Safety Doesn’t Stop with Restart: Engaging Teams to Improve Every Day

Posted By
Simon Wright
Vice President, Lean Enterprise

Employee safety and well-being has been our priority as we restart operations after ramping down in response to COVID-19. But a safe startup is not the end of the safety journey – it is just the beginning. We know we have to continuously refine and improve our approach to safety as this dynamic situation unfolds. We have to remain focused and diligent.

To that end, Aptiv is combining its Lean 2.0, a people-centric approach, with digital tools to engage all of our employees in keeping each other safe.

Lean manufacturing is a widely used methodology that helps minimize waste while maximizing productivity. At Aptiv, we recently started taking Lean further, ensuring that we embed Lean principles in our culture at all levels in the organization, so that everyone drives continuous improvement every day. 

To get to the level of rigor that battling COVID-19 demands, we believe that we must apply these principles not just to efficiency, productivity and quality, but also to safety. Where are our gaps? How can we close them? How can we do better? How can we share best practices throughout the company? These are questions we want our employees at every level to be asking every day. 

A digital solution

We found that the fastest way to get everyone working toward the same goals – and quickly making the problems visible – was to roll out a digital tool. A paper checklist just would not scale broadly or fast enough for Aptiv to deploy across more than 100 manufacturing sites around the world. A digital tool, however, can be deployed in an instant and updated constantly, everywhere.

As part of Aptiv’s Safety Observation Standard Work, our plant managers, area leads and other key plant leaders receive a daily checklist, which they can open on their phones. The checklist is tailored to each person’s role and changes every day to ensure that our plants are following our wide range of safety protocols. The managers have the flexibility to upload their responses at any time during the day.

The digital tool requires leaders to observe the current situation at the site through Gemba walks – that is, by going to shop floors or offices. It also prompts them to engage team members, asking questions, getting feedback on the standards and hearing about potential gaps and improvements.

For example, the checklist for a plant manager would include tasks such as:

  • Ensuring that team members are following correct social distancing and other protocols in cafeteria areas
  • Asking three randomly chosen employees to demonstrate effective handwashing, food disposal and use of masks and other applicable protective equipment
  • Discussing with three team leads from different areas the suggestions for improvement they have received from hourly employees related to processes for adhering to safety protocols

The tool asks leaders to collect evidence for their evaluations of how their team is doing on the safety implementations in the checklist. They can upload photos or video to a central location as they talk to employees to get feedback on how well the organization is working toward the Safe Operations Protocols. Each level reviews the responses for the level below it. Through this process, we hope to quickly identify gaps and take actions to address them. 

Because it’s digital, we can change the tool quickly. If we discover a best practice in one location, we can roll it out to other locations much more efficiently. When a site is ready to step down from a higher level of pandemic preparedness to a lower one, we will be able to communicate a different set of safety criteria more smoothly. And we can instantly see statistics from across the company to get a more complete sense of how we are doing against our safety goals, what percentage of work checks are completed on time, and how many gaps are being identified and closed.

It is in Aptiv’s DNA to think innovatively and manage change proactively by engaging our teams to identify safer ways of working every single day. With tools like these – and the resilience of our people – we are determined to come out stronger than ever on the other side of this crisis.

Learn more on our COVID-19 page