Tag Archives: outages

The Ten Commandments

moses

Like Moses coming down from the mountain top I have been gone for 40 day and 40 nights.

My measurement of 40 days and 40 nights is more in line with Clarence Darrow’s

Portrayed by Spencer Tracy in “Inherit the Wind”

In reality, just a fancy way of saying a long time. Now back to my allegory

I have descended from the mount with the ten commandments of a great outage.

  1. Honor thy Outage, it’s different treat it as such
  2. Thou shall be safe
  3. Thou shall realize nothing is easy, you must make everything as easy as possible
  4. There shall be only one Boss, pick one
  5. Thou shall not talk about what thee has not seen
  6. Thou shall inspect once, completely, quickly and mark everything consistently 
  7. Thou shall not complain,  either shoot em’ or make the girl feel pretty
  8. Thou shall track the money every day
  9. Thou shall order on Thursday what thee needs over the weekend
  10. Honor the close out,  is different than the rest of the outage

Sounds impressive doesn’t  it?

Well I’m no Moses

In reality I was just trying to create a clear concise list of what to do and not to do. When I started to make the list I thought of the Ten Commandments and I got all Charlton Heston on myself.  I had visions of people printing it up like posters and hanging these pithy rules all over the place.

But I’m just a guy from Jersey with a bunch of stories (some funny, some horrible) that people call experience. Below is my list, I reserve to right to update it and change it from time to time. I didn’t come up with all this stuff in a vacuum. It’s the result of interactions that have taken place over the 250 outages that I’ve had the honor to be a part of.

Please forward me any feedback to make the list better

My list looks like this

1. Outages Are Different

An analogy that I often use is a plant is like a NASCAR race and most of the time the car is on the track going round and round. This is the plant running when the car comes in for a PIT stop this is the plant in the outage. How odd would it be if the car pulled in the PIT and then the driver goes out to change the tires? In the end for a car to win, somebody drives the car and somebody else runs the PIT stop.

Blogs that pertain to this are

Money Ball

You’re not Dorothy and this Aint OZ

Outages 101 Don’t Be Penny Wise and Dollar Foolish

The Magic Finger

       2.      Safety is about focus, not forms.

Look somebody in the eyes and if you see crazy don’t put that guy on the crane. Sounds simple right? That’s because it is, in today’s world we have all sorts of certifications, training and licenses. That’s all well and good but it’s been my horrific experience that the fatal accidents all happen when someone has a problem of a personal nature that has their attention elsewhere while they are on the job. It’s all of our jobs to realize that in each other and say something.

Blogs that pertain to this are

It’s Not A FKing Ice Cream Parlor

Common Sense Safety

The Things That Don’t Work Don’t Get Used

 

       3.      The easier you make something, the easier it is

YOGI BERRA

                Straight from the Yogi Berra archives. Outages affect the plants bottom line in three ways, downtime, material costs and contractor costs. All of these items can be significantly affected with just some

Questions…How do we do this faster?

Thought…Well if we bought three impact guns it would go faster

Planning…Get three impact guns by the next outage

Observation…Well that worked better next time we should stage the plates before the outage

Change…Whatever you need to, to get better

Blogs that pertain to this are

Now Row in the Same Direction

Get in the FKing Boat

The Art of War, Six Sigma and a Guy from Jersey

Sit Down Shut Up and Do What I Say

 

             4.      The chain of command is there for a reason

                Be clear on who reports to who and who’s the boss. Contractors get told what to do by everybody…not good. Engineers generally feel that they report to nobody…not good.

The story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

                                There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.

                                Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.

                                Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

                                Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

                                Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody

                                wouldn’t do it.

                                It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody”

Blogs that pertain to this are

Every Ship Needs A Captain

5.      If you didn’t see it or touch it shut the fuck up!!!!

That’s right 4 exclamation points (I still think I need more but let’s move on). Let’s go back to the PIT stop shall we. Imagine the guy changing the tire on the right front stops in mid PIT stop and walks over to the PIT boss and says “I heard the gas guy say that the gas can is too heavy”(just writing this makes me get my “angry eyes” out). A great outage has very little talking during it. Prior to the outage you should be exhausted with how much you talk but once the bell rings it’s time to shut up.

Blogs that pertain to this are

The Magic Finger

The Only Way to Find a Leak, Stick the Magic Finger in the Hole

 

6.      Get the engineers in and out

It takes a lot of conversation and planning to get all you can during the inspection of the unit. To get the inspection done completely you need to sit down and identify all the things you need to see during the outage including how you are going to measure and mark what you see. You need to develop tracking systems to record the as found conditions. You need to agree on what color paint means what. As found work is the major variable of any outage. The faster you inspect everything the more time you have to react and manage the emerging work scopes.

Blogs that pertain to this are

Engineers, Engineers Everywhere and Not a Scope to Execute

Your Outages iPod

 

7.      Never complain about under-performance…do something!!!!

Yes more exclamation points. If someone or some company is under performing you only have two choices, change them out or live with it. If you can change them out, do it. If you can’t, live with it and please just shut up about it. Constantly berating someone is never, I repeat never, a good idea. It makes the beratee feel like shit (do you do your best when you feel like shit?) and it implies that the boss (the berator) has no balls (My jersey coming out) which weakens the boss’s authority over the entire project. Not to mention that everyone is watching and you are training everyone in your plant how to act. The last contractor that fell down on the job, I got them tea (to keep them healthy) food brought in (to keep them feed and on the job) and thanked them for all their efforts everyday…because we had no other choice.

