November 30, 2015 / best practices, Employee Morale, industry news, LIT, performance metrics, productivity, Safety
Nearly every manager recognizes the need for workplace safety and aims to foster a safe environment within their operations. In fact, the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the rate for nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses continues to decline—and has so for the past 12 years.
According to OSHA’s “Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses,” private industry employers reported 54,000 fewer nonfatal injury and illness cases in 2014 compared to the prior year. Unfortunately, the manufacturing industry is the exception. OSHA data shows that although the total number of manufacturing cases remains unchanged, the number of cases that required a job transfer or restriction (DJTR) exceeded those that only required days away from work (DAFW). In other words, the majority of all manufacturing cases were serious enough in nature that those workers involved could not return to their job or had job restrictions after the workplace accident.
It is clear that industrial metal-cutting companies need to place a priority on safety—despite the many other priorities today’s high-production environment demands. As a white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology points out, ball and roller manufacturers are facing many operational challenges, but safety shouldn’t be pushed to the wayside. Instead, it should be integrated into day-to-day processes. By instituting standard safety procedures, industrial metal-cutting companies can ensure their workforce stays healthy and productive.
To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers improve safety in their daily operations, below are a few strategies to consider:
- Track Near Misses. As Modern Machine Shop reported in a column by Wayne Chaneski, one way to increase safety in a manufacturing environment is to report what he calls “near misses.” A near miss is an incident that didn’t result in medical attention or time away from work, but could have. Tracking near misses can predict potential workplace accidents and provide an opportunity to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Some common causes of near misses include electrical cords, hoses, or tubing on the floor; sharp objects inside a drawer; low-hanging objects; unsecured ladders; a hot tool or piece of equipment left out without a warning tag; and improperly secured items in cabinets. According to Chaneski, the best way to track near misses is to encourage employees to report them and to add them as a category during internal safety audits.
- Make Safety Visual. One simple but effective way to improve workplace safety is to make it visual. This strategy makes safety procedures and practices easy to follow, while also improving an operation’s workplace organization. For example, another article from Modern Machine Shop suggests using color-coded “lanes” on the shop floor to separate pedestrians and motorized vehicles. Another suggestion is to use rubber mats with visual outlines to indicate where supplies or inventory should be placed. In addition to providing a nice organizational reminder, mats can be easily relocated when needed. Finally, managers can post images and photos to quickly and clearly describe a process, show a desired outcome, or remind workers to put the process into practice.
- Get Employees Involved. Richard Knowles, a safety leadership and management consultant, recommends a more employee-centric approach to safety called Partner-Centered Safety. In an article published by EHS Today, Knowles states that safety can only be sustained when everyone works together to make the workplace as safe as possible. He proposes that managers can achieve this through three main elements:
- First, managers must ensure that employees have shared beliefs and values. This is generally achieved and agreed upon during a Safety Excellence Workshop where employees agree about the current status of the workplace and opportunities for improvements and change. For example, the group can agree that they want everyone to go home safe every day and then identify and implement how that goal can be achieved.
- The second element of Partner-Centered Safety is focused on the workplace environment. During the Safety Excellence Workshop, employees discuss the challenges they face and then develop a plan to help and support each other during those challenges. This ensures that the best safety decisions are being made in the moment when action is needed.
- The third element, also developed in the workshop, happens intrinsically throughout the process. The third element provides cohesion and order for the organization. What Knowles calls “The Bowl,” is essentially a culture of safety where outliers are called out and leaders and managers help everyone understand and maintain the safe culture. This sense of behavior and standards creates an agreed-upon culture that provides cohesion and order for the workplace, and empowers employees to follow and enforce those shared values and action plans created earlier in the workshop.
How does your company promote safety in your daily operations?
November 20, 2015 / continuous improvement, Employee Morale, industry news, LIT, operator training, Output, productivity, Safety
Of all the challenges that industrial metal-cutting companies face, process and workflow bottlenecks are at the top of the list. While lean manufacturing practices have helped machine shops streamline production processes and improve machine efficiency, many shops are using other methods aimed at optimizing their human capital. One strategy is to improve ergonomics.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), ergonomics is defined as fitting a person to a job to help lessen muscle fatigue, increase productivity, and reduce the number and severity of work-related injuries.
