No matter how good your equipment is, it can only be as good as the operator allows it to be. (picture) Our chicken and egg question today is…do you hire in skills and expertise or do you develop them in-house?
It is relatively easy to purchase and import new (and sometimes second hand) equipment knowing what optimal performance can be expected once installed. The problem arises in finding the correct knowledge and skills to operate the equipment at maximum efficiency. Recruiting operators with the specific skill sets and product knowledge required for your plant and equipment is nearly impossible. Often basic training is given and over time we see efficiencies that are below expected standards. Pressure is applied to improve production resulting in little or no planned or preventative maintenance because any downtime means lost production. Over time the production team become demotivated and the equipment deteriorates leading to more and more unplanned stoppages.
So how do we develop and foster this knowledge. Working on the premiss that “None of us is as smart as all of us” Over the years I have found that the knowledge and skills we need to be world class are generally on the shop floor. The problem is that it is scattered amongst all of the operators, technicians and management staff. The solution is find the people with these pockets of knowledge and skill sets and create an environment that will allow them to document and coach their expertise.
African story…a filling team used the ‘Back 2 Basics’ process to create a Best Operating Practice by putting all their knowledge and skills in one place. Each ‘expert’ drew up a One Point Lesson (OPL) for each bit of knowledge or skill they had. Sometimes a few would gather together to pool their resources. Once the OPL’s were developed every member of the team was trained and tested by their peers resulting in a high performance team with multi skilled members. After 3 months equipment performance had improved by 18% and unplanned stoppages reduced to zero.
Sustainability is driven by Continuous Improvement (Kaizen), which must become part of your culture. This means the establishment of small group activities to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing function by minimising inputs and maximising outputs through loss analysis. It takes some time…so persevere. The result will be that your equipment will become more reliable leading to operation and life cycle costs being reduced. Training and multi skilling should become an everyday routine and you will find that authority is replaced with leadership.