Komatsu’s story is a great example of how manufacturers can make small improvements in safety which lead to big efficiency gains.
Who is Komatsu?
Komatsu, who recently bought haulage equipment manufacturer Joy Global, is a manufacturer and servicer of machinery for the mining and construction industries.
Komatsu has over 1,000 employees in many locations throughout NSW. Most of these workers are involved in servicing mining and construction machinery in a high-risk environment where health and safety is considered the highest priority.
Identifying a problem
In 2017, employees at Komatsu’s rebuild facility in Rutherford raised a safety concern with management that resulted in a productivity-boosting process change. They came up with an idea to improve a process that was posing a potential safety risk to workers.
When required to strip back parts of machinery and motors on earthmoving equipment, workers needed to stand on a temporary safety step and spend 4 hours manually rotating a tension wrench. This was increasing the potential risk of repetitive strain injuries, slips and falls.
Continuous improvement through innovation
To mitigate this risk, Komatsu’s employees devised the idea of fitting a geared motor to drive the shaft. After consultation with Komatsu’s management and an external vendor, they designed and built a jig to support the motor, removing all manual handling and ergonomic hazards involved in the task. They also achieved valuable time savings. The process now takes less than 1 hour, rather than 3 to 4 hours, improving production efficiency by up to 75 per cent.
By removing the requirement for repetitive manual handling, Komatsu was able to eliminate the potential risk of repetitive strain injuries or those caused by slips and falls off the safety step. “This improvement is indicative of the strong safety culture at Komatsu. Thanks to our people thinking outside the box and being safety-aware, we’ve now built a strong safety culture that has saved time on tasks and brought about greater efficiencies”, said Komatsu’s Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Coordinator Campbell Saunders.
“This is exactly the kind of innovation we encourage from our people as we strive for our goal of Zero Harm,” he added.
Consultation around safety is the norm at Komatsu.
“Health and Safety is a priority in all the work we do. We actively encourage all employees to raise any safety-related ideas, innovations or improvements that will reduce or eliminate the hazards and risks involved in their day to day tasks within all our facilities. This is encouraged through an employee reward and recognition program, daily safety pre-start meetings, a hazard identification program and safety observation interactions,” Mr Saunders added.
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Every organisation is different. Safety is about doing what works for your business to protect your people from injury. We’d love to hear about how you’re keeping your people safe. Send us your stories and don’t forget to nominate for the icare Aware Awards.