Archive | Work Processes


3:16 pm
March 13, 2017
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‘Lean’ Your Way To Workplace Efficiency

03175srandmThe 5S process has proven to be a highly effective organizational tool for modern, Lean work environments. Are your operation’s plant-floor personnel taking full advantage of this methodology?

According to experts in storage, organization, and material-handling solutions at Akron, OH-based Akro-Mils (, organizations that invest in a 5S process increase productivity, create higher-quality products, and lower operating costs through simple waste removal, visual identification, and efficient use of space. By incorporating a 5S Lean methodology, they note, facilities can:

• improve workflow and productivity
• develop a cleaner, more efficient environment
• create extra workspace
• increase safety
• reduce wasted time and effort
• boost worker morale
• ensure improvements remain intact.

A recent Akro-Mils blog post provided the following refresher on steps in the 5S process, along with some ways this Lean approach can lead to improved workplace efficiency.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

randm1. Sort.

The first step in the 5S Lean methodology is eliminating items that are not needed for the current workflow. This step is crucial to reducing clutter, eliminating outdated or expired materials and supplies, and freeing up valuable real estate in your workspace. A key decision point in this step is determining which items stay and which items go. Unnecessary items are moved out of the workspace and either immediately disposed of or stored offsite and dealt with later.

2. Set in Order.

Frequently used workstation materials and tools should be arranged so that all needed items are readily accessible and easy to find. In this step, the workspace is reorganized and redefined for the most efficient use of space. All tools and supplies are labeled and organized, and a system is implemented to make sure they are always returned to their proper locations.

3. Shine.

When first implementing a 5S Lean process, all work areas receive a thorough cleaning and inspection. A formal cleaning and maintenance schedule is then developed to prevent dirt from accumulating and keep equipment in proper working condition.

4. Standardize.

Benchmarking and evaluation tactics should be used in your 5S Lean process to maintain a consistent approach for carrying out tasks and procedures. For example, standardizing the storage of supplies through color-coding is an effective way to provide helpful, easily recognizable visual indicators throughout an entire facility.

5. Sustain.

The last step is to continue maintaining efficient workflow and productivity with your 5S Lean system. The best way to do that is through education and empowerment of those using the system. Communicating the benefits of an ongoing 5S process will help ensure personnel’s continued adherence to it and, just as important, that there is no falling back into bad habits. Equipping workers with a well-designed 5S checklist does more than merely support the following of those procedures. It’s an effective way to create accountability and keep this valuable process going strong. MT

For more information on 5S and other workplace topics, and to download a copy of the Akro-Mils 5S Procedure Checklist, visit


7:14 pm
February 9, 2017
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Reliability on a Global Scale

An aerial view shows the entire RIL-Hazira facility, covering more than 4 square kilometers. All images provided by RIL-Hazira.

An aerial view shows the entire RIL-Hazira facility, covering more than 4 square kilometers. All images provided by RIL-Hazira.

Petrochemical plant in India commits to superior maintenance to build a world-class program.

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8:37 pm
December 20, 2016
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Alignment Connects Individuals to Organization Objectives

Organizational misalignment prevents workers and managers from establishing and sustaining a true-north direction for a business.

Just as misaligned equipment can wreak havoc on production operations, misaligned objectives and goals can seriously disrupt your organization’s overall business.

By Jeffrey S. Nevenhoven, Life Cycle Engineering (LCE)

Misalignment is one of the most common causes for machinery malfunction. Equipment, though, is just one area where misalignment can cause problems. The disruptive and damaging effects of a misaligned business environment can
be brutal.

Customers, shareholders, and employees all experience the deteriorating effects of misaligned objectives, goals, processes, and job duties. Excessive non-value-added work exists in organizations where employees have no clear connection with the business strategy and organizational objectives. Even well-intended performance indicators that are misaligned or cause conflicting expectations result in wasted time and money.

Leveraging performance management

Similar to using methods that ensure rotating equipment is properly aligned, result-oriented organizations apply performance-management methods to establish and sustain a “true- north.” Performance management encompasses activities that ensure objectives, goals, and targets are consistently met—efficiently and effectively. It can focus on the performance of an organization, a department, processes for building products or services, and employees, among other things.