Blogs that pertain to this are

Always Make the Girl Feel Pretty

8. You have to know where the money is every day, cost to date and cost to complete

If your daily planning meeting reviews a schedule that’s 24 to 36 hours old and you go over costs as a percent complete of each project…let me save you some time, it’s never going to work. You need to close the books every shift from a dollar stand point and to do that the schedule has to be accurate as well. If it takes a department to get management these numbers   then stop, It’s never going to be correct or worth it. You system should be simple and accurate. We have developed a system that will tell you cost to date and cost to finish with 5% 4 hours after the end of each shift. It’s not a sale plug it’s just to let you know it’s possible and to set the mark to be beat.

9.      Stock the air and gas rack on Friday like you aren’t getting a delivery for a week

A bottle of Argon cost $65 (In 1996 dollars, That’s when I first gave this speech)

That same bottle of Argon can cost $16,200 on a Sunday

  • 10 contractors @ $120/hr             $1,200
  • Delay scaffold coming down           $5,000
  • Loss of revenue                                    $5,000
  • Employee OT                                         $5,000

The same bottle of Argon after the outage is $65. Argon doesn’t go bad.

10.  Every outage starts out asses and elbows but somewhere near the end it changes

At some point during the outage you have to get everyone’s focus to shift from production to close out. During production everything is about “how much got done?” . During close out everything is about “Is everything complete and signed off? ”. These are two vastly different ways of operation and the outage manager has to signal that team needs to change focuses. Back in the day I used to do this during one of the daily outage meetings I a speech I titled “It’s been lovely having you all here, now get the fuck out!”

11.  You need to have two meetings a day during outages

Wait there’s more than ten? What’s going on? Rule #1 outages are different. Outages are a team sport. What team do you see in any sport that doesn’t huddle up in some fashion? The meetings should not be long; however every contractor Forman should be there. Cover safety first, then production and then schedule. Here’s a secret – no one likes to finish last. The contractors will compete with each other to not to be last.

Get in the F**king Boat

When I took over a project, outage or plant, I had a certain je ne sais quoi best illustrated by the phrase “Sit down, shut up and do what I say.”

Needless to say, not everybody was happy with working for me, but hey that’s life in the big city. When people aren’t happy they act out in all kinds of manners of passive aggressive behavior. I had the “Oh, I didn’t understand you” the “Oh ….ahh I know that what you said but, I thought this would be better” and my favorite “I didn’t want to bother you” or it’s redheaded cousin “I couldn’t get in touch with you”.

In all of my experience I have NEVER had any of my direct reports ever directly disobey me so when It happened, I was…..confused. I didn’t know that move was even an available option. The scene I describe in “Why don’t you make them listen to your tapes” is an absolute true story. I had no idea what to do with the staff of this plant, Fire them all? A bit extreme, but like I said, not doing as I command was so foreign to me that I had no idea what to do

Would I really fire all the management of the plant?  No. Would I create a situation that they would all leave? Absolutely. If not for my son’s idea it would have gotten ugly.

When I showed up with the first tape and told everyone that would have to listen to it, it was clearly a statement of “get in the f**king boat or else!” Although it probably did not look like that at all.

What happened when we started to listen to the tapes was that everyone did get in the boat. It gave the team a common language and let them hear what I was trying to tell them without their need to resist me because I said it.

When it was all said and done we listened to four tapes and at the end of those 4 weeks we all got along swimmingly. The plant, that just a year before was the worst plant in the company, broke every production & safety record at the same time, with the same team.

Here are the tapes that we listened to with a brief description of what I think the best points of each tape is

By Tom Peters

For me this tape should be the start of any new initiative. It has a great line “change happens in an instant” and it’s a true. So many people talk about how difficult change is and how long it takes, but in reality you can change anything instantly. It’s maintaining the change that takes effort. I have used so many of the lessons of this book that 10 plus years later I still use gems like “dougnuting”, “spring cleaning” and “the bump into principle” on a daily bases. I personally resonate with Tom Peters and love all his works. I highly recommend him to any and all management in our industry. Please visit his website , or click on the picture to find him on Amazon.

By Dr. Wess Roberts

The tape is recorded like Attila is sitting around a camp fire just instructing his Huns. Every vignette of Attila speaking to his Huns is a gem. An example, directly from one page of the book:

On Tolerance

  • Every Hun has a value- even if to serve as a bad example
  • The error in appointing an incompetent chieftain is in leaving him in a position of authority over other Huns
  • To experience the strength of chieftains we tolerate some of their weaknesses
  • Suffer long for the mediocre but loyal Huns. Suffer not for competent but disloyal Huns.

The magic of this tape is that it establishes a code of conduct that everyone in the plant starts to follow. So as things happen in the plant we would discuss what Attila would say about this or that and then the group, not me, would decide the fate of a particular decision.

The tape is great; I fell in love with it all over again preparing for this. The biggest point behind all of this is a plant is a collection of people and their habits. If a plant is not doing well it is always because of the habits of the personnel of the plant. Here is where 99% of managers go wrong, they try and get the personnel to stop their bad habits. You can’t stop doing something; you can only start doing something else. Attila’s entire lesson’s for his Huns are the habits of a successful plant. Just start doing them.

