Technical Service Manager
Quanex Building Products
February 14th, 2022
A Guiding North Star to Manufacturing Success
Window and door manufacturers across the country continue to show exceptional resiliency in working through demand backlogs. Large or small, automated or not, many of the manufacturers I work with are dedicated to delivering quality products in as timely a manner as is possible.
Not that it’s easy—it can be tempting to fall into a mindset where “produce, produce, produce” is the only thing that matters. But as I wrote last month, it’s critical to make time for other important shop processes like routine maintenance to meet our quality commitments.
There’s another best practice we need to keep top of mind—and that brings us to today’s tip:
Don’t let safety fall through the cracks.
Safety standards are not always easy to uphold, but they are essential to keep our commitments to our employees and to our customers.
Consider, for example, the ongoing workforce churn that many manufacturers are dealing with. When onboarding new employees, the temptation to focus primarily on production activities and get them on the line as soon as possible is difficult to resist. But it’s critical that we don’t shortchange safety during this process. The most important thing we should be working toward daily is that everyone goes home safely at the end of a shift. There’s also the fact that the unexpected absence of a single line worker can hamstring production, especially at a time when reliable team members are so hard to find.
A safety-focused culture on your floor delivers other rewards, too. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that for every $1 invested in an effective safety program companies can expect a return of $4-$6 in illness, injury and fatality savings. That outsized ROI is easy to understand when you consider the direct and indirect benefits that accrue, like:
- Improved retention and attraction of skilled workers;
- Enhanced product quality;
- A more engaged workforce in a safety-first culture;
- More accurate production schedule and budget planning.
I’ve not only seen how a safety mindset delivers for our partners, but also at our Quanex manufacturing centers. Believe me, it can be transformative.
So much so, I’m not shy in customer visits to point out activities that appear to fall short on worker safety. While our Technical Services team doesn’t offer formal safety audits, I do offer a helpful word when it seems appropriate. Safety is everyone’s responsibility—it’s something I think about when I’m a guest in any shop floor environment.
Safety isn’t something you bolt on to a manufacturing environment. It’s a hard-won, constantly evolving process that must not be taken for granted. In the best companies it’s a way of life that pervades every line activity. Now, more than ever, “Can it be done safer?” is the guiding North Star to worker well-being, production quality and delivery excellence.