The principles of performance management remind us of several important things—being busy is not the same as producing results, and training, strong commitment, and lots of hard work alone are not results. The major contribution of performance management is its focus on producing useful, cost-effective products and services for customers inside and outside an organization

The performance-management system is a powerful business tool when structured properly, applied universally, and enforced effectively. Result-driven performance-management systems link and align roles, responsibilities, behaviors, processes, and department goals to the business strategy and organizational objectives.

Employees within result-oriented organizations have a clear line of sight between their daily activities and organizational outcomes and understand the impact their daily contributions make. Moreover, a result-oriented workforce consistently meets objectives, goals, and targets through a unified vision, clear and non-conflicting priorities, integrated processes and functions, open communication, and shared responsibilities. Establishing a result-oriented performance-management system directs efforts from busy work back to effectiveness. It provides a framework through shared goals that pull individuals into work teams, work teams into functional teams, and functional teams into an organization team, all centered on a common goal.

This type of system consists of three primary components: the daily management system, process integration, and a performance-review process. When synchronized, these three elements, or sub-systems, communicate, integrate, and align multiple roles, departments, and functions toward common organizational objectives.

screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-2-30-34-pmDaily management

The daily-management system creates visibility and communicates performance against goals and objectives. Cascading measures communicate and connect employees to processes, processes to outcomes, and outcomes to goals and objectives. Key performance indicators and visual controls report, in real time, how well the organization is performing against plan. Through real-time monitoring and regularly scheduled review meetings, the daily-management system fosters teamwork in identifying problems quickly, developing corrective actions, and driving continuous improvement. Daily management directly connects business processes, production systems, and employee duties to the heartbeat of the organization.

Process integration

Process integration removes functional silos and competing goals by incorporating processes and establishing shared responsibility for organizational objectives. Result-oriented organizations recognize that processes are a group of coordinated activities that, together, create value and deliver results. They understand that no single process or function delivers results. Rather, all processes need to work together. Within these organizations resides a mutual understanding that all parts of the process and departmental functions fit together from end to end.

Properly designed, integrated processes facilitate alignment and promote teamwork by identifying interdependencies, coordinating efforts, and setting shared responsibilities. Through standardized and integrated processes, all stakeholders can see the impact their day-to-day job responsibilities have on performance. Employees in such organizations strive and work toward collective outcomes versus personal gain.

Performance review

The performance-review process takes the performance-management system to a personal level. It aligns employee day-to-day activities with departmental goals and organizational objectives. A successful performance-review process keeps everyone focused on common goals and fosters a culture of engaged, high-performing contributors who understand that their performance has an impact on organizational outcomes. Employees who are provided with realistic stretch goals, growth and development opportunities, timely feedback, ongoing coaching, and appropriate compensation strive to bring value to the organization and deliver positive results.

Contrary to the popular practice of an employee and supervisor meeting once or twice a year to set arbitrary goals and review progress, the result-driven performance-review process is an ongoing effort. The two parties meet regularly to review performance against goals, identify obstacles, implement action plans to ensure employee growth and development, and ensure job duties deliver results.

Bottom line

Ultimately, multiple elements in an organization must work together for sustained success in today’s global economy. Result-oriented companies recognize that the performance-management system by itself doesn’t equal success. If the three sub-systems aren’t aligned, integrated, and managed effectively they can lead to competing initiatives, conflicting priorities, organizational silos, and a disconnected workforce, resulting in undesirable outcomes.

In contrast, result-oriented organizations realize that, when coupled together, driven by a supportive management structure, and led by strong leadership, these three sub-systems enable unique functions and roles to collectively achieve organizational objectives. MT

Jeff Nevenhoven is a senior consultant with Life Cycle Engineering, Charleston, SC ( and develops solutions that align organizational systems, structures, controls, and leadership styles with a company’s business vision and objectives. Contact him at


6:47 pm
November 15, 2016
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Employees: Retain the Good Ones

Workforce ManagmentHighly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their employer than disengaged counterparts. Are you doing what you can to engage your people?