As a white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology explains, larger volumes and longer hours of operation can easily turn the smoothest running operation into a frenzied, disorganized, and dangerous mess. However, when an operation is organized with ergonomics in mind, workers can maintain a high level of productivity while also staying safe.
U.S.-based automaker Ford, for example, is working with ergonomic experts to analyze its assembly line and workstations to prepare for more than 100 new vehicle launches, reports IndustryWeek. Using technology used by professional athletes to assess their performance, Ford captured the data of arm, leg, back and torso movements with motion-capture sensors, 3-D printed equipment and virtual workstations. The experts then analyzed more than 50,000 data points related to muscle strength and weakness, joint strain, and body imbalance to improve plant design and operations. The changes resulted in two significant improvements:
- They reduced assembly line injury rates by 70 percent by applying ergonomics to assembly improvements and lift-assist technologies.
- They reduced ergonomic issues with overextended movements, difficult hand clearance, and hard-to-install parts by 90 percent since 2003.
Metal-cutting companies like California-based Earle M. Jorgensen Company (EMJ) are also using ergonomics as a smart business tool. After performing an in-depth ergonomic study at one of its metalworking facilities, EMJ made several changes on the shop floor, including repositioning band irons and adjusting the height of staging tables. As a result, the service center was able to reduce employee injuries, improve operator efficiency, and increase output.
While the benefits of workplace ergonomics are clear, how to successfully implement them on the shop floor can be murky. An article from EHS Today says the key is to engage your employees in the process by using the following five principles:
- Invite them. Be clear about your goals to create an ergonomic plan and have your employees be part of the process. Genuinely invite them to be involved, and let them know your intentions are to help make their lives easier and safer.
- Communicate. Continue the transparency by keeping the lines of communication open. Use announcements, bulletin boards, safety meetings, and training sessions to keep the ergonomic conversation going.
- Train your team members. A team is as only as good as its people. Train your employees for success with ergonomic awareness and skills development training. Use real-world examples (i.e., pictures and case studies) to illustrate the before and after.
- Celebrate wins. Celebrate ergonomic successes. This will help keep momentum going and shape a culture of safety.
- Respond quickly. When an employee suggests an improvement, respond immediately and with enthusiasm. Keep the team member updated on the improvement process—and don’t forget to say thank you.
Have you analyzed your workflow for ergonomic inefficiencies? If so, what changes have you made and what improvements have you experienced?
October 20, 2015 / best practices, blade life, continuous improvement, Employee Morale, lean manufacturing, LIT, operator training, productivity, quality, Safety
As manufacturers continue to look for new and creative ways to gain productivity and engage employees, many are adopting a lean manufacturing concept called the visual workplace. The idea is for managers to use visual devices and cues to not only better organize their workspaces, but to help workers better understand their tasks.
Visual management expert and author Gwendolyn Galsworth defines the visual workplace as follows:
“a work environment that is self-ordering, self-explaining, self-regulating and self-improving—where what is supposed to happen, does happen, on time, every time, day or night—because of visual devices.”
However, this means much more than simply hanging up a few posters and signs. Specifically, Galsworth wrote in Quality Digest that a visual workplace should meet the following criteria:
- Is in order, order you can see, and is able to harness that order for a business advantage
- Explains itself to anyone and everyone in it—sharing vital information about what to do and what not to do, how and when to do it, and how to respond if something (including yourself) goes wrong
- Is transparent because it explains itself—a visual work environment can regulate itself through high-impact, low-cost visual devices
- Acquires the ability, over time, to correct itself to become self-improving, because visual devices are constantly providing feedback on our performance and the performance of the company itself
So what does that look like in practice? This will likely vary depending on the culture, layout, and goal of an operation. In fact, this is where managers and operators can get creative. Visual devices can range from a green flag that tells a supervisor that a machine is producing on schedule, to a color-coded chart that prioritizes an operator’s tasks. In general, the goal is to utilize as many visual cues as possible to keep the workplace organized, productive, and safe.
