Navi Mumbai - AT Gateway Terminals India (GTI), APM Terminals operation in Mumbai, around 3,500 trucks enter the terminal every day. Some had become accustomed to getting down from their trailer cabin to check if the trailer was unlocked from the container it carried. Their fear was that, if still attached with the lock, the truck could be inadvertently lifted along with the container. However, this ‘double check’ of the lock exposed them to risk.
Terminals are extremely busy environments in which giant pieces of machinery move and coordinate with precision. In line with our safety principles, no-one should be exposed to person-machine interface. By hopping out of their cabin, drivers were putting themselves in harm’s way.
It was a situation that was picked up by Natarajan Swaminathan (Swami), Assistant Manager – Engineering at APM Terminals Mumbai during the Kaikaku Kaizen week earlier this year. Kaikaku Kaizen refers to the Japanese-developed business methodology of making fundamental and radical changes to production systems. These periodic events – held throughout our global terminals several times a year – unearth improvement points and ensure we constantly effect greater efficiencies – especially in safety.
Says Swami: “I noticed the behavior of the truck drivers, and I understood their reasoning. But I knew they were not safe. I could not shake the thought – how can we restrict the movement of the trailer lock so that it will remain in position and convince truckers that they have no reason to leave their vehicles.”
To crack this nut, Swami organised a ‘try storming’ – a LEAN-inspired working method which encourages learning and experimenting by doing, in a safe context. Swami explains: “Working with a small team, we found that a simple lock arrester kept the lock in place. The trailer locks would not rotate, even if the trailer was empty or exposed to bumpy roads.
“We carried out rigorous testing with 100% success rate. We had an expert pilot driver to simulate all eventualities and were able to demonstrate how it worked with the truck drivers. We gained the confidence of the trucking community, and the solution has since been implemented by 100 external trailers. The benefits are being felt not only by our terminal but throughout our operations,” says Swami.
Swami has been working in the Electrical Maintenance of Container Handling and Mobile equipment for the past 20 years, over 15 years of which have been with APM Terminals. “I have always enjoyed providing technical solutions for improving safety standards and saving operational costs.
“I feel very humbled that this idea is now standard procedure for truck drivers. They have no need to leave the safety of their truck cabin – I can’t tell you how gratified I am to know that. It’s honestly been a highlight of my entire career so far. Something to tell the grandkids.”