Mary Jo Cheney is corporate TPM coach at GE Appliances, Louisville, KY, and tacks CMRP, CRL, and CPMM onto the end of her name. Her credentials and experience make her an expert on managing and retaining people. She shared that expertise in her presentation, “Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain—Lessons of Leadership from the Wizard of Oz,” given at the 24th Annual SMRP Conference, held October 2016 in Jacksonville, FL.

The Wizard of Oz angle was a creative use of the characters in that classic movie to represent various aspects of personnel management and retention. I’ll spare you the Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man references, but share several of the facts and figures Cheney provided to help you better understand how to identify and retain talented employees.

—Gary L. Parr, editorial director

randmRetaining good leaders

Effective leader retention starts with honest, clear communication, which is not a strength for most companies. Good leaders also stick around if they are fed enriching assignments that challenge their talents. This is particularly true for younger people. Along with that is providing a clear line of sight to the next opportunity.

She also suggested the importance of knowing your competition in terms of who is likely to steal good employees. Cheney told a story of a competitor who bought a billboard sign near the entrance to one of her previous company’s property in an attempt to lure away talent. That sign got the full attention of employees and management.

“Training is critical!” stated Cheney. She asked two questions worth serious consideration: What if I train them and they leave? What if you don’t and they stay?

She also quoted Mark Alan Csonka, the smartest businessman she has ever met: “I hire people who are smarter than me and then I help them grow. I do not feel insecure because they know more than I. In fact, it has made me a better leader.”

Chaos-elimination leadership

In this segment of her presentation, Cheney turned the mirror on herself and her peers with these two questions:

• Are you the the person causing chaos in your department?
• Do you need to control every decision that is made by your employees?

An answer of yes to either or both of those questions is probably not a good thing.

Along with those two questions she suggested the importance of presenting a crystal-clear strategy, having a direct line of sight from the top to the people in the trenches, and knowing your role in a successful strategy.

Some employee facts

Cheney also offered some facts worth noting, obtained from Dale Carnegie Training and Daily Infographics, February 2014:

• $11 billion is lost annually due to turnover.
• 71% of workers are not fully engaged in their work.
• 80% of employees are dissatisfied with their direct manager.
• 70% of employees who lack confidence in senior leadership are not fully engaged.
• Revenue is 2.5 times higher in companies with highly engaged employees.
• Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave than disengaged counterparts. MT


4:05 pm
July 7, 2016
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Change Your Game to Proactive

Basketball arena

Expanding the definition of reliability to include the human element can transform an organization’s culture and boost overall business performance.

By Jeff R. Dudley, HSB Solomon Associates LLC

Question: What’s a common denominator among the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates?

Answer: The ability to change the game in their respective vocations or pursuits.

Game changers are entities that transform existing situations or activities in significant ways. They develop ideas or means of performing that completely alter the way a situation, profession, or even an industry develops. Each of aforementioned groups or individuals had a profound impact on their profession. At times, they appeared iconic, having a significant impact on the culture around them. Looking at them, you would label them as leaders, innovators, and proactive in their approaches.

When businesses exhibit these characteristics, they are thought to have great leadership and considered to be forward thinking or proactive. They’re also typically highly successful in their respective sectors.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 10.29.45 AM

Culture continuum

All businesses develop a culture that defines them. The more leadership-focused an organization is, the more proactive it becomes. Figure 1 illustrates a culture continuum moving from highly reactive to highly proactive, highly manager-led to highly leader-led, and low reliability to high reliability. As an organization’s culture moves more to the right side of the chart, the opportunity for achieving game-changing performance increases. That’s good news. The bad news is that it’s still uncommon to find organizations moving toward and performing on the far right.

Unlike individual game changers, countless organizations that hope to achieve game-changing performance often lack the culture to sustain the dedication and commitment to excellence that will keep that performance going. Instead, they languish in a reactive, manager-led state. The biggest obstacle to their success is that it is simply easier to be complacent than to constantly strive for improvement.

Staying reactive leads to inevitable outcomes

By necessity, reactive organizations have to be manager-led—everybody has to be told what to do. Since seeking permission is standard operating procedure, things happen much slower. With risk-taking held in check, very little innovation occurs. As a result, such organizations become stuck in “this is how it has always been done” mode.

