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Written by: Kent Hatcher on September 2nd, 2008

It’s the Tuesday after Labor Day, traditionally marking the end of the summer in the US. Kids are heading back to school and for many of us, its time to get back to business. With Q4 right around the corner, its also time to start thinking about results; where will we end up in 2008, and how do we improve in 2009. With this thought in mind, I’d like to share a recent story from our e-newsletter:

Bemis Logo

BEMIS Uses RAPID ™ Team Events to Reduce Injuries

Established in 1858 and headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin, Bemis Company, Inc. is a global supplier of flexible packaging and presssure sensitive label materials. Twelve companies operate 56 locations in 10 countries under the Bemis banner with combined net sales over $3.6 billion. Nearly two-thirds of Bemis’ packaging is used in the food industry, with the balance used in markets including medical, pharmaceutical, chemical and agribusiness.

The company began a pilot ergonomics initiative in its Paper Packaging Division in 2006, extending the program to include all U.S. operations later in the year. According to Safety Director, Paul Kubicek, "the majority of our injuries are due to strains and sprains, and strengthening our ergonomics programs goes right to the heart of making work and life better for our employees."

Bemis has taken a two-pronged approach with its ergonomics initiative, including training for engineers and ergonomics team members and RAPID (Risk and Performance Improvement Deployment) Team Events for employees. "I’d have to say that although both components have been effective, the immediate results from the RAPID Team Events have made the biggest impact at Bemis," says Kubicek. He notes multiple reasons for this. "RAPID Team Events empower employees to be part of a positive change on the shop floor, and the improvements these events generate are immediate and highly visible. These types of continuous improvement evnets are the catalysts that shape and energize our ergonomics teams toward an ongoing ergoomic risk reduction process."

Ergonomic improvement efforts are an important part of a multi-faceted safety improvement program underway at Bemis. The progress the company has made is evident in its total recordable injury rate (TRIR). In the Paper Packaging Division, TRIR improved by 14% from 2005 to 2006 and by an additional 50% from 2006 to 2007. Improvements continue in 2008. Throughout the company’s U.S. operations, total TRIR has improved by 45% from 2005 to 2008 (YTD through June).

The Bemis ergonomics initiative has gone global in 2008, with its South American operations getting involved in May. The company also has plans to merge ergonomic training into its global 5S team training. When asked for his key advice, Kubicek says, "ergonomics is something that everyone can relate to, so involve everyone! An improvement initiative that all employees can grasp and see the benefits of generates its own support."

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