Monthly Archives: March 2012

Now, Row in the Same Direction

No outage is done by one heroic being.  It’s a collection of people and efforts make an outage successful. Hence the problem — the more people you have, the more you need to communicate, and (let’s face it) ours is not a wonderfully communicative tribe. A miscommunication during an outage costs and costs big.  Each miscommunication, on average, costs $5,000 (a conservative estimate). On top of all this, an outage requires decisions to be made and communicated constantly just to keep the ball rolling.

So, what’s a girl to do?

This is a two-sided problem: people on one side and things to do on the other.

In my experience, people do well, doing what they like to do. I’m not a psychologist. It’s just a principle that I have picked up along the way, and, after over two hundred outages, a principle that I wholeheartedly agree with.

So, when planning an outage, I generally make a list of all the things to do (my “Zone” concept), and then, I match the people to each “Zone” based on what they like to do.

Notice how I didn’t say, “I match people to the work according to their job title.” I bet you, being my most astute colleagues, noticed.

Personalities and egos often get in the way. Wishing people were different as in “You’re not Dorothy and this Ain’t Oz” doesn’t do you any good and can be a huge issue as illustrated by the “Head Flying Monkey” part in this blog.

Again, what’s a girl to do? (The “Girl” part of this is much funnier to those of you who know me.)

Once you lay out your grid of what needs to be done (“Zones”) and your grid of who’s doing it, then the fun begins. Some matches need no, let’s say “massaging” for lack of a better word. The ones that do, you need to start a rubbin’. If you have no other choice, then you have to “Always Make the Girl Feel Pretty,” and do what you have to do.

First, you need everyone to “Get in the F**king boat.” That’s a feat in itself, but you’re not done. Now everyone has to row. If it’s not in the same direction, you are going nowhere fast!

THE POINT: Once the breaker opens (the start of the outage), you want to manage as little as possible. That way when the “What are we going to do about this?” moment shows up, you have all you faculties at your disposal. Outages Managers should not look busy and frazzled. Watch these videos about a PIT stop. The crew chief (the guy who runs the PIT stop) isn’t even mentioned.

Let’s put this into perspective.  Take an outage that costs ten million dollars, has a duration of three weeks and a down day loss of revenue cost of $600,000. (This works out to a 500 MW plant @ $50 per MW)

Each day costs                                 $1,076,190 ($600,000 loss revenue plus $476,190 cost of the outage)

Each hour costs                               $44,841

Each Minute costs                            $747

Each second costs                           $12

If you saved one day on this outage, you would affect the bottom line of your plant by $596,190 (assuming 20% of the $600,000 of revenue and the $476,190 of the daily cost). What would you do with $600,000 for just one day? That’s a pretty good payday to me.

THE STORY:  The outage I describe in “The Magic Finger” is the same outage in “When You See A Snake Kill It.” Here is another lesson from that outage. You see, before this outage, the management structure was this: Foreman who reported to a General Foreman who reported to a Project Manager. A Planner reported to the Project Manager but usually worked for the General Foreman.

Well, we had just gone through a companywide push called “Empowerment.” (This is circa 1992-1993.) Management had decided that the “General Foreman” title was unnecessary, so they made each General Foreman a “Foreman.”  On this particular job, we wound up with a bunch of General Foremen (now just Foremen). I was promoted to Planner at the same time they were demoted to Foremen. Not good!!!!

But, we had a job to do, and, with the ever patient Socrates at the helm, we absorbed all of these lemons and made lemonade.

We had a Tool Room General manage our tools and the tool room staff. Our tool control was never better.

We had a Turbine General unload and stage twenty-three tractor-trailer loads of insulation. He had a blast, and everything was right where you needed it!

We had a Boiler General running the UT inspection of the boiler. We flapper-wheeled the entire boiler (a 1000 MW boiler) in four days.

The stories go on and on.  The result? For the first time in a very long time, our division finished a 117,000 man hour job on time and under budget.

That’s the effect when everyone rows in the same direction.