Excellence in Safety: Tempur Sealy

In October, SVAM honored six Southwest Virginia manufacturers with awards for their outstanding companies. Through this blog series, we would like to highlight the achievements of these manufacturers.


Charles Johnson, EHS Manager

Tempur Sealy in Duffield, VA was awarded our Excellence in Safety award. To learn more about the company and the impact of the award, we interviewed Charles Johnson, EHS Manager at Tempur Sealy.


Tell us about your company.

Tempur was originally based on NASA’s research to develop a material that would cushion aircraft seats and improve survivability in the event of an accident.
The first Tempur-Pedic mattress was introduced by DanFoam, a Swedish technical foam firm. The brand was brought to the United States in 1992 and the company Tempur-Pedic, Inc. was founded. The plant in Duffield started manufacturing in 2001.

Tell us about the program(s) you have implemented that led you to win this award.

We do industrial hygiene monitoring annually in areas where Isocyanates (a family of highly reactive, low molecular weight chemicals) are present. We have updated our Slabstock line and pillow mold carousels to more of an enclosure to increase the ventilation flow. Safe chemical handling has been improved by adding safety interlocks to all delivery systems including pumps & valves. All control systems are now hooked into a safety PLC & safety relays if needed. Other improvements include closing in slab molding tunnel with metal & sheetrock to contain off gases. Carbon filtration system speed has been increased to extract more off gases. Also filtration system was interlocked to machine so it cannot be ran while the system is off.
A complete Hybrid assembly line was engineered to handle mattress tubes, coil springs & stacking of complete mattress. This includes unrolling of springs in a safe enclosed machine. Also machinery was put in place to deliver springs to the tub without operators having to handle the weight of springs. All spray equip are hanging from a tool balance device to reduce handling of heavy hoses & spray equipment.

We also put systems in place for safe removal of scrap trimming from the saws at the laminators. The systems include multiple conveyors to let the scrap fall then be transferred to the overhead conveyors that will auto feed the foam baler. These conveyors have eliminated need for operators to handle scrap foam trimmings.

img_0503We have a very solid forklift program from training down to engineer controls we have put into place. When training a new forklift operator we go by the OSHA standard that includes class room training with a written test. The most important part of the training is the on hands or the driving part. We require the employee to operate the forklift 4 hours a day for 30 days with an experience driver nearby training them. This is completed prior to when their performance is evaluated. We have put in engineering controls in place or on our Powered Industrial Equipment; we installed a shock watch/total trax system on our forklifts. This system allows us to control who can or cannot operate our forklifts. This system also monitors the driver’s performance and if he or she comes into contact with anything and generates a Gforce higher than the set amount the shock watch system will shut down the forklift operations, and this will require the supervisor to reset the forklift and complete an investigation on the incident.

In January 2012, we added certification to the OHSAS 18001 Health & Safety standard. The Health & Safety standard requirements have been incorporated into our existing Quality and Environmental Management Systems. By using this successful foundation of management system control, we now have a true Quality, Environmental, Health, and Safety (QEHS) Management System that will benefit our customers, neighbors, and employees. The commitment and effort to maintain the health and safety at our facility is evident from the 3rd party audit results of “zero” audit findings for the past two years for our OHSAS 18001:2007. Certification to the new ISO 45001:2018 standard is planned for March 2019. We also have enhanced our near miss/safety suggestion program to get the employees more involved in reporting and as well as help come up with the corrective action. We continue to have monthly all hands meetings to communicate any near misses or incidents that are reported during the month

img_2264We have implemented a strong wellness program which includes a stretching program along with having a physical therapist onsite to help with work related and non-work related strains and pains. The MedFit Early Intervention Program (EIP) is designed to recognize and start early treatment prior to an injury occurrence. Employees with aches, pains and concerns come to our specialist and are assessed according to their complaints. The specialist will then determine a Medical Exercise Training program to start with the employee if an outside referral is not needed. The employee will come for 30-minute sessions one to two times per week determined by the specialist. We will then look at the type of complaint and perform an ergonomic assessment on the employees’ workstation to see if there are modifications that are needed to help address the employee’s complaints. Our goal is to give the employee a healthy quality life inside the Tempur work field as well as when the employees are off duty.

How do you feel your company was set apart from other companies who might apply for this award?

