When fresh and frozen food products or pharmaceuticals are transported across the country, whether on a long-haul truck or in a railcar, chances are good that the refrigeration unit on the vehicle was manufactured by Carrier Transicold North America, which is part of the United Technologies Corp. (UTC) conglomerate. At the company’s facility in Athens, Ga., the same commitment to keeping food and beverages safe to consume is being applied to keeping the Carrier Transicold workforce safe on the plant floor as well. In fact, the plant hasn’t had a lost-time injury since October 2006, nearly a decade ago. Also, incidence rates for OSHA-recordable injury and illness cases over the past three years have dropped by 81%.
Establishing a culture of workplace safety is just part of what makes Carrier Transicold a 2015 IndustryWeek Best Plant winner. “Our goal is for every one of our employees to feel like they’re making a difference for our customers as well as for our community,” says Matt Walker, the plant’s director of operations.
Like other UTC business units, Carrier Transicold adheres to the ACE (Achieving Competitive Excellence) methodology, a corporate-wide continuous improvement based on increasingly tight metrics. As part of the ACE program, the Athens plant began a lean transformation initiative in 2013, which included a full-scale kaizen process that involved shutting down 60,000 square feet of the facility during the month of December 2013. During that time, the production of the large refrigeration units used in truck trailers was reengineered, replacing two separate assembly lines with one mixed-model line.
Carrier Transicold North America
Employees: 397, non-union
Total Square Footage: 271,000
Primary Product/Market: Transport refrigeration units
Start-up Date: 1987
UTC President’s Award for Outstanding Overall Performance (2012, 2014); 7.5 million hours worked without a lost time injury; Certified Star status in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) since 2010; Manufacturer of the Year award from the Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Department
The new trailer line now features a rotisserie-style rotation capability, where units can be rotated 360 degrees to enable optimum ergonomic positioning for the operator. Productivity has improved considerably thanks to the continuous motion throughout the line, and it’s a much safer process for the operators. Investments in process improvements like this illustrate Carrier's commitment to continuous improvement throughout the facility.
Carrier Transicold invests heavily in the education of its employees. As part of a corporate UTC program, the company will pay for any worker to obtain an Associate’s, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. “The goal for UTC is to have the most highly educated workforce in the world,” explains Emily Michelbach, human resources manager at the Athens plant. At the corporate level, UTC has spent over $1 billion on the program to date.
The plant’s educational initiatives are aimed at developing employees even before they’re ready to pursue a college degree. Carrier participates in the Great Promise Partnership, a Georgia initiative that aims to help at-risk students complete their high school education while also developing real-world job and life skills at a participating company. At the Athens plant, high school students are partnered with a Carrier mentor.
“They’re not all success stories, and they’re not all going to be,” Michelbach states, but then adds that the previous group of six students all graduated from high school. Three more students are now participating in the program and Carrier is currently recruiting to get up to 12 students, pointing to the plant’s commitment to continuous improvement both within its facility as well as the larger Athens community.