By Dr. David Schwartz

There is a basic principle I live my life by - if you can dream it you can achieve it. I may have gotten that little gem from this or any of the hundred other self-improvement tapes. The point is you have to imagine what you want before you can go out and create it. From Mathew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” To do this you have to ask for something and that’s where the imagination comes in.

The Magic of Thinking Big got everyone on the team to imagine something new. We lamped up the plant for holidays like the Empire State Building. We designed a new safety program called “Common Sense Safety” that had toys in meetings, which received acknowledgement from OSHA. None of these things could have been done without first “Thinking Big.”

By Marcus Buckingham & Dr. Donald Clifton

I suck at spelling, grammar and punctuation. I spell so bad, I stump spell check. Spelling and writing are not strengths of mine, however, communication is. Supposedly 85% of communication is nonverbal and I agree. So what’s a girl to do? Do I burn the midnight oil and practice my spelling in hopes to be mediocre at some point (Here’s a hint….HELL NO!) I do what I’m great at, and get somebody who is great at spelling and grammar to go through what I write. (So when you read a blog and there are misspelling and grammar issues all over the place you should know that I was most likely pressed for time and posted it myself, my secret is now out) Thank you to all that help me.

The point is, do what your great at. Find someone else to do what you’re not great at. In so many plants I have seen so many people plotting along doing stuff because it’s their job. While it’s true that stuff needs to get done, it is also true if you let people do what they are naturally good at, you will get better performance with less management. So listen to the book, take that test, and get your personnel doing what they are great at. Your job will be easier and your performance will go up.

Money Ball

I had an entirely different blog planned out for today, but you see I had nothing to do @ 8pm tonight and I wasn’t tired. Trolling the “on demand” selections I came across “Money Ball”. A friend just recently told me to watch it, because in her words, it was a very soulful movie. I responded “I thought it was about money and baseball”, she answered it is that, but so much more.

Watching the movie, I found myself moved and often teary eyed. A truly great story and from what I have read online after the movie, truthful. I’m no baseball expert, but the internet seems to confirm that the 2002 A’s hold the record for consecutive games won in the American league, 20 in total

Why would I cry?, big tough guy like me, you know the description by now part Shrek, Luca Brasi and an average sized grizzly bear.

I’ll let you in on a little secret…I care.

I have been in this industry, Power plants, for half of my life. I have pissed people off, I have angered many and yet I bet you money that you the worst of my detractors would say I cared (perhaps too much)

You see, in general the people in our industry give it their all, those who do not stick out like a sore thumb.

 Just because you work hard does not mean that you will be successful. I makes me crazy when people work hard in the wrong direction.

 So why did the movie effect me? Well naturally I identified with Brad Pitts character (The similarity was at times uncanny). When you’re the only one in the room that thinks the way you do, it’s never easy. The resistance and shear ill will that gets directed at you can be toxic at best, undermining at worst.

 What does this all have to do about outages? Well easy, the movie is about how to win for at least money as possible sounds like an outage to me!

 The basic concept is: if you want something to change then you need to change something

Not rocket science I know, yet nobody wants to change do they?

Let me ask you. Do your outages start when they are supposed to, finish when they are supposed to and come in under budget?

If they do then great, but if they don’t what are you going to do different next outage.

Everybody in a plant can change a tire on a car, How long do you think it takes, let’s see

Pull the car over off the road                      20 seconds

Put the car in park and shut it off              5 seconds

Pull the emergency brake                            5 seconds

Get out pop the trunk                                   10 seconds

Get the Jack and the spare out                  30 seconds

Place the jack and get engaged                 20 seconds

Remove the hub cap                                      10 seconds

Break the lug nuts                                           60 seconds

Jack the car up                                                  120 seconds

Unscrew the lug nuts                                     60 seconds

Pull the old tire                                                 5 seconds

Put on the new tire                                         5 seconds

Start all the lug nuts                                        30 seconds

Tighten all the lug nuts                                  60 seconds

Jack the car down                                            60 seconds

Put the hubcap back                                       10 seconds

Return the jack and flat to the trunk       60 seconds

Get back in the car start it up                      10 seconds

The above list of steps is a total of 580 seconds, some of the steps could be wrong but in general I think this describes a very quick tire change

Like I said everyone can change a tire

Here’s a You Tube video where they change all 4 tires in what looks like to me, 16 seconds

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Si2E6SvczjI

That’s a quite a difference but what’s a few minutes right?

Let’s take that thought out for a spin, shall we?

A plant has a down day cost of $50,000 per day that means each second would be worth $0.58. So if we applied that cost to our tire change that would mean that you changing the tire would cost you $327.12 more than it should cost you

Now I can change a tire to, but if it cost me $327.12 more than it should I certainly would start doing something different

I can hear you now, They have special tools!, They are set up for it!, They train to do that!, They have more people!.

Yes that’s the point, but if you would like to continue to change your own tires and spend that extra money that’s your choice. I cannot in good conscience watch you do it and say nothing. Buts that’s me

What would saving 10% cost and schedule mean for your plant?

What plant improvements could you do?, What would the bottom line look like? What kind of training would that fund? Lastly what does that do to your bonus?

Why Don’t You Make Them Listen To Your Tapes?