LENOX, for example, recently instituted a Safety Sticker program, which visually displays whether or not its operation has had any safety incidents. Sticker dispensing stations and a safety calendar are located at every entrance to the facility, and every employee is required to put on a green sticker with the number of days “accident free” written on it. When a recordable accident occurs, everyone in the facility changes from a green sticker to a red sticker for a seven-day period. After seven days, everyone reverts back to the green sticker. According to Matt Howell, senior manager, the program has been “a good rallying point for the facility and builds energy around safety.”
Another industrial metal-cutting company, featured here in a white paper, has color-coded its blade stocking process. Each blade is marked with a colored tag, which corresponds to a chart that helps operators easily determine the right blade for the job. Stocking shelves are also color-coded, allowing operators to quickly locate and restock blades. This has improved operator efficiency, reduced the occurrence of operator blade selection errors, and prolonged overall blade life.
A recent column from Modern Machine Shop describes a few other creative visual tactics that have been successfully implemented at machine shops:
- Color-coded walkways. Different-color walkways for pedestrians and motorized vehicles are visually instructive and, in most cases, reduce the likelihood of an accident or near-miss occurring.
- Moveable location indicators. Sometimes location indicators must be changed based on the specific operation being performed or product being run. Instead of using tape or painted outlines to indicate where items should be placed, some companies use rubber mats, which can be easily painted and moved.
- Foam Cut-outs. A foam drawer lining with cutouts in the shape of the tools to be stored there not only gives each tool an easy-to-see home, but can constrain (and even protect) tools when drawers are opened and closed (the most common cause for tool comingling).
Regardless of the methods you choose, the purpose of creating a visual workplace is to improve organization, productivity, safety, and, of course, communication.
What visual devices could you use to improve operations at your machine shop?
October 5, 2015 / blade life, Cost Management, industry news, LIT, material costs, operations metrics, ROI, Safety
For years, manufacturers were bombarded with the “green movement.” Everything from conference keynotes and annual reports to football commercials centered on sustainability and the many ways manufacturing leaders were “going green.”
And while the trend has died down in recent years—replaced by buzzwords like “big data” and “connectivity”—the issue is still very relevant. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just implemented a new ozone rule that will affect the metals and larger manufacturing community. Under the new regulation, “facilities may be required to install costly pollution control equipment, limit production, or forgo expansion,” according to an article from industry publication Edge.
The final ruling, which was just published this month, isn’t as strict as many manufacturers feared it would be; however, organizations like the Metal Service Center Institute (MSCI) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) openly oppose the new directive. “The new ozone standard will inflict pain on companies that build things in America—and destroy job opportunities for American workers,” Jay Timmons, CEO of NAM, said in a press release.
Whether by force or by choice, the point is that sustainability efforts will continue to be important for manufacturers. If you haven’t already started changing the way your metal service center operates, now is the time to make some environmentally conscious changes. Below are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Change Your Bulbs. Kenwal Steel Corp. saved 93 percent in energy when it replaced 369 metal halide lights with high-efficiency, maintenance-free LED lights, reports Modern Machine Shop. The change, the article states, not only increased the overall lighting quality of the facility, it also reduced the total number of fixtures by 60 percent. The company also saw a return on its investment of 124 percent in less than a year by using an intelligent system that automatically turned off lights, dimmed aisle lighting in low-traffic areas, and scheduled automatic changes to the lighting behavior based on usage patterns.
- Recycle Fluids. While coolant recycling is certainly good for the environment, some experts claim it can also cut coolant waste disposal costs by up to 90 percent and extend tooling life, as we reported here. It can provide additional benefits as well. Eriez HydroFlow, a manufacturer featured in Fabricating & Metalworking magazine, found that investing in a fluid recycling program paid off through reduced costs, liability and environmental impact, improved workplace safety, and better employee health. To hear more about the company’s experience, you can check out a three-minute testimonial on the company’s YouTube channel.
