Assuring Safety by reorganizing Factory Aisles

Operation: Reorganization improvement operations for aisles of an assembly plant.

Problem: ML has been working for this plant for three years now. He often tells his friends at work “I’m still learning the ropes”, but he has a good reputation and is a young man who is always striving to do a better job.

Lately, something has been bothering ML. The aisle that runs along his operation process is blocked by all kinds of miscellaneous things. It looks bad and it is difficult to use. In addition, there are times when parts necessary for operations are not delivered. Then he has to go out the aisle to look for them and this puts a strain on operations.

One day, ML talked with his group leader about this. His superior’s reply to his concern was “How long has it been since you joined this company? Three years? You know what they used to say, three days, three months, three years. You are at the three year turning point. Do not worry about it. When you get used to it, it won’t bother you any more. That is what work is all about. Look, just do your best, I’m counting on you”. He encouraged ML in his work, but did not answer his questions.

This group leader is good at his work and has confidence in his role as a leader. Although ML has great respect for him, he felt disappointed when the problem wasn’t taken seriously and he was not convinced that his leader was right. ML might be at a turning point and he might stop worrying about the problem, but he could not help feeling that it would be because he would lose his desire to fix problems and improve working conditions, and that he would stop making any progress in his job.

So ML decided to take a look at the problems and do what he could by himself.

Understanding the Situation in which the Aisle has become a Storage Area:

Labor Safety and Hygiene Rules concerning aisles:

Rule1: In workshops, aisles must be provided such that these can be used by all safely. Aisles must be marked so that these can be maintained easily.

Rule2: No obstacles should be placed in an aisle between the floor and up to a height of 1.8 meters.

Obvious problems

1. The aisle is cluttered with parts (full of parts lying haphazardly) and empty boxes.
2. The aisle is blocked and obstructed, making it difficult to pass through.
3. Obstruction could be dangerous to people who are not used to working in this particular workplace.

Bad Results

1. The aisle is blocked and the safety of those passing through is not guaranteed.
2. When placing things in the aisle becomes a habit, there will never be a desire to make improvements in the use of shelves for parts, etc.
3. When there is no concern for the proper way to place and pile up things, workers will not learn danger prevention behavior.
4. Because the aisle is not a real storage area, items cannot be piled securely and are always in danger of collapsing.
5. People, other then those concerned with the workshop, walk down the aisle and may accidentally bump into something and cause an accident.
6. In the cases of an earthquake or fire, obstructions would hinder evacuation, making damages greater than otherwise normal conditions.

Causes of loss:

1. A lack of comprehension concerning the need of safety factors with regard to aisles.
2. Production first is an ideal which is strongly felt, but there is a lack of comprehensive of its supporting factors.
3. The space necessary for the operation process and for storing the necessary amounts of parts and supplies has never been considered, and the aisle was made wider than necessary.
4. The width of the aisle which did not meet the needs of the situation was never reconsidered, and people just began ignoring rules and conditions concerning it.

ML began this survey by himself, but was joined by his co-workers, P and R, who also felt the inconvenience of the situation, and the three of them organized the information concerning this problem.

The three took their information to their group leader and asked for his permission to do what they could to improve the situation. This time the leader apologized for his failure to support ML earlier and promised to support and co-operate with the project as one which concerned the entire work place.

The three were encouraged and became even more enthusiastic. They decided to make an improvement plan with the reorganization method.