Following the same old path and holding risk in check, however, has another downside: Reactive work, coupled with lack of planning, leads to greater risk to employees and the business itself. Let’s examine some data that support this pattern.

The Solomon Associates, Dallas, “International Study of Plant Reliability and Maintenance Effectiveness” (RAM) study shows that third- and fourth-quartile (Q3 and Q4) performers are more reactive than first- and second-quartile (Q1 and Q2) performers. (All Solomon studies break results into performance quartiles with Q1 being the best and Q4 the worst.)

This research also shows that the majority of work done by companies with reactive cultures is significantly less planned and scheduled. Moreover, there’s an elevated potential for high-level emergency work that must to be completed. All of these factors potentially put employees at a higher risk. According to the compiled data, reactive organizations do approximately twice as much work as their proactive counterparts.

So how does the reactive culture put businesses at risk? Reactive cultures incur significantly more asset downtime and, as a result, are not capable of producing as much product as they could, therefore becoming less profitable. Reactive cultures are also less productive, from all aspects of running a business. They experience higher operating costs, compared with proactive cultures, and generally spend less time operating their assets and more time fixing them.

Another issue to consider has to do with the frequency and severity of environmental incidents. Solomon’s data indicate such incidents occur more frequently in a reactive culture and become more noteworthy than with proactive cultures. Obviously, these types of issues can have a negative impact on business sustainability.

In any organization, profitability is driven by asset availability and the cost to produce that availability, assuming a saleable product with sufficient standard margin. Reactive cultures typically have a strong cost focus, allowing cost to drive reliability. This type of environment creates a short-term focus on profitability and often results in de-capitalized assets and unsustainable profitability.

Performance improvements

As a culture moves to a proactive mindset, the organization becomes more resilient and possesses the capacity to turn the previously described negatives into positives—something we refer to as “LeadeReliablity.” This is where game-changing performance occurs.

As proactive organizations evolve, they become more leader-led. Administrative leaders trust that employees have been trained, know what to do in most situations, and will do it well. They use their leadership skills to teach others how to lead in their area of expertise, developing leadership traits in all employees. As more personnel apply their skills and ideas, innovation and improvement flourish. As the pattern continues, the organization transforms itself. Everyone begins to act like a leader, and performance, as a whole, improves dramatically.

Risk also is minimized because of the proactive nature. The opposite of what was previously discussed is true: Fewer employees are involved in every task and overtime is typically held to a minimum. Tasks are planned, scheduled, and completed on time, with little emergency work. Employee risk is minimized because most work and potential hazards are thought out ahead of time. These organizations typically have stellar safety results and performance.

Business risks are minimized as well because these organizations are reliable suppliers to their customers—and their customers know they can depend on them. As a result, these organizations are the ones other customers turn to when reactive organizations cannot meet their commitments. Proactive organizations create customer loyalty.

Proactive cultures focus on reliability first and allow cost to create the desired reliability, which sometimes means that, in the short-term, they spend more in a targeted fashion to address a specific issue. The outcome of this mindset is high reliability at the optimum cost to achieve it.

Game changing

While proactive cultures that continue on their reliability journey become game changers in all areas, the change in reliable performance is especially noteworthy. These organizations stand out because they have patiently and bravely followed a path that has made them significantly different from others. They excel in the following three areas:

Culture: Organizations that excel in the area of culture focus tirelessly on minimizing unplanned events, identifying the abnormal, and not allowing the abnormal to become normal. They plan, schedule, commit to, and complete tasks as planned and scheduled. They do not accept the status quo and know they can continuously improve.

Individuals in these types of organizations think of themselves as a “leaders” who can make a difference in what they do. By constantly focusing on “what could go wrong,” they don’t allow unplanned events to be disruptive. If and when problems do arise, they have already decided what to do about them. They believe they can learn from everything and take every opportunity to teach what they have learned. They are well trained and follow procedures, yet treat each procedure as a living document that can be improved. They have authority and freedom to act to address any situation. They use experts inside and outside the organization to reach solutions. Others desire to be a part of such organizations.