- Consider Minimum Quantity Lubrication. One “green” coolant choice that many metal-cutting companies overlook is Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL). This alternative option sprays a very small quantity of lubricant precisely on the cutting surface, eliminating any cutting fluid waste. In fact, many consider it a near-dry process, as less than 2 percent of the fluid adheres to the chips. Benefits of MQL include less waste, lower long-term costs, and less maintenance. You can read more about this coolant option here.
- Track Consumption. The idea of tracking your carbon footprint is nothing new, but with new technologies and software updates it’s easier than ever to measure everything from water usage and energy consumption to carbon emissions. “Companies that may have been interested in these types of metrics in the past now have an easier way to measure them and make changes,” reiterates a recent article from Quality Magazine. “As technology continues to advance, it may make green manufacturing more common. As leaders from around the world look at ways to reduce carbon pollution, manufacturers should take notice and be prepared to make their operations more energy efficient.”
What changes have you made to make your service center more environmentally friendly?
September 10, 2015 / best practices, Cost Management, LIT, operator training, productivity, resource allocation, ROI, Safety, strategic planning
If there is one operational pain point that every manufacturing executive faces, it’s resource allocation. From a strategic standpoint, it would be ideal for managers to make continuous changes within their operations, both in terms of equipment assets and human capital. However, budget and time constraints, an unstable market, and labor shortages are making it more difficult than ever for managers to gauge if and when resources should be reallocated.
In fact, according to research from McKinsley Quarterly, most companies rarely shift resources at all, even during times of financial crisis. Instead of making adjustments, many executives tend to “play it safe,” resist change, and, as a result, often limit their company’s growth potential.
If this sounds familiar, perhaps it is time to take a closer look at how you are distributing resources within your fabrication shop. Do you find yourself using the same strategies you have used for years, or are your tailoring your strategy to today’s market trends? For example, are you allocating more resources to your human capital to prepare (or respond) to the widening skills gap? What about technology? Are you considering new investments in software, automation, or other metal-cutting advancements to increase productivity or expand your market reach? Today’s leaders need to be sure they are making strategic choices that benefit both the company and employees, while avoiding the trap of making allocation decisions because “that’s the way they’ve always been done.”
Of course, the challenge is figuring out which investments will generate the best return. While there is always an element of risk to any strategic decision, the following are a few best practices today’s managers should consider when reallocating resources in their fabrication shops:
- Have a plan or method. As a recent column from Modern Machine Shop explains, a strategic plan “is the means by which a company will allocate its resources to achieve its goals.” In other words, it’s the “how.” In today’s market, companies can’t afford to simply be reactive; they need to have a plan. Ideally, this plan would be based on input from various stakeholders throughout the company, and it would map out “the resources, tasks, and timing required to meet the company’s goal,” according to the Modern Machine Shop article. This goes for smaller shops as well. As one consultant explains here, every business owner should have a method and means to predict what resources are needed to sustain growth in their business venture, even if that method is based on intuition and experience.
- Closely evaluate possible outcomes. Before making any major investment decisions, it is important that managers carefully consider the unique elements of their operation. Take automation as an example. While an automated saw may have the capability to offer a good return, fabricators also need to consider whether an automated saw will actually yield better results. As this white paper explains, automated equipment doesn’t always provide enough accuracy for jobs that require ultra-tight tolerances. “The problem you run into with automation is how your indexing system works. The more you move a piece of material, the more likely it is going to be out of tolerance,” Jim Davis, corporate operations services manager at O’Neal Steel, tells the LENOX Institute of Technology. “For instance, say you’ve got a saw with a 36-inch indexing vice. You ask any saw manufacturer and they’ll tell you every time you’re going to lose a 32nd to a 16th of an inch of tolerance on the length of your cut, so it sort of defeats the purpose.”
- Research alternatives. Like any strategic decision, resource allocation requires an open mind. In the spirit of continuous improvement, best-in-class managers need to explore all of the ways they can save their operation time and money. Perhaps used machinery is an option. Forge magazine provides some great reasons to contemplate second-hand machinery, as well as ten critical factors to consider before making a purchasing decision. Another article from Industry Week discusses some best practices for financing heavy equipment. Managers also shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of investing in human capital. Upgrades in areas such as training and safety can provide huge gains in efficiency and quality.
