the equipment is updated with scales, gauges, and visual controls that can be used to establish initial settings for running a particular product on the equipment.  By establishing initial settings based on past production runs, the trial and error time at start-up can be significantly reduce and the equipment can produce good product much faster.

SMED Four Step Process
Finally, after completing the SMED four-step process a new changeover standard can be developed using the remaining internal and external steps.   The new changeover standard should prescribe the changeover sequence and operators required to complete the changeover on the equipment.

For most companies that have not participated in any formal changeover reduction process on their equipment, applying the SMED approach typically reduces the changeover time by 50% when first applied.  By continuing to work as a team, planning changeovers, practicing, being innovative and standardizing changeover methods equipment changeover times can continue to be reduced.   Companies should strive to achieve the goal of single-minute changeover times and recapture the loss capacity due to long changeover times.

  • Planning
  • Practice
  • Innovation
  • Standardization
  • Continuous Improvement

March 8, 2012

EHS: Profit Center or Circumstantial Overhead?

By christophermeeks March 8, 2012

Historically, most companies have viewed their EHS department as a necessary evil that must be retained to avoid regulatory infractions.  However, some companies have shifted their thinking to include their EHS departments as profit centers through re-classifying wastes as revenue streams and identifying opportunities for cost reductions and cost avoidance.  This transition is becoming more noticeable as companies implement ISO programs, look for ‘Greener’ products and attempt to reduce the use of raw materials.  The following include techniques to demonstrate to executive managers that an EHS department can serve as more than just an overhead expense:

  • Lighting Upgrades – improve the quality of lighting in work areas, reduce cost, reduce certain pollutants emitted when generating electricity
  • Finding Markets for ‘Wastes’ – re-classify ‘wastes’ as feedstock in another company’s process to eliminate disposal costs, receive revenue, reduce regulatory requirements
  • Searching for Product Alternatives – compare ‘real’ price of existing materials versus ‘real’ price of using less hazardous materials
  • Deploy ‘Source Reduction’ – evaluate processes to implement procedures that significantly reduce or completely eliminate waste before it is created

And, as always, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT.  Without an accurate baseline, results are hard to demonstrate.

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