Case study:
Employee Suggestion Scheme - excellence uncovered
The Employee Suggestion Scheme (ESS) is one way we work towards making Alcoa a great place to work by providing employees with a creative outlet to make their jobs and our business more successful.
Through the ESS, employees are offered incentives for their ideas. The aim of the program is to capture and implement employee suggestions while developing a continuous improvement culture and increasing overall employee engagement.
We believe our employees will be safer and more productive if they are engaged in making suggestions for improvement and are listened to by management. 
While cost savings is not a key objective, if an employee’s suggestion does save Alcoa money then they share in the economic benefits.

In 2007 we collected over 10,500 employee suggestions to improve our business, 4000 more than last year. Ideas direct from refinery and mine site employees resulted in significant safety, environmental and efficiency improvements.  Our employees earned $168,000 in bonuses for their ideas implemented through the ESS which resulted in $1.9 million in cost savings to our business.
In Western Australia we hold an annual celebration of our employees’ suggestions and achievements. This year 10 awards were given to outstanding employees or sites.
One award nominee from the Wagerup alumina refinery recognised the need for a safer and more efficient way of removing the cutting blade from inside scale muncher pumps.
Often the blade would become stuck and experienced fitters have needed two shifts to complete maintenance. Importantly, there was an increased risk of injury as the fitter is required to reach inside a restricted area of the pump which contains sharp edges and pinch points.
A small device was created, at very minor cost and simply works as a gear puller and slides the scale muncher blade out without exposure to the hazards inside the pump.

Another example from our bauxite mining group is helping fitters rotate the wheels on heavy earthmoving equipment and reducing the risk of injury.

The Wheel Spinner was developed to help set wheel bearing clearance on rubber tyred vehicles. Usually this is done by hand, but this is an ergonomic issue because of the amount of force required to start turning the wheel, and to keep it spinning.

The Wheel Spinner has not only been recognised within Alcoa, but also by the Western Australian Chamber of Minerals Energy Health and Safety Innovation Awards and the Mining Prospect Awards.

It is simple ideas, from the people that do the jobs, which are making Alcoa a better and safer place to work.

Click image to enlarge.

Mike Hodges (left) and Bill Knight Manager of Mines with Mike’s innovative, yet deceptively simple Wheel Spinner, which is helping fitters set wheel bearing clearances without the risk of strains.