Case Studies

These case studies illustrate how Alcoa is acting upon its commitment to sustainable development throughout the world. We are pleased with this progress, but look forward to achieving even more.

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Crane carrying a large tray


USA - 2008

100% Crew-Led Kaizen Event Eliminates Fatality Risks


With strong support from management, a team of operators at Alcoa’s Davenport Works in Iowa (USA) planned and implemented a two-day Kaizen (rapid improvement) event that eliminated two fatality risks associated with overhead cranes and four hand/arm crush risks in the coil sheet department.

“Periodically, we conduct a fatality assessment that identifies and ranks risks,” said Mike Nicholas, equipment operator and coach for the Kaizen event. “While we didn’t have any major fatality risks in the coil sheet department, there were a few lower-ranked ones. As the department’s union committee person, I had a meeting with the managers to discuss what we could do to eliminate those risks. That’s where the idea of a crew-led Kaizen event started, and we expanded it to include the hand/arm crush risks.”

During the two-day event in November 2007, nine employees from the coil sheet department were joined by two operators from the flat sheet department who had experience with hand/arm crush risks. The focus for the fatality portion of the event was two risks associated with the overhead crane—ensuring people were not below the crane when it was carrying large trays of product, and prohibiting pedestrian and mobile equipment traffic in a high-traffic intersection when the crane was overhead.

“The team went and observed the problem areas, talked to people to get their input, and brainstormed ideas,” said John Hazen, coil operator and leader of the Kaizen event. “We generated 56 ideas and completed 23 of them during the event, with 75% completed by the end of January.”

Improvements already implemented or in the process of implementation include an automated railroad gate system to isolate the crane corridor at both ends and at all intersections while the crane is moving. The moving crane trips a switch to close the gates it is approaching.

The Kaizen team also used targeted communication about overhead crane safety to increase awareness about vertical drop zones and the hazard of standing within one of these zones when the crane is hauling the oversized trays.

Solutions to eliminating four hand/arm crush risks included using a strap to thread a coil line, eliminating hands close to the edge of the metal. A second solution was to use a tool to load coil onto the tub marker machine to avoid having hands pinched between the machine and the coil.

“We were successful because management told us to take the challenge and run with it and we’ll support you with whatever ideas you come up with,” said Nicholas. “That really made a difference, because the people participating in the Kaizen event knew that if they came up with a good idea, there was a good chance it would get used. I think more people are now willing to get involved and give ideas because they see things are changing.”