Lean Six Sigma and Safety in the era of Covid 19.

Africa, unlike the other continents not been touched dramatically as the other countries; Nevertheless, we should be very careful as the covid 19 virus is spreading very fast around the world. and as we are not yet immune to this virus, “Safety” is more and more the center of all the effort made by Companies, stores, supermarket that remained open or reopen in the era of Covid-19.

So, the question that arise for lean six sigma thinkers and practitioner, is how LSS is supporting this effort to tackle this virus?

In this context Lean and safety should be addressed simultaneously. The integration of lean and safety can help companies achieve a competitive edge that is critical while providing a safe workplace.
As Covid-19 spread around the world, the organizations had to respond quickly to the challenge of :

– How to ensure no one sick comes to work?
– What preparations and common-sense safety measures and policies can be adopted and put in place to protect either the customer and the workers?

It is clear that we are in need of creative solutions. And we all know how Lean Thinking is very powerful when it comes to find solutions.

The lean philosophy has proven potential to help businesses improve productivity and reduce its losses, but also very helpful to have a safe workplace, This can be shown when we talk about for instance:

FMEA / risk assessment process It is based on identifying hazards, assessing risk, reducing risk to an identifiable level, and documenting the results. This is an iterative process which is to be continued until a predetermined tolerable risk level is attained And this is in my opinion very critical mainly in this period of time, when we should think about the
contagion inside the companies (hazard detection), the contagion frequency and contagion gravity and how can we detect them easily ?

If you are talking about detection for example: pokayoke – to prevent a sick person from entering the plants?  Mass temperature testing is the right countermeasure. But what about the time that we should take for the testing .Takt time analysis here to be done , by comparing the Cycle time to Takt Time . one of our customer decide as a solution o buy thermal camera to reduce the detection time and have more accurate results ( we can go further like doing a MSA for the thermal camera).

If we would like to tackle the frequency of contagion, this requires time compression to ensure we are exposed to the potential risk of infection for as short a time as possible. One of the measures also is the social distancing in order to stave off the spread of Covid-19. the key here is to start rethinking the design of the processes in order to have a safe workflow.

How can we ensure that our manufacturing cells and the assembly lines and other work places are safe with regards to social distancing?

In order to develop safe flows, very simple tool can be used: the spaghetti chart/ Diagram, in the context of physical distancing to help make the work safer.
But for some jobs, sometimes we can’t ensure a social distancing , so they can wear a face mask and gloves , and in sometimes, Plexiglas barriers but for some other job we can’t do that , We are probably going to see some creative problem solving here using A3 methodology or DMAIC projects ; and then, once the solution is defined, at the end , we will standardize the work , in order to ensure high level of safety and maintain a safe distance to enable people to follow the two-meter rule at all times.

Another example of how to reduce the contact between customers in the store, walk into any store these days and you are likely to see visual management popping up all over the place to help ensurepeople maintain physical distancing while shopping. The impact of simple visuals is easy to see. So Applying VM and 5S can help companies to reduce the frequency of contagion.

The 5S tool used for workplace organization can also be the basis for creating a safe and ergonomically sound workplace. Thus, 5S can be said to be the foundation of integration of lean and safety.

Some of ou customers, call this 6S , is a step further as it includes the ‘usual’ 5S pillars (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise, Sustain) but includes Safety in its methodology. This allows professionals the time to think specifically about safety, risks, and any potential hazards at each stage of the 5S steps.

and whether you’re a professional that prefers 5S or 6S, it’s clear that these Lean principles are creating a safer workplace. Following a practice for good housekeeping is just one way that Lean can help you create a workplace driven towards continuous improvement, improving efficiency and ensuring a safe and comfortable environment for teams across the workflow.

Lean manufacturing’s 5S program and visual management which is a basic systematic approach for organizing the work place should be used to develop safety support tools and safety programs. 5S focuses on establishing visual order, organization, cleanliness, and standardization, all of which leads to improved efficiency, service, and safety.

The Implementation of 5S leads to the standardization of processes, placement of tools, and equipment at designated places and optimal space utilization. This is the basis for creating a safe and ergonomically sound workplace.

And I think that , if we would like to enhance the Safety culture within our organization we should as lean practitioner include the Safety in the VSM of the processes so if metrics related to safety concerns are added to the VSM process, the wastes related to it will be tracked in the very first stage of lean implementation. This will further help to integrate the initiatives of safety and productivity.

If ergonomics risk assessments are incorporated into the VSM process, it will provide a structured method for prioritizing Lean opportunities”. Wastes related to safety issues should be considered by lean practitioners form the beginning, VSM stage, which is the most primary step of any lean project.

When continuous improvement activities take place on the shop floor, people are already trying to identify and act on improvement opportunities. Giving them an added perspective of recognizing ergonomic issues will add a whole new dimension to the improvement activities. Consideration of safety aspects from the elementary stages will help in the thought process trickling down the whole system due to improper ergonomic designs and non-compliance of safety regulations in the first stage along with other losses. Thus, when designing the future state map these losses will be taken into account

In most organizations the efforts related to lean and safety is tackled by completely different groups. Continuous improvement is handled by the lean teams while risk management is handled by health and safety and production The lean facilitators should be given training in safety principles and ergonomics and the health and safety officials should be trained in the underlying philosophies of lean. When safety officials involved in lean initiatives are trained in lean principles, they can anticipate potential safety problems.

To know more on the integration of these LSS tools into the safety journey , join our Lean Six Sigma training sessions.