Reliability: Organizations that excel in this area consider reliability in broader terms than those with an asset focus. Their definition of reliability also deals with how personnel conduct their business and meet their commitments. They realize that, without reliable personnel, their assets don’t stand a chance. Because their focus is on a long-term commitment to reliable assets, however, such organizations deliver impressive results. Q1 performers consistently deliver more than 97% mechanical availability. More than 75% of their downtime is due to planned turnarounds.

Spending on Reliability and Maintenance: Cost control is not the driver for organizations that excel in this area. During their journeys, spending is optimized to deliver desired asset reliability. The culture has a positive impact on the amount of spending that occurs. A focus on proactive discovery, addressing abnormal conditions, planning, scheduling, and efficient completion of the work drives costs to the optimum level. As the culture continues to develop in such organizations, spending is driven down. Note that game changers are not the lowest-spending organizations. In fact, our research has shown that the lowest-spending operations typically have poor reliability and are normally Q3 performers).

Scoring big

If you want your organization to be the Michael Jordan of its industry, you must focus on reliability. Your definition of reliability will put employee-behavior at the forefront. Reliable human behavior creates reliable asset operation.

During the journey, you will focus on growing a reliable culture and target your spending. You understand you are not under any less constraint than your competition. But, because you are constantly becoming more reliable, you target your spending to eliminate future spending. As a result, you are constantly becoming more profitable than if you had not started this journey. You do not make promises to customers, employees, and stakeholders that you cannot keep.

As a result, you and your organization become a game changer in the area of reliably running your business and create customer loyalty, employee engagement, and sustainable profitability. MT

Jeff Dudley is a senior consultant with Dallas-based HSB Solomon Associates LLC ( He has spent more than 30 years in the reliability and maintenance arena. Contact him at

learnmore2Choose Reliability or Cost Control

Set Your Mind for Complete Reliability

Seven Steps to Culture Change

Match Attitude, Structure, to Change Culture


6:24 pm
June 13, 2016
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Seven Steps to Work Order Success

Tunneller sinker worker connecting equipment in tunnel of seweк collector at undergroung working

Follow these seven guidelines to realize success with work-order procedures.

If these planning and scheduling guidelines aren’t SOP (standard operating procedure) around your maintenance department, they should be.

By Steve Mueller, Daniel Penn Associates

Want to help your maintenance team become more effective? While new computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) are making everyone’s job easier, certain procedures are sacrosanct, regardless of technology. These guidelines should be part of every maintenance department’s operation.

1. Supervisors are responsible for execution of the current schedule. Planner/schedulers are responsible for creation of the future schedule.

Don’t ask supervisors to do their own planning and scheduling. Their value is in managing the execution of work; let them focus on that. Planners and schedulers pay for themselves if the organization is large enough (an old rule of thumb is one planner for every 20 workers). To adapt and adjust to changing priorities, the planner and the supervisor should communicate frequently about job plans.

In general, planners and schedulers should not be involved with current jobs. Supervisors will manage new jobs that invariably pop up and disrupt the current week’s schedule.

To maximize the shop’s capacity, the scheduler may have allocated tasks to specific workers. The actual assignment of work, however, is solely the responsibility of the supervisor. There should be no territorial disputes about this.

2. No work orders will be released without a “ready” status code from Dispatch or Planning.

“Ready” means ready. In other words, material, tools, work-site access, permits, and other items are all in order so that the job can begin. Once a work order is released, there should be nothing to prevent the job from starting. Adhere to this guideline and you’ll avoid that black hole of released but unworkable jobs that can linger in a supervisor’s backlog.

3. Every worker should start each shift with ready work.

Too often, the first 20 to 30 minutes of a shift are spent doing everything but working—sometimes because no one has been told what to do. Don’t let this happen in your shop. The schedule should have work orders ready to go first thing. If there aren’t any scheduled work orders, you should have some shop, 5S, or other work ready to go.

4. All planned work should include estimated hours, a status code (from the CMMS if available), and priority.

If there are no estimated hours, the job is not a planned job and not ready for work. The status code indicates that the job is ready for work. The priority helps everyone understand how important the job is in the event of a resource or schedule conflict.