This from my 8 year old as we stood in front of the audio book racks in Barnes and Noble in early 1999

What were we doing there?

Well, you see I read a set of books when I was around ten. It still shapes how I think to this day and I wanted to get this series of books for my son and read them together.

He was not impressed or interested in these books, but I didn’t let that stop me. Onward I pressed, after all he was 8, what did he know?

We got his books.  We passed by all the fun stuff in the kids section and marched over to the audio book section…he got his now it was time for me to get mine

As I surveyed all of the offerings my son started asking me questions.

“Why did we get these books”, I explained for what felt like the hundredth time, “you see Joe, when I was a little older than you I read these books and they shaped how I think even to this day. So I want to read them with you so you can learn the lessons for yourself straight from the source”

“Why are we looking as these tapes” … Don’t you just love when the questions just KEEP COMING! My son was mad about me dragging him to a store to buy a BOOK!!! Of all things!  AND  he was going to made his displeasure known…”We’ll  like those books we just bought, they teach you things you haven’t learned yet.” I continued to peruse the selection.

“Why are you mad at the people working for you”….You see he was present to a few outstanding rants on the cell phone with members of my current team (Rants= yelling loudly, neck turning purple, veins in my heads growing to inordinate sizes)…”Well ,it must seem like I’m mad at them but really I’m just confused and frustrated. You see, daddy has been a boss for a long time. Longer than you’ve been alive. I have never had anyone working for me disobey me. I don’t know what to do with them; they’re good people they just don’t think like daddy.”

Then from the mouth of babes “Why don’t you make them listen to your tapes”. I’m so thickheaded that I didn’t get it. “Why would I do that Joe?” He told me “Your making me read these books so I can think like you, if they listen to your tapes then they will think like you do right?”

I’ll tell you sometimes I’m amazed at how dumb I can be and how smart my son is when he’s trying to teach me a lesson

THE POINT:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for life. Apparently this is a Chinese proverb, I had thought it was from the bible, again I’m wrong.

Management in a power plant can be like trying to grow grass in granite. It’s like that Chinese finger trap; the harder you pull the more the trap has you. So what do we do most of the time…pull harder, the trap will break eventually. I have had the privilege to manage thousands of people in our industry. A great deal of them moved up the ranks. Some of them become supervisors, department managers and plant managers. I did the meaner than everyone thing. You know the kind. The guy that thinks he knows more than you do, the do what I say thing kind of thing.  Nothing worked so quickly and so well as listening to those tapes as a team. Truly teaching a man to fish is the way to go.

THE STORY:

 As the beginning of this blog talks about, I was frustrated. It was just after a bunch of successful outages (The ones described in Outages 101). I had come to the plant with my usual “sit down, shut up and do what I say” and the magic wand speech (a blog for another time) just before their major outages. I ran the outages with an iron hand as I always did, but I had hoped that once the plant saw the success of the outages they would not fight me as much…I was wrong. After the outages, it seemed they were more determined than ever to see my ideas fail. It was as if they were saying “well you may have been right this time but your wrong now”. Each new thing I introduced to the facility was met with more and more resistance from the supervision and management. As each new program succeeded the next program took more and more effort to get it through (The Chinese finger trap). Me being part Irish, part Italian and part Viking and all hardheaded, fought back. If it wasn’t for my son schooling me I’m sure I would be still fighting today.

After I got what my son was saying to me at Barnes and Noble, we went home and I bought a tape recorder to tape hundreds of blanks. I gave my wife the tapes I wanted copied and made her make 20 some odd tapes of each.

I showed up on a Monday with the first tape we would listen to as a team. I called a meeting and informed everyone that they had till Friday to listen to this tape and we would have a catered lunch in the conference room where we would have a discussion about the tape. People raised many objections, I told them not listing to the tape would be deemed direct disobedience and offenders would be suspended (I told you I was…Bullish from time to time)

Friday came and we had a great discussion and lots of ideas came from it. Next Monday there was another tape but I didn’t have to threaten anyone this time. All in all there were about 6 tapes over 6 weeks.

This plant had its worst performance in 1998 and by the end of 1999 the same crew registered record breaking performance in both production and safety at the same time.

I think my son’s idea speaks for itself.    

Sit down, Shut up and Do what I say

I don’t actually recall ever saying this exactly, but that’s generally what I meant.

You see for many years I was a turnaround specialist. I went were it was broke and fixed it. I started when I was very young and to be quite honest in the beginning, I was often very scared either of what I was doing or losing my job.

I was so concerned with getting the job done and learning everything I could about the work that I was often not very concerned with people’s feelings. In the beginning the meaner I was, the more respect I seemed to get from my fellow foreman.

But after I sent a mechanic to medical for going to the bathroom during the work day I stopped. I realized that I was probably going a bit too far. I wasn’t Ivan the terrible anymore but I was far from warm and fuzzy.

Later in my career, I graduated from project turnarounds to whole plant turnarounds. Where ever a plant was underperforming I went. I generally worked directly for the president, oh I had other bosses in between him and I, but my phone rang directly when performance wasn’t up to par.

So when I showed up to either a project or a plant, things were not going right, hence the shut up, sit down and do what I say. It wasn’t pretty but it worked.

Power plants and power plant people are not soft pliable individuals, you can’t be. To run, operate or maintain a plant takes a mental and physical toughness that few understand. That steeliness of character often does not lend itself to open and free thinking about new things which is the problem.