Tempur has been rebuilding the safety culture over the previous years; the Tempur safety culture is the attitude, beliefs, perception and values that the employees share in relation to safety in our workplace. Tempur’s senior management commitment to safety, realistic practices for handling hazards, continuous organizational learning, and care and concern for hazards shared across the workforce. Employee involvement is not the goal nor is it a tool, we believe it is a management and leadership philosophy about how people are most enabled to contribute to continuous improvement and the ongoing success of our work organization.

Where do you see the future of your company in regard to Excellence in Safety?

The improvements Tempur has made of the past few years has made us a company with a world class safety score. Tempur has improved dramatically over the last 4 years due to employee involvement, upper management buy in, effective accident investigations, and no fault safety attitude. The national Recordable Case Rate for mattress manufacturing is 4.2 and Tempur’s 12 month average is .40 and we set an all-time high of working 362 days without a recordable incident.
What has winning this award meant to your company? Have there been internal or community impacts of winning the award?

By winning this award it has proven to the company that the time, man power and money that company invested to improve the Safety Program was a great success. Our employees along with Tempur do a great job to ensure that safety is one of the top priorities of every work day and winning this award validates all their hard work.

tempur building

Manufacturer of the Year: Scholle IPN

In October, SVAM honored six Southwest Virginia manufacturers with awards for their outstanding companies. Through this blog series, we would like to highlight the achievements of these manufacturers.


Melinda Roberts, Human Resources Manager

Scholle IPN in Chilhowie, VA was awarded our Manufacturer of the Year award. To learn more about the company and the impact of the award, we interviewed Melinda Roberts, Human Resources Manager at Scholle IPN.

Tell us about your company.

Scholle IPN is an industry-leading performance packaging company focused on bag-in-box, pouch packaging, and packaging components.   We have 19 worldwide sites and the Chilhowie, VA location has been in operation for more than 20 years with production of over 90 million bags produced in 2017.  The facility operates with empowered high performance work teams utilizing Lean and Six Sigma, MDI (Managing Daily Improvements) and strategic planning processes.

Tell us about the program(s) you have implemented that led you to win this award.

Safety – 1st Priority – Pursuit to Zero program requires 100% participation from all employees through a series of monthly safety activities assigned to all departments.  We have 4 Safety Core Values in which we operate by:  (1) I Matter – Nothing we do is worth risking injury (2) I Prevent – All incidents are preventable  (3) I Manage – Safety is a process we will manage.  (4) I am Responsible – I am responsible for the safety of myself & of my teammates.

Quality – 2nd Priority – We have 4 Quality Core Values in which we operate by: (1) I Believe – Believing that quality is our value to our customer (2) I Protect – Protecting our customer’s brand by preventing any quality and food safety incidents.  (3) I Build – Building quality into our systems, services and products every day and every hour.  (4) I am Responsible – Quality is every employee, supplier, and stakeholder’s responsibility.

We have a new Data Acquisition System in which we can have a bird’s eye view of a machines real time performance. We utilize employees for Kaizen Events and Six Sigma projects for continuous process improvements.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is considered a result of inputs from our Safety, Quality, Reactive Maintenance, Changeovers, Supply Chain, Production Scheduling, Continuous Improvement and Employee Engagement Programs.

We have networking teams throughout our company at different locations established for Safety, Quality, C.I. and Human Resources.  These teams collaborate and share best practices among our facilities.

Employee Engagement Program is theme based and helps build morale, teamwork and comradery within our organization.  We spotlight individual and plant contributions and reward employees for their hard work.  We have a variety of activities and goals that directly align with our Corporate Annual goals.

How do you feel your company was set apart from other companies who might apply for this award?

We use a Policy Deployment method in which our workforce becomes part of the business by deciding how to contribute to our strategic objectives.  So….in essence it’s our appreciation and utilization of our people that stands out.

Where do you see the future of your company in regard to being Manufacturer of the Year?

We continue to raise the bar each year with record setting, innovation and process improvements.  We will be growing our business and facility size in the future which will help create more wins for Scholle IPN.

What has winning this award meant to your company? Have there been internal or community impacts of winning the award?

It was a great honor to receive this award, knowing all of the great companies out there and the fact that Scholle IPN was chosen for the award.  We felt a sense of pride with our employees being recognized for their outstanding efforts.  It has allowed us to showcase our success to the community and our corporate group as well.

Any final thoughts or comments?

