Author: Adrian Kelly BSc (Hons) MIEI, maintenance manager, PepsiCo Carrigaline facility
On 21 November last, I had the privilege of being in attendance at the annual MEETA awards held in the fantastic atrium of the Engineers Ireland offices. I was accompanied by my colleague Martin O’Reilly, maintenance manager of our sister plant in Little Island. Martin and I were representing not just PepsiCo, but also a team of dedicated individuals who helped put together a project that was up for an award at this ceremony.
PepsiCo is a company that has at its core the interest of every individual who comes to work at any of our sites. Our mission of ‘No One Gets Hurt’ is supported at every level in the organisation. Matters concerning health and safety are the first item(s) on every agenda we discuss. Everyone is encouraged to bring forward any idea that could prevent either an incident or an accident.
A ‘Near Miss/Good Catch’ (NM/GC) system of reporting is reviewed on a daily basis. This is executed by the attendance of all the functional team leaders at a 10:30am daily performance board-meeting, where the NM/GC gets read aloud. The importance of following up on every report made has been recognised as essential in order to maintain the volume and quality of reports coming in for review. Experience has also taught us to keep track of the areas of the plant relating to the NM/GC. This 'Dynamic Racking' project was taken on to improve the safety of individuals engaged in loading and unloading of pallets from racking systems.
Its origins lay in the significant number of near-miss reports generated using flow-through racking systems. These reports highlighted noteworthy incidents of pallets sticking in the middle of a flow-through rack. In total, some 29 near-miss reports were submitted during 2012 for brakes failing, pallets getting stuck on rollers and carts becoming stuck.
Our warehouse is an extremely busy area where every pallet space is essential. Large bulk bags in excess of 1,000kg weight pose a separate safety risk if stored on the floor. An effective response from the maintenance support team was always sought to free out any restrictions. It presented the maintenance team that was sent in to release the pallet with some major health and safety concerns as to how they could carry out the work in a safe and efficient manner.
The normal rules that apply to ‘Lock Out-Tag Out’ (LOTO) could not be implemented on a flow-through racking system as easily or as effectively as on a conventional motor-driven conveyor system. Flow-through racks in either of our plants’ warehouses can reach four or more storeys high. The use of a genie-boom brought about the added complexity of requiring personnel who are training in the use of mobile elevated work platforms. In a busy environment, with multiple problems to be overcome on a daily basis, the easiest thing to do is to get the system back into operation and move onto the next problem.
The biggest challenge faced was in admitting to ourselves that we had to call a time out and understand that there must be a better way. We understood that cross-functional buy-in was a must. We needed to draw from the talent pool, both with regard to Operations and Health & Safety departments. A fix purely from the Maintenance department would only be a temporary solution. We also understood that we had to seek international expertise. So, the first step was to complete a risk assessment.