Looking back on all that now, I could have had more tack, patience and concern for my fellow employees.  Something my father used to say to me “the water as soft as it is eventually wears away the rock”. I’m more like the water now, a flash flood or tidal wave, but more like the water.

THE POINT:  Whether it be Sun Tzu, Napoleon Hill, Six Sigma or others I will write about later, the point is if you want better performance you have to change what you are doing.

Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity according to Einstein.

So the problem is how do we change risk adverse, hard headed people.  Like I stated earlier, I used to do it by sheer force of will and by being the meanest guy in the room however, there is another way.

I have found that by implementing a new process, one can create habits that you desire in a plant. Those habits then become your culture. Plant performance is the direct result of the habits of the plant personnel. By installing new processes that grow new habits, you can change plant performance faster with less angst and with longer lasting results.

THE STORY: I have a great story that illustrates this point very well but it is still too fresh a happening and I’m concerned it would offend too many people at this time.

So for the story this week I’ll just tell you about…well let’s call him Aristotle.  At the time of developing all of these processes (I didn’t know at the time they were going to be processes, I was just doing what I always did to turn a plants performance around) I had a many great assets, Aristotle being one of them.

We turned the plants performance from worst to first in just a year. The operating committee wanted to distill what we did to do this and then export those things to all the other plants in the company. So the operating committee flew up to spend time with me and my team to understand, memorialize and export our ideas, at the time, to the rest of the company.  Our processes became measuring sticks that the other plants were judged against.  It didn’t go well. Immediately, everyone else started to defend their way of doing things. They were right and these processes were wrong and because the processes came from me I was wrong. It became quite a mess and eventually I left the company. A few months later the president got fired and a few month after that the CEO go canned as well. That company doesn’t even exist anymore.

But this is about Aristotle; you see in the midst of this, he was banished to a plant that was off the radar screen. Because he was a acolyte of mine he was not treated well for many years after I left the company. However like the saying goes, you can’t keep a good man down. Aristotle is now a plant manager and he uses the processes we developed. His plant maintains top performance year after year, for years, which is better proof that these processes work, than anything I could write.

Napoleon Hill and a Guy from Jersey

Napoleon Hill

Napoleon is my absolute favorite success guru. For those of you who don’t know him or his work here is the Wikipedia link Heres a short version of who he is

He was born in 1883 in a one room cabin in Appalachia, using his wit and intellect he began writing and eventually enrolled in law school, while in law school he paid the bills by writing articles for various publications. On an assignment he interviewed Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie believed that the process of success could be outlined in a simple formula that anyone would be able to understand and achieve. Carnegie was so impressed with Hill that he asked Hill if he was up to the challenge. Hill accepted and Carnegie, through letters of introduction began Hill on his journey to interview over 500 people about what made them successful. Hills interviews and research became the famous book “Think and grow Rich”

Over the years I have read and listened to many different adaptations of this work but my favorite is

Available At

For a good Overview of the 17 principles

The guy from Jersey

Napoleon Hill’s Science of Personal Achievement has 17 principles. I use all of them in the process of planning and executing an outage. My list of principles is as follows

  • Make the plan (usually by yourself it’s the easiest way)
  • Get everybody to comment on the plan (prepare yourself lots of people need to let you know how smart they are)
  • Finalize the plan (incorporate everyone’s comments)
  • Get everybody to review the plan and agree to it (you will be surprised how many people change what they had said before)
  • Once agreed to (they will always be dissenters so a majority rules) beat the plan into everyone’s head as often as possible
  • Once the outage starts, only follow the plan if it works. During the outage do what works only no matter how silly or off plan it may be.

You have to play the game you are in and “The Plan” was conceived before the outage so it may or may not be correct

 

THE POINT:

Are you happy with the performance you are getting? What happens if the performance gets 10% better? What happens if the performance gets 20% better? You get the idea. Now how to get that improvement

Napoleon Hill interviewed over 500 people each with a great success story. When I ran a plant I would send our personnel out to other outages within the company. You’re already doing everything you know so to get improved performance you have to do something different. I found that the best place to find new things is either in the classic “Improvement Ideologies”, watching a bunch of different ways of doing something or like the saying goes “standing on the shoulders of giants”. In regards the each of the above three ways over the course of this year I will share with you each of the “Improvement Ideologies” I have found useful. I would suggest going and seeing as many different outage as you can, I myself have planned and executed over 250 outages and seen a bunch more. As far as “standing of the shoulders of giants”, that is what this blog is all about, almost everything that comes out of my mouth is some version of something that was taught to me by someone else but those gentlemen are long gone unfortunately.

