An ongoing improvement philosophy and a company-wide program to keep people safe and injury free is the driving force behind Coopers Brewery’s workplace safety practices.
The Coopers’ safety program revolves largely around a team-based approach, driven by process improvement teams that draw members from all levels and areas of the business.
The teams are part of a broader, holistic approach to safety, quality and productivity which use a process called Total Productive Management (TPM) – a system that involves cross-functional teams from the production and maintenance environment to monitor and advise on various elements of production.
Occupational health, safety and training manager Doug Conner said Coopers first implemented TPM into its business model in September 2003.
“The program provides employees with a forum to express their concerns and actively contribute to solutions, which results in a safer, more pro-active workforce, who also develop skills beyond their formal job roles,” he said.
“Working on a 12-week cycle, the teams review operational performance and recommend equipment and process improvements and the commissioning of all new equipment.
“For example, Coopers undertook a $7m major capital expenditure program in September 2005 which included installation of a $3.6m high-speed bottle filler machine.
“The process improvement team oversaw the installation and commissioning of the machine and identified a number of modifications to improve performance.
“Their recommendations included the development of Standard Operating Procedures and training manuals.
“Another team working on keg racking implemented a system that allows a keg to be automatically rejected between the cleaning and filling stages, so internal cleanliness can be inspected without needing to stop the line itself.
“An industrial robot, which is programmed to unload empty kegs and place them onto the conveyor leading to the cleaner and filler, was also installed to eliminate a manual-handling problem.
“This process is now fully automated; significantly lowering OHS risk levels.
“Two additional robots have recently been added to the bottling line palletiser to further reduce manual handling and increase line speed.”
This year, Coopers will again install new production equipment at the Regency Park brewery, including a new multi-pack packaging machine and the addition of a new Candle filter in the lager cellar.
This follows expenditure in late 2008 that brings recent equipment investments to around $6m.
Conner said process improvement teams have already been formed to prepare for installation of the new equipment later this year.
“The New Equipment Management (NEM) team started work in February to review operational and maintenance aspects of the multi-pack machine, while also developing the work area,” he said.
Conner says that since the program’s inception, ongoing education and investment in the employee-driven process has proven a key to its success.
“The installation of the new bottle filler in 2005 delayed production for more than three weeks, so during this time all production and maintenance staff undertook training in OHS and Food Quality with the Murray Institute of TAFE,” he said.
“From that more than 30 staff came away with a nationally accredited qualification in Food Processing – Australian Quality Framework (AQF) Level 2,” Conner said.