5. The requester’s “priority” always yields to an agreed-upon order of importance.

For example, maintaining negative air pressure in an isolation room in a hospital is agreed upon as being more important than fixing a thermostat in the executive suite, regardless of the priority given by the requester. It’s wise to make sure that “agreed upon” levels of importance for requested work are really agreed upon by all involved so there’s no argument down the road. The scheduler assigns a priority such as “urgent,” ”important,” or “routine,” based on established criteria. For obvious reasons, emergency work is not scheduled and should be performed immediately.

Keep in mind that preventive maintenance will always be a top priority—and may even have a dedicated crew to assure that it is accomplished on schedule.

6. All work must be on a work order.

The paperwork may come afterwards, as in the case of urgent/emergency work, but all work must find its way to a work order and into the CMMS. No exceptions.

7. Work orders are to be closed out on the same day they are completed.

Closing out a work order on the same day that it’s completed keeps the data and the metrics current. Managing the backlog is critical to managing maintenance. This becomes very difficult if the backlog in the CMMS doesn’t reflect current reality.

Although this list could certainly be expanded for specific circumstances, these seven guidelines are key for most maintenance organizations. Above all, maintenance teams must communicate constantly to make sure all parties are in synch and all work orders are completed to spec and on schedule. MT

As director of Commercial Operations for the West Hartford, CT-based management-consulting firm Daniel Penn Associates (, Steve Mueller focuses on the needs of private-sector clients. His 30 years of consulting experience include working with all levels of management in a wide range of industries, and addressing virtually all business processes, from service to manufacturing.

learnmore2 Polish Up Your Maintenance Planning


4:23 pm
May 16, 2016
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Maximize Millennial Workers

Millennials checklist on clipboard for survey of generation with age born between 1980 and 2000, social and connected, and cause driven

For many, the millennial generation presents a significant workplace management challenge and is often labeled lazy and entitled. Unlike previous generations, this group approaches things in a very different way. Like it or not, they are the future. In fact, that future is now. Millennials currently make up more than 35% of the workforce and that number will be just short of 50% by 2020. In other words, if you’re not one, you have to learn to work with them.

At the Uponor Connections 2016 users conference, held this past March in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Ryan Avery (a millennial himself) in his talk, “Motivating Millennials,” shed some light on what makes that generation tick. Uponor North America, headquartered in Apple Valley, MN, is a manufacturer of PEX piping systems.

Avery started his talk by making it clear to the baby boomers in the audience that they are the reason millennials are the way they are. Boomers had to work hard to move up the ladder and didn’t want their kids to have to do the same and now get to work with the result of that approach. What follows are more insights from Avery that, if you’re a baby boomer or part of some other generation, will help you understand and benefit from what can prove to be a talented group of workers.

—Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director

Ryan Avery assigned shapes to the two generations.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 8.45.27 AM

The triangle represents baby boomers and their hierarchical approach to life and work. Millennials are the circle because they have a community approach and like to be coached. They don’t appreciate bosses and like to be part of a team. The shape for GenX people is a square.

While boomers grew up in and work in an aggressive/demanding culture, millennials do better if things are explained. They like to know why things are done or need to be done.

When millennials are presented with a task, they like to start with the result/goal and then be allowed to figure out how to get there. Established procedures aren’t always of interest to them. If they see a better way, they want the freedom to take that path. That path doesn’t always fit in the conventional 9-to-5 workday.

When communicating with millennials, stop multitasking — put your phone down and your computer screen aside. This applies to anyone, but managers should take care to talk to millennials like they matter. Four of five employees do not feel valued at work. That one valued person will give 90% more of himself/herself than the other four. Keep in mind that employees spend more time with managers than their loved ones. Pay attention to the person opposite you.

Millennials stay at their jobs an average of two years, meaning that they aren’t interested in the conventional end-of-the-year reward/bonus approach. They are much more receptive to little rewards throughout the year, such as meals or gift cards. Avery suggested that paying their monthly Netflix fee would be an excellent reward.

Millennials like a cause, which translates to the fact that they are more willing to participate if there is a social responsibility involved. Instead of a bonus, give them money to donate to their favorite cause or provide days off so they can volunteer to help others.

Instead of smoke breaks, provide social-media breaks.

They like to collaborate and don’t like to compete.

They are not big fans of the word “but.” Instead of  “Good idea, but . . .” try “I like your idea and another way to accomplish it is…” MT