 

THE STORY:

 Doing something different, although this story is not an outage story it exemplifies this point. It was 1999 and we were on our fourth and final attempt in developing/designing a process that would become Zone Maintenance™. One particular mechanic, let’s call him grumpy, thought the process was just ridiculous. In Zone Maintenance™ mechanics are responsible for certain areas of the plant. Grumpy’s area was the cranes and this plant was a mass burn waste to energy facility, so the cranes worked all day. When grumpy took over the area we were changing cables on the crane about every 4 days, grumpy came to see me and tell me how dumb it was. I responded to him “It’s been that what for years, what are you going to do about it” with a shrug of my shoulders. Grumpy to his credit did not accept my answer he called the cable manufacture and had him come in and look at what we were doing. Grumpy found out that by cutting the cables mechanically instead with a torch would extend the life, so even though it meant each cable change would take longer he did it. Cable changes went from every 4 days to every 8 days; it was a big win on something that nobody though could be improved. Grumpy was not satisfied, he hated cable changes, and he came to me and said the reason for so many cable changes was because of the operators. I responded “What are you going to do” again with a shrug of my shoulders, he stormed off “I’ll show you”. A week or two later the operations manager came to me, complaining that Grumpy was making the crane operators change the cables. I went and saw grumpy “are you making the crane operators change the cables” Grumpy responded “Damn Right, they broke em’ they’re going to fix em’ how else are they going to learn”. Grumpy had been right before so I told the Operations Manager let it ride for a while and let’s see what happens. Well cable changes went from every 8 days till a change about every 2 to 3 weeks again a huge win.

 

Grumpy had improved something nobody thought could improve, we had to do something different but the rewards were great. Cables cost us around $150,000 per year and Grumpy’s ideas brought that down to around $50,000 per year not to mention all the time saved from not doing cable changes

 

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,600 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

the Art of War, Six Sigma and a Guy From Jersey

The Art of War

If you haven’t read, Sun Tzu’s Art of War, I suggest that you do, here’s a link.  It says it should take two hours, time well spent

The Art of War lays out how to be successful in war through detail analysis and assessment before you start anything. With just the change of two words we can see clearly how the lessons from The Art of War relates to us and our focus for better outages

Sun Tzu said: The art of war (Outages) is of vital importance to the State (Plant). It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected

The following is directly from The Art of War and I believe it best serves as an overall guiding thought for the text

Sun Tzu said: What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage. He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated. Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success.

 Six Sigma

I first heard of Six Sigma around 1997, I researched what I could and finally bought some program of “How to implement Six Sigma” the only problem was at that time it dealt primarily with manufacturing not power plants

 From Wikipedia:

Six Sigma is a business management strategy originally developed by Motorola, USA in 1986

A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defects per million).              

The core of Six Sigma was “born” at Motorola in the 1970s out of senior executive Art Sundry’s criticism of Motorola’s bad quality.  As a result of this criticism, the company discovered a connection between increases in quality and decreases in costs of production. At that time, the prevailing view was that quality costs extra money. In fact, it reduced total costs by driving down the costs for repair or control. Bill Smith subsequently formulated the particulars of the methodology at Motorola in 1986. Six Sigma was heavily inspired by the quality improvement methodologies of the six preceding decades, such as quality control, Total Quality Management (TQM), and Zero Defects, based on the work of pioneers such as Shewhart, Deming, Juran, Crosby, Ishikawa, Taguchi and others.

The guy from Jersey

From Tzu Sun I got the following two thoughts

          The Process

  1. Define where you are
  2. Define where you want to be
  3. Take action
  4. Monitor the Action

The Highest form or “Art” is to execute an outage without any drama

 

From Six Sigma I got the following

  1. Quality makes things cheaper
  2. You get what you measure
  3. When you get things right, your whole world changes

 

From these two I came up with this simple diagram

 

THE POINT: Everything during an outage can be improved. Changing something generally yields some positive results and some negative. Each new change will do one of three things

  1. Move you closer to your goal
  2. Move you further away from you goal
  3. It does not move you either closer or further to your goal

Like the lesson from Sun Tzu…Take action and then monitor the action and continue until you have no pain (that is the Six Sigma part).

               Engendering this process will create habits in your plant that will become your company’s culture and with a culture like this everyone wins and it seems easy because again like Sun Tzu says “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

 

THE STORY: There are so many stories I can tell that illustrate these points (Literally 100’s) but the one that best fits these points and success in outages is the story of the Dancefloor.

                At a particular plant the house maintenance staff installed a Dancefloor in their boiler every outage. When I got to the plant I wanted to pick something that would illustrate the above points in a way that would be real tangible proof that this stuff works.

                The time it took the plant to install the Dancefloor was 16 hours when we started this process. I said to the team “What would it take to install it faster”. They all replied that was as fast as they could go and I’m sure I got some “Safety Firsts” in the mix as well. I said “well they do a PIT stop in like 6 to 8 seconds and nobody gets hurt how do they do that” (In my remembrance I’m cool, calm and wise… I can assure you that’s not the way I was perceived back then) . The actual conversation went something like this

                Jay “How do we build the Dancefloor faster”

                The Minotaur (The names have been changed to protect the innocence… but you know who you are) “ what the F**k do you want to get somebody hurt, it’s  go’ in as fast as it can go”

                Jay” Well how the f**k do they do a PIT stop in eight seconds then”

                The Minotaur” well they have everything laid out and they practice what do f**king you expect”

And right there we both opened our eyes and stopped yelling at each other and got to work

 

                Over the course of the next few outage we tried new stuff and most of it made it better but sometimes we absolutely failed. We trained, staged and bought new equipment. Our total investment was weeks of work for about 5 to 6 guys and about $20,000 dollars in equipment, engineering and tools

                When it was all said and done the dance floor was installed in 4 hours (Instead of the original 16). The team had done this for 10 outages in a row, over two plus years without any safety incidents. It became the new standard.