The greatest asset at Scholle IPN is our people and our daily work and core values in how we operate each day reflect the same.  Working together we unleash our creativity, driving engagement from the front line on up to plant management.  We consistently strive to beat our goals by leveraging our Employee Engagement program, Continuous Improvement, real time problem solving and innovation to remain competitive in an ever changing market.


For more information about Scholle IPN visit their website www.scholleipn.com.

NEWScholle IPN Logo - Red Box Slate Text

Creating a Kaizen Culture

Peter Miles, Technology Acceleration Manager at Genedge, recently led, “Creating a Kaizen Culture”, a training provided by SVAM and the SVAM Center of Excellence. The training covered:

  • Some of the key practices and methodologies that support the development of a Kaizen Culture.
  • How we can select specific approaches to handle different problems.
  • The most common causes of failure in process improvement initiatives and how to avoid them.

Below is a summary of the training. All notes were taken from Mr. Miles’ presentation. SVAM Members can view the full presentation here.

Why Process Improvement? Every company or organization provides a product or service to their customers. Customers will order from those companies that meet their expectations for better quality, lower price, and faster delivery. Process Improvement will help companies meet those three objectives. Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) is designed to help you meet your customer’s needs by achieving their expectations which builds a strong relationship. Since WWII many updates have been made in the Manufacturing Process Improvement from Training Within Industry, through Kaizen in both Japan and the USA to Lean Enterprise.

Lean…it’s all about speed. Lean’s outward focus is providing fast, responsive, and accurate delivery. Its inward focus is on eliminating or reducing waste in the process. These improvements are often executed using a Kaizen Event, which is typically a 3-5 day event. Lean is designed to attack wastes associated with defects, over production, waiting, non-utilized resources/talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and excess processing.

Origin of the Kaizen Event: The term Kaizen refers to Kaizen Events meant to improve or “lean out” processes. The 3-5 days approach was seen as the most efficient use of time, since most companies were paying Japanese Senseis to run the activity. It was re-introduced to American in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It is also known as a Rapid Improvement Event. It is an intense team effort to provide process improvement. There are “do-now” solutions through employee involvement and management must ensure availabilities for Kaizen execution. Over time the improvements become part of the job for all employees.

PDSA: Plan-Do-Study-Act is the traditional cycle used for Kaizen. The whole idea is to try a solution and test the results and repeat this process until satisfied with the result.


Core Kaizen Lean Tools include:

  • Value Stream Mapping to understand the flow and performance of the process.
  • Value-Add Analysis to identify improvement opportunities.
  • Work flow to reduce non-value added transportation steps and improve communication.
  • Process balance to balance workload and increase throughput.
  • Pull systems to control WIP and stabilize process cycle time.

Special Purpose Lean Tools include:

  • 5S: Sort, set in order, shines, standardize, and sustain for workplace organization.
  • Rapid changeover for improved flexibility and responsiveness.
  • Mistake-proofing to eliminate rework.
  • Total Preventative Maintenance to prevent breakdowns and down-time.

The Development of Six Sigma: Six Sigma was developed by Mikel Harry and Bill Smith as a data driven approach based on two main concepts:

  1. DMAIC methodology – A structured problem solving application based on a five stage method:
    1. Define
    2. Measure
    3. Analyze
    4. Improve
    5. Control
  2. The reduction of variation to create a more consistent product.

Lean Six Sigma Integration: Maintains health of your process. Lean is like a wellness program. Six Sigma is like a cure for a medical problem.

CPI Execution Levels: Use the “right size” method for the problem you have.

  • Daily Kaizen, Two Second Lean, Waste Outs, Itches and Scratches, Quick Wins
  • Kaizen Event, A3’s and 8D activities
  • The Lean Six Sigma Project
  • Kaizen Support

Work Culture

  • Culture: Customs and beliefs of a particular group at a particular time.
  • Work Culture: Customs and beliefs of workforce and how they function in the workplace.

Establishing a work culture takes relentless execution of work tasks in a way consistent with beliefs and behaviors. This will only succeed if it is considered beneficial by those who will have to adopt them.

What is Kaizen Culture? Kaizen means “change for the good.” It is about enabling people to make better decisions to improve the work environment, achieving goals, and reaching the vision.

Connecting Kaizen Culture with Process Improvement: The culture is all about doing things better than before. Achieving real, ongoing process improvements is a key component to Kaizen Culture.

Core Kaizen Concepts:

  • We are all in this together. Everyone contributes.
  • Problems are the result of inadequate processes not individual human mistakes.


