Making Safety a Top Priority for the Whole Operation

In this special post, Plant Lean Manager Todd Markward from Select Comfort (manufacturer of Sleep Number and Comfortaire beds), shares how his team made a few simple improvements to their value stream mapping process that shifted the entire operation's focus to safety as a top priority.

I've served as a Lean/Operational Excellence Manager for several years with responsibility for single and multi-site operations. A typical practice is to create value stream maps (VSM) for each site that help us prioritize and manage the business. Over time I observed that they were missing safety as a key component of "waste" and Key Performance Indicator (KPI) in our business. We had failed to address this waste stream in our VSM data, specifically in first aid cases and lost work days.

The lean principle of respect for people means that safety must always be our first concern. We strive to uphold this principle with an environment that protects our employees. Any time a safety incident occurs, that line stops - so material flow and pull processes stop as well.

But this principle wasn't accurately measured on our VSMs. The VSMs did not include safety wastes such as downtime for safety incidents, follow-up investigations, changes, documentation updates, and employee change management training. We would identify safety kaizen opportunities on our VSMs, but neither our data blocks nor other visuals on the VSMs highlighted the safety waste stream, incident locations, or recognized improvements.  

I decided to start experimenting with ways to effectively capture and display safety metrics on the VSMs. I collaborated with our various departments to collect data, generating our first plant-wide VSM. I wanted to show what was occurring in safety on our current state map and have our future state map reflect the safety improvement plans along with inventory, flow and cycle time plans.

I accomplished this by adding the combined number of first aid and lost work days in each process data block on the VSM.  I then added blocks under the timeline ladder to the total number of incidents in each process column, and the total the number of incidents on the right side of the ladder as we did with lead time and process time (see photo below).


These simple additions would spread the safety focus from solely on the operator to the whole operation. We could now visualize it as our number one KPI.

We are now starting our second year of value stream mapping with these improvements and they are working as planned. While we are fortunate to have a low number of safety occurrences at our location, we are reaping proactive benefits from this impactful change.  Safety is now at the forefront of our discussions. All team members are quickly able to see the current state of safety and our ongoing commitment to be a safe operation.



Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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