Adrian Kelly outlines how PepsiCo implemented its MEETA Award-winning ‘Dynamic Racking’ project, which was designed to improve the safety of staff members engaged in the loading and unloading of pallets from racking systems
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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.

Results of risk assessment


The results showed the following:

  1. Ad-hoc maintenance on racking systems. This work was carried out by personnel who were untrained on the dynamics of racking systems;
  2. Only a structural survey carried out each year and no dynamic survey;
  3. No preventive maintenance programme in place.

A cross-functional team from Health & Safety, Operations and Maintenance got together to deliver a project charter. The goal statement contained in the charter identified three items:

  1. Training – to the maintenance team on planned maintenance of the racks;
  2. Awareness – forklift drivers alert to the correct method of loading and unloading of pallets;
  3. Maintenance – implement a planned maintenance schedule.

In seeking out a competent trainer, we contacted a UK-based company that specialises in racking. A full-day maintenance racking awareness training programme was carried out with the members of the Maintenance staff only. This specialised training was supervised by an incorporated engineer and senior consultant, who delivered a very practicable course. The training covered the repairs to braking systems and speed controllers. Troubleshooting of potential outages were examined and explained.

The equipment used in the training had been hired in for the period of the training only. This highlighted the need for our own inspection and maintenance equipment, which would allow the work to be carried out in a safe and efficient manner. It would have to be purchased and stored for use on site. Operations played their part by coming on-board with a ‘Total Planned Maintenance’ (TPM) system designed to keep the rollers clean and free moving. Our ‘Annual Operating Plan’ (AOP) plan was adjusted to recognise rollers as a consumable item.

Forklift drivers training now takes into account the loading and unloading of racking. We updated our ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ (SOP) to include the weight restrictions on each rack. Take note that the racks are designed with both a maximum and minimum weight restriction. New signage with coloured tags was attached to each rack, clearly indicating the restrictions on each lane. PEMAC Maintenance is the planned maintenance system in use across both sites.

New work schedules were identified. Push-back carts were given an inspected routine of every six months as part of the preventative maintenance system to ensure they are freely moving. Rollers for carts are changed out, where necessary, and rails cleaned down to prevent build-up of debris. Good audit scores in the area reflect the new standard of cleaning. Operators driving forklifts have reported a greater confidence level when loading and unloading racking. Overall, there is a sense that we now employ a more pro-active instead of a reactive approach to dynamic racking maintenance.

MEETA Awards


All that was required at this stage was to share this out to the world. The invitation that arrived into my inbox requesting a submission to the MEETA Awards provided a perfect forum to share our experience. The application and presentation was prepared by reassembling the team. This opportunity allowed us to reflect on the work carried out and recognise the sustained improvements the project had made. This definitely increased the sense of achievement even before the application was submitted.

The next stage was the interview process. This presented me with a personal challenge. I believed that as a team we had a project that made a real difference to the health and safety of PepsiCo employees on a day-to-day basis. It was my responsibility to ensure I delivered at the interviewer stage. The interview was a dynamic exchange of information and professional dialogue. I felt it gave me the ample opportunity to promote the changes and sustained improvements of the project. All that was left was to wait for the award night.

When the awards night came, Martin and I took our seats among the leaders in health and safety from across the country. Surrounded by such expertise, we were privileged to accept the award for Overall Maintenance Health & Safety for our entry ‘Racking Dynamics’on behalf of PepsiCo Ireland. This award acknowledges the benefits of PepsiCo’s approach to health and safety and the validity of our mission ‘No One Gets Hurt’ being an intrinsic way of how we do business.

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  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...