There is an old saying in the restaurant industry: when the food or service begins to break down, management or ownership should seek to solve the issue by talking to the people within 10 feet of the problem. The individuals who work in close proximity to systems that are bringing down performance are also the ones most likely to recognize whether equipment is causing diminished performance. If a cook can’t get as many orders out of the kitchen as they used to, it might be because one of the stovetops is not lighting, or another essential piece of equipment is malfunctioning. Major plants and facilities work in much the same fashion, and operators are generally going to be the people within 10 feet of the problem.
According to a study at the Penn State Applied Research Lab, North American industry could recover $200 billion to $500 billion annually through improved physical asset management. In other words, by eliminating the gaps between current and potential performance, businesses can create major improvements to their bottom line. Further, the people best equipped to recognize the problems with physical assets are those who operate them.
One way to improve the performance of these key assets is by examining the areas where the most problems occur, and then taking steps to find out exactly what is impacting the ability to operate at maximum efficiency. As seen in the example chart below, certain areas of the business clearly show more downtime than others.
In this example, the furnace operator, if properly trained, might be able to identify issues that can be easily solved and eliminate downtime in that area—leading to a rapid improvement in overall performance.
Operators must be completely prepared to quickly troubleshoot and correct problems before they negatively impact the business. Operators should be trained effectively and continuously to ensure they are operating with the latest knowledge. As mentioned in the blog Designing Technical Training With Precision, “living course design plans” are needed for operators to stay current. Their roles are critical. Operators must have intricate knowledge of the workings of systems and equipment, be able to identify problems before they get out of hand, and take the steps necessary to mitigate issues that would cause disruption or damage if left unchecked. Early detection of problems, such as overheating or vibration, can prevent expensive problems from occurring and eliminate downtime for key pieces of equipment.
The impact of most equipment failures can be mitigated when operators know their equipment inside and out, recognize what normal performance should look like, and determine when equipment needs maintenance or service. For more information on how you can improve operator reliability, please contact GP Strategies here.
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