August 25, 2015 / best practices, Employee Morale, human capital, industry news, LIT, operator training, Output, productivity, quality, Safety
Almost every manufacturer understands the importance of maintaining a safe operation. Although high safety scores won’t typically win an operation more customers, low incident rates are often a sign that an operation is efficient and that workers are well trained. A good safety record can also result in lower maintenance and insurance costs, as well as higher quality and employee satisfaction. As a previous blog revealed, some forges even consider safety a strategy.
However, as recent headlines have shown, even the most successful manufacturing operations can let their standards slide. If managers don’t continue to put safety first—or have audit processes in place—the reality is that a shop may find itself in a full-blown safety crisis that could have been avoided.
To help forges maintain a safety-first operation, the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) researched some of best practices being used by industry leaders. Read below to discover some simple safety strategies that can easily be adopted by any forging operation:
- Implement Ongoing Safety Training. Almost every manufacturer requires new hires to undergo initial safety training; however, it doesn’t take long for an operator to take safety for granted and minimize its importance. That’s why many companies are starting to expand their safety training requirements. For example, McInnes Rolled Rings, a forging operation featured here in Forging magazine, says that instead of just requiring new employees to have basic safety training session on day 1, it now requires additional safety training on Day 8, Day 30, Day 60 and Day 90. In addition, the company tells Forging that it conducts annual safety training for all associates (including office personnel) and has team leaders conduct “Toolbox Talks” throughout the year.
- Initiate Safety Audits. According to an article published by Modern Machine Shop, one of the most effective means of assuring a safe workplace is to conduct an audit of the area. “The purpose of an audit is to discover and record potential safety problems or violations of current safety practices,” the article states. In most cases, management assigns a team to complete the audit on a regularly scheduled basis. This is critical for ensuring that current safety standards are met. However, in the spirit of continuous improvement, it also offers an opportunity for the team to discuss any new ideas and find the root cause of any violations. Once an audit is complete, Modern Machine Shop says the key is to prioritize the findings so that the most critical issues are addressed first. It also suggests posting the results for all employees to see. “Posting the results of the safety audit along with the corrective actions planned is an effective means of assuring safety consciousness throughout the organization and promoting that much-needed culture of safety,” the article explains.
- Create Visual Reminders. Another strategy for keeping safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds is to create visual reminders. This tactic has been especially effective for the LENOX team. About a year and a half ago, LENOX implemented the Safety Sticker program, which visually displays whether or not its operation has had any safety incidents. Sticker dispensing stations and a safety calendar are located at every entrance to the facility, and every employee is required to put on a green sticker with the number of days “accident free” written on it. When a recordable accident occurs, everyone in the facility changes from a green sticker to a red sticker for a seven-day period. After seven days, everyone reverts back to the green sticker. According Matt Howell, senior manager, the program has been effective in several ways. “This system is a good rallying point for the facility and builds energy around safety,” Howell explains. “It has a strong behavioral impact as well. It puts safety on people’s minds when they put the sticker on at the beginning of the day and when they take it off at the end of the day. This ultimately promotes thought on safety and prompts people to think twice before engaging in an unsafe behavior or act.”
March 10, 2015 / best practices, continuous improvement, Cost Management, Employee Morale, human capital, LIT, operator training, Output, productivity, quality, Safety
Every fabricator knows that safety is important. Unfortunately, many companies fail to understand that safety needs to be more than just a priority. Instead, it needs to be viewed as a value—something that carries a cost. Injured workers can’t be productive, which means safety directly affects your operations and your profitability. In fact, some fabrication experts argue that safety is a primary component of operational effectiveness.
And, of course, if you value your employees at all, then treating their safety as a value should really be a no-brainer.
But how do you position safety as a value? How do you ingrain it into the culture of your fabrication shop? Below are a few strategies that should help get you and your operation on the right track:
- Set goals. Like any strategic endeavor, it starts by looking at your goals. For example, according to a recent article from Occupational Health & Safety, if your goal is to hit zero injuries, then you may need to re-evaluate. “Zero injury goals are often more fodder for company posters and financial and vision statements than real, meaningful direction for an organization,” the author states. Instead, the article suggests that the real goal should be safety excellence. “Zero injuries are a qualifier of our safety improvement efforts, not the primary goal if excellence is our journey’s purpose,” the author says.
