Cloeren, Inc. is a family-owned business in Orange, TX that has developed machinery for plastics processes since 1975. An essential element of the company’s success is its ability to motivate employees to take on a mindset of operational innovation – a culture of internalized innovation.
“By recognizing the need to make changes within our workplace and challenging ourselves to innovate internally, we knew we could have a stronger impact on our customers,” said George Hall, COO of Cloeren. “In the same manner that we innovate each day with our products, we wanted to catalyze innovation in our operational performance as part of continuous improvement.”
Listening to outside recommendations
As part of its culture, Cloeren identifies operational best practices and solutions that can be easily utilized within their facility. In one instance, a third-party waste and hazards assessment resulted in two recommendations: safety and efficiency enhancements; and mindset and behavioral improvements.
To maintain its innovative edge, Cloeren’s targeted workers’ mindsets. Because many employees had worked at Cloeren for decades, the company needed to initially overcome the “I have always done it this way” mentality. To promote behavioral adoption, Cloeren engaged its workforce through training programs on personal protective equipment (PPE) compliance, industrial supplies management and workplace optimization.
Outside training educated workers about the dangers of not using proper PPE and on how to eliminate sources of waste and exposure. By creating a workplace of open communication and best-practice sharing, the training also helped each team member be more accountable to working safer and smarter.
Being aggressive and proactive
As part of the assessment, improvement opportunities were found in the areas of abrasion hazards and chemical exposure. Cloeren’s management team took aggressive and proactive actions to eliminate potential future incidents by implementing new safety solutions related to eye and hand protection. In partnership with a PPE supplier, all workers were provided hand protection that was the correct type, model and size according to regulatory standards per each specific “glove on” task. The new gloves kept workers safe from cuts and chemical exposure, while also providing added comfort and dexterity.
Similarly, new safety glasses were introduced to protect workers’ eyes from flying dust and debris in the facility. Task-specific wipers with a higher grade of quality were used as well. Previously, the facility had utilized cotton rags in the production process, resulting in variable quality, inefficient disposal and wasted supplies. In many areas, the wipers helped to reduce disposal costs due to reduced wiper volume and the elimination of unusable wipers. Supported by consistent and systematic training, the new industrial supplies and PPE resources underscored the management team’s commitment to safety and efficiency. The focus was not on reactively handling avoidable work situations, but rather, on innovative solutions.
Implementing a 5S process
Based on recommendations, Cloeren implemented a 5S process (sort, set, shine, standardize, sustain) to improve operational efficiency. Prior to 5S implementation, workers had to search for what they needed or ask colleagues where items were located, which wasted time and energy. To address these issues, work areas were organized, chemical containers were marked for safe handling, tools were properly labeled, industrial supplies were consolidated, and safety signage related to proper procedures and PPE was placed throughout the facility.
Optimizing the workforce
The 5S process led to increased efficiency since employees could clearly and safely identify, obtain and utilize supplies. That trend continues today as the 5S process is expanded to other areas and facilities.
“By educating our workforce on how to be safer and waste conscious, pinpointing potential hazards and waste sources, and leveraging innovative solutions to eliminate those exposures and inefficiencies, we have optimized our workplace and aligned our innovation process,” said COO Hall. “This comprehensive approach to organizing work areas and work flow has shifted our culture to never accept the status quo and be continuously innovation-minded when it comes to working safer and smarter.”
Attaining measurable results
Through a partnership with a consulting PPE and wipers supplier, Cloeren was able to track measureable progress in PPE compliance, along with positive mindset and behavioral change. The adoption of proper gloves, which was a significant challenge for Cloeren, led to improved protection with zero hand injuries experienced in the facility between June and July 2014. Similarly, the utilization of the new task-specific wipers in key areas led to significant savings in towel consumption. Along with these results, Cloeren’s management observed noticeable improvements in worker engagement in hazard and waste identification, along with proactive collaboration and problem solving. The improvements also enhanced the company’s reputation with customers who responded positively to the improvements during visits to Cloeren’s facility.
“The shift in our internal culture is helping us truly ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to being entrepreneurial and creative. From creating custom-made solutions that address the unique needs of our customers to finding ways to make work tasks safer and more efficient, our company is now able to drive innovation in every aspect of our business,” said CEO Peter F. Cloeren, Jr. “Our strategic partnerships gave us access to the expertise and best-in-class solutions we needed to make this significant transformation a reality.”
Information for this case study was provided to ISHN by Kimberly-Clark Professional*. Kimberly-Clark Professional* partners with businesses to create Exceptional Workplaces* helping to make them safer, healthier and more productive. For more information visit www.kcprofessional.com.