 

                In conclusion we spent between money and time about $80,000 ($20K in purchase’s $60K in labor) which at the face of it seems like a lot. But if you consider that the plants done day cost was $60,000 and a blended rate for a mechanic on overtime was about $75/ hour the by saving 12 hours per outage the economic effect would be as follows

                12 hours of down time                  $30,000

                12 hours with ten mechanics      $9,000

 

                So each time we build the dancefloor in, in 4 hours it saved $39,000. The plant had three boilers and it took an outage on each of them once a year. So in a year it saved $117,000, well worth the investment. Moreover the personnel got to see what they could do if they put their minds to it, they failed from time to time but in the end it was a big win

If I hadn’t been studying Six Sigma at the time I would have never spent the time and money to address this. To put a point on this idea of process, habits, culture which is the foundation of all the things we do here at The Outage Expert or TOE, we did this in 1998 to 1999 and to date the plant will have saved $1,404,000 for just this alone.

An Outage Carol

“I don’t care it’s no excuse, the outage was over budget by 28% and it took three weeks longer than expected. That’s millions of dollars and that’s why you’re not getting your Christmas bonuses this year” said the new Senior Corporate Regional Operations Oversight General Executive (The SCROOGE for short) to the plant manager and his team. “we have obligations to our shareholders to bring a profit to them. After all they deserve a return of their investment. It was their investment that created the jobs that pay you. You should be thankful for your jobs and if you want a bonus next year learn how to control your outages everything else you do is fine”. With that the new SCROOGE packed up his briefcase “I’ll be late for my plane, I’ve got to go, I don’t want to miss my Christmas”

The car waiting for him in the plants parking lot scurried him off to the airport. At the airport security he breezes through the frequent flyer line. He checks his pre printed boarding pass as he walks up to the gate and he is in luck they begin boarding first class just as he walks up. He settles into his seat puts his things away and breathes a sigh of relief, traveling during the holidays is always such a crap shoot one minute your good and then you’re not and there’s nothing you can do about it.

As the plane lifts off the runway he thinks to himself “Now I can relax I’m off for a week and we are in the air nothing stopping us now” and with that he breaths an audible sigh of relief. “That’s a big load off your shoulders eh brother” came for the man sitting next to our SCROOGE. “I love flying first class don’t you” again from the adjacent seat. SCROOGE turned to look at the man sitting next to him he hadn’t noticed him getting on the plane, as he did a meaty hand greeted him “I’m TOE” he said with a chuckle “I fix things, what do you do?” Our SCROOGE, still connected to the meaty hand started to bounce from the handshaking, TOE Looked like a mix of St. Nick, a bear and a strange resemblance to Shrek. “I’m the Senior Corporate Regional Operations Oversight General Executive for a power company” answered our SCROOGE “Well that’s a mouthful” roared TOE “How about I just call you OG for the rest of trip, that OK with you?” it was our SCROOGE didn’t really like his title anyway. “Well OG what do you do?”

Our SCROOGE spent the flight telling TOE everything. He felt strange, he never disclosed this much to anyone at work, how could he?  Everything was so political in his world, you couldn’t just talk freely, you had to be worried about every little thing. It felt good talking to TOE he was understanding of all the different perspectives that had to be handled by our SCROOGE every day. “you know TOE if we could just get our outages under control we would be able to really do well by both the shareholders and the plant personnel. But when you blow an outage its millions of dollars, both in cost and in lost revenue. Nowadays the outages have to be shorter and shorter I just don’t know how we’re going to do it”. TOE laughed, it took our SCROOGE back, “why are you laughing?”

“Let me guess, you keep trying harder and harder and the outages seem to get worse and worse, is that right?” asked TOE. “Well I wouldn’t say worst but defiantly not better “answered our SCROOGE.

“You know a pretty smart fella said doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, why don’t you try something different?”.

“What would we try?  Power plants and outages have been around for a 100 years what could be different?” asked our SCROOGE.

“Well I don’t know about 100 years ago but I’m 45 and when I was young we had one black and white TV with only 7 channels and one rotary dialed phone so things have changed just a bit in my 45 years” This struck a chord with our SCROOGE. “Here try this website, when you get home I bet they have something different for you” TOE handed our SCROOGE a card and with that the plane touched down. As they came to the gate and our SCROOGE got up and got his bags together he turned to thank TOE for the sympathetic ear, he felt much better, but as he turned to shake TOE’s meaty fist, he was gone.  “Strange” he thought, but maybe he had to get somewhere.

Our SCROOGE got home Christmas eve and had a great holiday with his wife and kids. The day after Christmas he settled into his home office to catch up on his work. Most people in the plant don’t realize that time off for our SCROOGE just meant that he wasn’t in the office it doesn’t mean that he wasn’t working. There was research to do, conference calls to be on, contracts to review, financials to figure out, reports to read and emails to answer. Each thing he had to think about from all the different perspectives that had to be considered, employee safety, earnings, future earnings, environmental performance and concerns, regulations etc. etc. the list goes on and on. At the end of his day he cleaned out his brief case and in his hand he found the card that TOE had given him with nothing but the website on it, he typed it in his browser and clicked on the Enter key. On the screen appeared “Thank you for your interest, later on this evening you be visited by three ghost’s do not be scared they are here to help”. Our SCROOGE sat back “figures just another crackpot, what kind of name is TOE anyway”. He shut the computer down and went on with his night.