- Lead by example. Positioning safety as a value also starts with leadership, according to an article from EHS Today. Quoting research from Jim Spigener, a senior vice president at consulting firm BST Solutions, the article states that culture is the ultimate predictor of safety performance, and senior leaders make or break the culture of the company. “To create a safety culture, leaders must behave differently,” the article states. To do that, Spigener believes that leaders need to “’get connected to their value for safety.’” Is safety only about meeting OSHA standards, or do you, as a leader, truly understand its value?
- Make it visual. Another strategy for keeping safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds is to create visual reminders. This tactic has been especially effective for the LENOX team. About a year and a half ago, LENOX implemented the Safety Sticker program, which visually displays whether or not its operation has had any safety incidents. Here’s how it works: Sticker dispensing stations and a safety calendar are located at every entrance to the facility, and every employee is required to put on a green sticker with the number of days “accident free” written on it. When a recordable accident occurs, everyone in the facility changes from a green sticker to a red sticker for a seven-day period. After seven days, everyone reverts back to the green sticker. According Matt Howell, senior manager, the program has been effective in several ways. “This system is a good rallying point for the facility and builds energy around safety,” Howell explains. “It has a strong behavioral impact as well. It puts safety on people’s minds when they put the sticker on at the beginning of the day and when they take it off at the end of the day. This ultimately promotes thought on safety and prompts people to think twice before engaging in an unsafe behavior/act.” While Howell admits it is hard to quantify the exact impact of the program, he says that it has played a huge role in recent safety gains: Thanks to the sticker program and a variety of other safety/behavior-based programs, LENOX has reduced the number of OSHA recordable accidents in its facility in 2014 by 73 percent.
- Talk about it. Perhaps the best way to reinforce the safety message is to talk about it—a lot. Structural Steel of California, a leading industrial metal-cutting company featured in a series of case studies from the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT), is intentional about communicating to employees that safety is a critical aspect of the metal products it fabricates, and that consistent message has evolved into an overall culture of safety within the company’s two North Carolina facilities. To facilitate this, managers hold a safety meeting every morning with the operators and a safety committee meeting every month.
March 1, 2015 / best practices, continuous improvement, human capital, industry news, operator training, Safety
As most manufacturers are now aware, new changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) are bringing the United States into alignment with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). In fact, based on the compliance timeline (listed below), your employees should already be trained on the regulation changes. With the next compliance deadline just around the corner, the question remains: Is your industrial metal company prepared?
Overview of GHS Labeling Requirements
The history of HCS dates back to 1983, when OSHA first established the standard to help inform employees about the hazardous chemicals they were working around. HCS mandated that chemical hazard labels be applied to all chemical containers, material safety data sheets (MSDS) be distributed with each chemical, and workers undergo chemical safety training.
The good news is that the new requirements don’t change the overall framework of the original Hazard Communication Standard but, instead, aim to harmonize them with worldwide chemical standards. OSHA provides the following explanation for the revised standard:
“This update to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) will provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. Once implemented, the revised standard will improve the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace, making it safer for workers by providing easily understandable information on appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals. This update will also help reduce trade barriers and result in productivity improvements for American businesses that regularly handle, store, and use hazardous chemicals while providing cost savings for American businesses that periodically update safety data sheets and labels for chemicals covered under the hazard communication standard.”
The government organization goes on to say that while the original standard gave the workers the “right to know,” the new Globally Harmonized System gives workers the “right to understand.” For a full overview on the new regulations, you can visit the OSHA website here; however, an archived article from thefabricator.com gives a great summary of the key changes:
- Revised Criteria for Classification of Chemical Hazards. About 880,000 different hazardous chemicals are used in the U.S. Each one must be reclassified by the chemical manufacturer per the GHS standard. This reclassification helps with the United Nations’ goal of streamlining chemical hazards globally.
