Monday, December 16, 2013

Do You Need More Wedding Planning in Your Plant Outage?

So lets talk about really solid outage planning and scheduling. Not the half-hearten effort that I sometimes see organizations pass off as planning and scheduling, we want to see the good stuff.
Imagine if you will, a wedding. It could be yours or your kids, but think back to that process. Here are just some of the key pieces that were crucial to creating that special day.
Scheduling starts early with all big life turnarounds:
You picked a date for execution of the plan. Hopefully, it was not a reaction to a problem that was brought to your attention during the previous week and instead was scheduled well in advance (a year) and with the full agreement of all parties. It hopefully was picked based on resource availability and with the agreement of both members of the operations team, the bride and groom.
Budget bound:
A high level budget was created based on either what you were willing to spend, what you had available, or what you had been allocated from the parental organization. This at first is an order of magnitude or a not to exceed number that you broke down and further detailed as the planning process was completed.
Experts do what experts do:
Unless weddings are a particularly interesting past time for you then you probably lacked experience in certain areas or may not have had the resources to do all the work internally. For those areas you might have hired an expert. Experts could include professional wedding planners, musicians, tent and table erectors, chefs, photographer, and florist. These people do not always work well together so the coordination was key. For instance if the photographer arrived to do his work before the tent erectors or the florist you could have a real problem on your hands and face embarrassment, lost time and money. That is where the detailed schedule has to be defined and followed.
Planning and then Scheduling:
With all the additional labor needed and all of the task that must be completed in a timely manner you more than likely first built a simple plan and then with time expanded on that plan with detailed steps or task for completion. That plan included pre-work items that had to be done in advance and items that would be executed on the day of the event. The plans included all the important details like what songs to play and what foods to serve. All of these could then be sequenced into the schedule and a critical path review could be performed. Normally here in the US people are not prepared to attend a wedding where it takes two days to complete the ceremony because some forgot to tell the caterer that it was a mid day wedding. Getting all of the activities completed in a 4-6 hour period is important. The critical path tells us if that is possible with the choices we have made. So both time and money become limiting factors that must be attended to. Since we know time lets look at money.
Request for Quote (RFQ) budget refinement:
If you are like me, once you decided on the date, time, and the location and the types of expert that you needed you began to get bids and and built a more complex budget with allocations to each part of the event. There were trade offs and discussions until you finalized the monetary side of the plan. Do you spend more on the dress and less on the flowers? Can we get a DJ instead of an orchestra?
At the two week out point you review the job plans, evaluate weather and family risk and put mitigation strategies into effect as required. Aunt Suzy did not want to set next to uncle Carl so you updated the seating plan one last time. You verify completion of the pre-work and you mentally prepare for the big day by meeting with your operations partner. At this point you cross the final gate and green light the event knowing that it is the best that it can be. 
Your outage should be no different. Everything you see above should be done in the plant too.
Remember all this planning went into one 4-6 hour day and your outage may be a week or even longer. Are you planning and scheduling like a wedding planner or do your weddings aimlessly go on for days?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Coordinated Constraint Management vs. Chaotic Improvement

a guest post by Darrin Wikoff:

“Constraint Management”, the phrase used by Dr. Goldratt in his book The goal: a process of ongoing improvement, is based on the understanding that the rate of throughput, revenue, or work is limited by a minimum of one constraining process or process step (i.e. the bottleneck) and management must focus only on increasing the flow at the bottleneck in order to achieve optimum levels of throughput.

Constraint management follows five basic steps:

1.    Identify the constraint – the singular element of your system or process that most significantly limits your organizations ability to achieve the desired level of capacity or takt time.

2.    Exploit the constraint – verify that the constraining element, step, or process is behaving as designed and is performing a function that is unique to only the constraint.  If the function being performed is not unique to the identified constraint then this element of your system is an “error”, or process variable which has occurred as a result of a constraint, so dig deeper, keep looking.

3.    Prioritize the constraint – all other process variables are the result of the constraint and, therefore, will be resolved by managing the constraint.

4.    Remove the constraint – increase throughput (flow) at the constraint in order to increase overall capacity.  Verify that the constraint is removed by evaluating takt time and the cycle time for the given step or process.

5.    “Don't let inertia become the constraint”, says Dr. Goldratt - realize that a new constraint has formed as a result of managing the previous constraint.  Return to #1.

Dr. Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints is a time-valued practice that allows business leaders to focus narrowly to improve the holistic performance of their operation.  Over the past several years, as Lean and Six Sigma efforts have become more and more predominant, I commonly see and hear of Managers who are overwhelmed by the number of issues or problems associated with their manufacturing process.  In these organizations, numerous improvement or Six Sigma teams exist to eliminate chronic problems which are perceived to be limiting plant performance.  If the operation contains nine processes in order to produce a single product, then there are nine separate initiatives, all focused blindly with no regard to the greater connection within the enterprise system, all efforts consuming resources and business leaders’ time and energy.  Business leaders should stop and identify the one constraint that limits the entire process, focus all efforts on improving this singular bottleneck, and track performance in order to prevent recurrence before tackling the next constraint.