His wife and children had gone to bed, Our SCROOGE was up watching a movie, he could sleep in the morning, a rarity. He got up to get a midnight snack and as he opened the frig a great white light burst forth and sucked him into the frig. He was immediately transported to a 40’ cargo container flying through time and space, inside stood a man, smoking a cigarette, drinking coffee and yelling the most vulgar and protracted set of explicative’s into the phone with an Irish brogue that was close to undecipherable. He pointed at our SCROOGE and motioned for him to come closer. Our SCROOGE did so, the smoky  mad Irishmen stuck his hand out and our SCROOGE did the same. Soon our SCROOGE was on his knees caught in the iron grip of the filthy mouth oversized leprechaun. With an evil look in his eye and a mischievous grin on his lips the yellow fingered apparition released our SCROOGE while shouting “Have a nice day buddy”. As our SCROOGE got up off the floor, the ghost spoke “I’m the f**king Ghost of f**king outages past, let’s take a f**king walk”. Off they went, the ghost was hard to understand, there was a lot of swearing, almost every other word it seemed like, and the brogue make nothing easy either. Our SCROOGE none the less absorbed a great many images of the way outages were. They took 4 to 6 months, they were major jobs, planned years in advanced. Outages consisted of wall replacements, pendant change outs, basket bottoms, turbine overhauls, generator rewinding. It took 100’s of men working 12 hour and 16 hour shifts for months straight without a day off. Each unit had a major outage every 5 years and the utility held this as gospel. Certainly not what went on in today’s day and age. Something stuck though, these crews did nothing but outages and the way they moved and executed work was very different than the day to day operations of a plant. They knew everything about each piece of equipment. There was a tremendous amount of field supervision with a clear line on command  That was interesting, as soon as these thoughts gelled up in our SCROOGE’s head he found himself standing in front of his frig holding a carton of milk reeking of cigarette smoke. “What the heck was that” he shook his head and poured himself a glass of milk and went back to the TV.

Still absorbing what had or had not happened he began flipping through the channels, he paused on a motor home commercial.  As he listened to the commercial he suddenly realized that he was in a motor home driving down the interstate and the commercial announcer was the driver. Where are we going asked our SCROOGE, “to the next outage, we’re the tube guys we show up take the old tubes out and put new tubes in” The driver was a tall lanky dark hair well spoken man “I’m the ghost of outages present if you haven’t figured that out yet but you can call me Chris it’s easier” he stuck his hand out and after the last experience our SCROOGE was hesitant, Chris laughed, ”I’m not like the past its safe” our SCROOGE shook his hand just as they were pulling into a plant. Chris was a far cry from the last ghost, he was well spoken, he had been an English teacher, he was well tempered and patent. Chris showed our SCROOGE everything he and his crew were doing, they were very knowledgeable. When our SCROOGE asked Chris about the NDE, Chris shrugged his shoulders and said it’s not our job. It was the same for the scaffolding, sandblasting, mechanical work it seemed that Chris was an expert in what he was doing but had no knowledge or care about anything else. Chris explained that the overall knowledge of everything was supposed to be the responsibility of the plant. He went on the explain that the plant never did any of this type of work during its operation so finding someone in the plant who knew everything was not something that happened very often. Our SCROOGE said “well where does a plant guy get this experience?” Chris shook his head “just bouncing around I guess”. Our SCROOGE said “that won’t work” and he suddenly found himself sitting in his chair in front of the TV once again.

From behind him he heard a chuckle, it was the same chuckle he had heard on the plane he turned to find TOE. “I’m far less dramatic then my fellow shades” said TOE “come over here I made some coffee you’re going to need it”. As the two of them made their coffee they walked into the dining room and in the center of the table was a huge crystal ball. “Like I said, I’m much less flashy, just look into the crystal at the outages of the future and watch; when you’re finished we’ll have a talk”. Our SCROOGE watched and what he saw amazed him. Outage after outage on time and on budget all executed by the plant personnel and all the contractors came and went with proper supervision and quality. The plant budgets came under control and the skills that the plant personnel gained during the outages grew new and better supervision and more well rounded management. After what seemed like hours our SCROOGE looked away and the crystal vanished. “Well, did you like what you saw?”. “Yes, how do we get from where we are now to there” our SCROOGE pointed to the spot where the crystal had been. “By doing something different than what you are currently doing” said TOE. “Wait let me get a pad” said our SCROOGE. “Don’t bother, I know a guy who can help, a real guy not one of us shades. He will train your people and get them running great outages, here is his card”

Twas the Night before the Outage

 Twas the night before the outage, when all through the plant
Not a creature was stirring, not even a Gantt.
The tubes were hung by the stack with care,
In hopes that all the contractors soon would be there.

The accountants were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of lower cost’s danced in their heads.
And Operations in their permits, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long nights nap.

When out in the lot there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the office to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the blinds and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Winnebago, and eight trailers being towed in the rear.

With a little old driver, so lively and curt,
I knew in a moment it must be The Outage Expert.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the dancefloor! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the boiler house the coursers they flew,
With the trailers full of Tubes, and The Outage Expert too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the boiler
The clanging and banging of each little toiler.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the stack The Outage Expert came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Tubes he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the holes, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the stack he rose!

He sprang to his Winnebago, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

From all of us at The Outage Expert

Just a bit of fun

Happy Holidays everyone