- Specified Format for Safety Data Sheets. The MSDS is now referred to as a safety data sheet (SDS) and has a new format. The new SDS has 16 specified sections to help streamline the information provided and make it faster and easier for employees to find the information they need. Since every chemical is being reclassified, each will have a new SDS supplied by the chemical manufacturer. These will be filed and available for employee use.
- Revised and Standardized Labeling Requirements. Each primary container’s chemical label must appear in the GHS format. This new format will include the chemical name and manufacturer, as well as four new elements: a signal word, hazard pictograms, hazardous statements, and precautionary statements.
How to Prepare
What does this new standard mean for your industrial metal-cutting operation? As a chemical user (i.e., coolants), OSHA states that you should continue to update your safety data sheets when new ones become available, as well as provide training on the new label elements and update hazard communication programs if new hazards are identified.
If you haven’t done so already, Modern Metals offers the follow recommendations for modifying your hazard communication program to comply with OSHA’s revised HCS:
- Create a list of work practices and job descriptions that involve exposure to hazardous chemicals and train those employees on the revised standard. You may want to be judicious and train your entire staff.
- Document your training program.
- Give employees an opportunity to ask questions. Collect signatures verifying comprehension of the updated information on labeling and hazard identification.
- Save the new safety data sheets that arrive with procurement orders.
- Set the expectation with your suppliers and vendors that your business is expecting the new SDSs with future orders.
- Replace MSDSs with the new SDSs for your recordkeeping. If you maintain a hard-copy notebook, discard old MSDSs and insert new SDSs. If you use an electronic database, delete old MSDSs and save new SDSs.
- Reassess uses and types of personal protective equipment at the business. Implement a PPE program that covers your hazards; the selection, maintenance, and use of PPE; employee training; and ongoing monitoring to measure effectiveness.
Based on the compliance timeline, your operation should have already trained your employees on the new label elements and SDS format. However, you technically have until June 2016 to update your labeling and hazard communication department (as needed) and complete any additional safety training (see below).
Chemical suppliers, however, need to be in full compliance by June of this year. This means they should have reclassified their chemicals and produced GHS-formatted labels and safety data sheets in the new expanded format. Distributors have until December to distribute old inventory that has already been labeled.
Benefits of GHS
In the end, OSHA believes that revised standard will benefit U.S. manufacturers and the 43 million workers who produce or handle hazardous chemicals across the country. By streamlining labels and data sheets, the modification is expected to prevent more than 500 workplace injuries and illnesses and 43 fatalities annually. OSHA also estimates that it will result in cost savings to American businesses of more than $475 million in productivity improvements, fewer safety data sheet, and label updates and simpler new hazard communication training.
As this article from Production Machining points out, the new standard also gives metals companies the chance to apply continuous improvement to their hazcom training programs, whether that means better training documentation or ensuring that chemical safety data sheets are scanned and archived to back-up servers. “Use this change to improve your ability to provide evidence of your recordkeeping, training and evidence of effectiveness,” the article suggests.
Perhaps the new HCS is a good reminder to everyone that safety isn’t a static issue, but like every other aspect of your operation, needs to be re-addressed and re-evaluated for possible improvements.
February 5, 2015 / benchmarking, industry news, LIT, operator training, quality, Safety, skills gap, strategic planning
Based on recent data, the metal service center industry entered 2015 on the right foot. According the latest Metals Activity Report from the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI), U.S. service center shipments of both steel and aluminum were higher in December 2014 than in the prior year. In addition, year-to-date U.S. steel shipments were higher than 2013 by 4.2% while year-to-date U.S. aluminum shipments were up 8.1% year over year. Canadian results for December 2014 and for the year were similar.
All of that good news falls in line with most industry forecasts. As we reported here, industry trade publication Modern Metals says the outlook for 2015 is mostly positive. However, the magazine also warns that “competition, domestic and foreign, is always the overriding force that determines whether volume, price and demand forecasts are in balance.”
Indeed, even with positive expectations, service centers need to be aware of some of the potential challenges they will face and, even more so, start finding ways to be prepared. Earlier this month, MSCI President and CEO M. Robert Weidner III discussed the top trends challenging the metals industry in his State of the Industry address. Below are the three of the five challenges that he outlined, as reported by thefabricator.com (you can read the full coverage here.):
- Market Intelligence – Volatile markets and increasing competition have heightened the need for trustworthy data and analysis tools, as well as the need for cybersecurity resources and training to secure market intelligence.