Kaizen Culture Behaviors

  • Humility – a willingness to be wrong.
  • Alignment – we are all in it together.
  • Security – an environment of openness and honesty.
  • Respect – acknowledge others and their contributions.
  • Service – acknowledge we’re here to serve the customer.
  • Process – a deep understanding of processes.
  • Urgency – move current issues.
  • Connection – connect across organization.
  • Consensus – reach decisions through discussion.
  • Sharing – share best practices.

Establishing a Kaizen Culture

  1. Nothing succeeds like success: In the early days of a CPI “start up” it is critical to achieve some success to establish credibility.
  2. Workplace organization: Ensure the work culture is organized; this will help identify opportunities for improvement and make it easier to implement them. The 5S method is the most common way of doing this.
  3. Recognize internal opportunities: Developing a workforce that can recognize the “eight wastes” in processes as opportunities for improvement.
  4. Recognizing external opportunities: Ideas for process improvements that come from the demands of management or the customer base.
  5. Daily Kaizen: Organic activity that allows decisions for change to be delegated to those who actually work the process.
  6. CPI Events: Start small, but start. Try a Kaizen Event with a clearly achievable, Lean based goal.
  7. Establish a CPI Deployment Approach: Establish formal procedures to ensure improvement in the most needed areas.
  8. Senior Management Involvement: Management must be seen as actively involved and CPI should be seen as a key corporate goal.
  9. A “Showcase” department: Focus CPI efforts in one department and as things improve it becomes a showcase.
  10. Applying a critical mass to projects: Ensure you bring a critical mass of resources to each project so it can be promptly completed.
  11. Avoid scope creep: Properly define boundaries of the project so that it doesn’t keep growing.
  12. Bias for action: Those who work on Process Improvements should have an understanding of their authority and feel empowered to act on it.
  13. The “horse is dead”: If a project has lost momentum either revitalize or kill it.
  14. Communications: Regular published updates on progress are key.
  15. Handling change: Create a Culture and Work Structure that can handle the changes that will result from Process Improvement.
  16. Acknowledge and celebrate success: It is key to show appreciation for all involved.
  17. The limitations of Process Improvement: Attempts to use PDSA or DMAIC in areas such as a new process or product should be avoided.
  18. Surviving transitions: If CPI deployment isn’t fully integrated it could come under close scrutiny by those unfamiliar with the benefits.

Front Line Supervisors “Walk the High Wire”

Dr. Aubrey Lee, Associate Professor for the School of Business and Economics at King University, writes today’s guest Blog.

The Harvard Business Review correctly said that “Performing well as a first-level supervisor is like walking a circus high wire.” Both require the ability to maintain one’s balance when shifting forces sometimes pull in opposite direction. First-level supervisors in SVAM organizations must be meet the demands of management, and the demands of workers who count them for leadership as they produce the company’s products.
Louise Lees, writing for the company Matchtech, offered six qualities successful supervisors must possess in order to effectively lead those they are supervising. Having worked in human resources for several manufacturing companies, I agree with Ms. Lees’ list which includes:
1. Good communication skills
Front line supervisors spend most of their time working on the shop floor and have first-hand knowledge of the dynamic manufacturing process. This requires considerable knowledge about information that must be passed on to employees and management. Strong communication skills are key.
2. Confident decision making
In SVAM companies there are constant deadlines, often resulting unexpected questions arising at short notice. The best supervisors are decisive in pressurized situations to make sure that deadlines are met.
3. Ability to act quickly
While decision making is important to supervisors, they must also be able to quickly respond to questions from their team and management. Responding quickly to challenging situations like mistakes or delays on a project is key to making sure that issues get resolved promptly.
4. Effective planning
 Supervisors must constantly be planning ahead to motivate the team to deliver the finished product on time and, ideally, under budget. In addition to planning the future of the project, experienced  supervisors must keep the team aware of the plans that enable goals to be met.
5. An eye for detail
Another important attribute supervisors must have is attention to detail. Many manufacturing processes involve physically assembling many, often complicated, components to create the final product.
6. Ability to take ownership
Being in a decision-making position, supervisors must be confident in their abilities and take ownership in their work and the decisions they make. Having confidence allows them to correctly advise and manage their team while working alongside them on the project and to correct any potential mistakes.
Dr. Aubrey Lee
Associate Professor
School of Business and Economics
King University
Office:  318 Bristol Hall
1350 King College Road, Bristol TN 37620