- Business Disruption – World events have an even bigger impact on local economies than before, creating a need for topic- and area-specific experts and information and enhanced vehicles and technology to provide information.
- Congressional Gridlock – U.S. partisan politics have stalled action in the legislative branch, often resulting in extreme actions through regulators that have impeded manufacturing growth. It’s imperative to continue to advocate on behalf of the metals industry in the U.S. and Canada for pro-business agenda.
In his last two points, Weidner stressed the importance of employee safety and ongoing training as a means of attracting and maintaining workers. Investing in areas like safety and education shows employees that you value them, which only encourages them to invest right back into the company. In addition, LENOX Institute of Technology’s benchmark survey of industrial metal-cutting companies provides evidence that investing in areas like training can provide additional benefits, including better quality, faster on-time customer delivery, higher revenue per operator, and lower rework costs. In other words, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Only time will tell if industry performance plays out the way everyone expects. After all, forecasts are really only educated guesses. However, managers need to be sure they remain aware of trends like those outlined by Weidner so they can make informed decisions and be as prepared as possible for whatever 2015 brings.
January 5, 2015 / best practices, blade failure, Cost Management, cost per cut, Employee Morale, LIT, productivity, quality, resource allocation, ROI, Safety, strategic planning
If your metal service center is doing its part to ensure proper coolant management, then you are fully aware that it is not as simple as it seems. From choosing the right coolant to proper fluid prep and monitoring, getting the most out of your metal-cutting fluids takes time and effort, but it is well worth the investment.
Cut quality, productivity, and cost savings are all major reasons your service center should continue to make coolant management a priority. Case in point: As this white paper explains, low coolant levels on a band saw can lead to premature and uneven wear of band wheels, which can cost $1,000 each. Poor fluid management can have negative effects on circular saws as well, causing blade problems such as excessive edge chipping and tooth damage. (You can read more about that here.)
Really, any informed manager can typically accept the ROI argument for most areas of coolant management, except maybe when it comes to disposal. In today’s environmentally conscious world, coolant waste disposal can get expensive (up to $0.50 a gallon), and if you are a larger service center, this adds up fast.
For this reason alone, more and more manufacturers are investing in in-house coolant recycling. Some experts claim that coolant recycling can cut coolant waste disposal costs by up to 90 percent, and according to an archived article from Manufacturing Engineering magazine, tool life can also be significantly extended—from 25 percent up to 209 percent—with effective coolant recycling equipment.
In a recent article from Canadian Metalworking, Tom Tripepi, technical director for the fluid filtration division of PRAB, discusses some of the advantages of in-house coolant recycling. Below are a few highlights from the article:
- Some coolants are easier to recycle than others. “The tighter the emulsion, the easier it is to filter out the impurities without affecting the coolant,” Tripepi states in the article.
- Consider getting a coolant recycling system with an automatic proportionating system. This feature will tell you when coolant levels drop and if it is the correct concentration. “That process itself can probably save 10 to 20 percent in new coolant purchases, just because it’s giving you control over how you’re mixing your coolant,” Tripepi says.
- Smaller shops can benefit from coolant recycling, too. “We’ve got shops where we’ve sold recycling stations that have as few as four machines,” Tripepi tells Canadian Metalworking. “A typical machine shop that is looking at recycling their coolant will probably have somewhere between 15 and 20 machines, and from there on up to the larger shops with 80 to 100 machines or more.”
- There are benefits to coolant recycling that go beyond cost. These include health benefits such as improved air quality and a common skin condition called dermatitis. “Not all operators wear gloves, and they will be pulling parts in and out of a machine,” Tripepi notes. “By eliminating the bacteria, you can eliminate the dermatitis.”
To read about some metal-cutting companies that have reaped the benefits of coolant recycling, check out these case studies. SME also offers technical papers that discuss more recycling best practices as well as a review of the different types of recycling technologies.