Improving efficiency and optimising performance is a constant concern for the process industries. While technology plays an important part in this, it’s also a matter of the right mindset.
John Saysell of MCP, who has worked across UK manufacturing for many years, offers these 10 principles of best practice that help process operators “work smarter and increase output”…
Safety is not an option
Reliable operation depends on safety. If equipment is not safe, then it cannot be reliable.
Insist on relevant competence-based training
In my experience, when people know why they are required to do certain tasks they are much more likely to carry them out. Formal, ‘hands-on’ training is vital for an operator’s understanding as to how their equipment works.
It’s not musical chairs
The training of operators on a variety of machines can be useful and helps allay boredom. But the need to train all operators on all machines is misplaced.
Cleaning. Inspection. Lubrication. Tightening
Efficiency is underpinned by clean machinery and a tidy workplace. Operators must be inducted into effective cleaning regimes. Cleaning is a precursor to Inspection – here potential problems can be seen.
The golden rules of lubrication are the right lubricant, at the right time and in the right amount. Easy to follow visual tools should be used to distinguish different types of lubricants to ensure the right lube is used.
When people know why they are required to do certain tasks they are much more likely to carry them out
Following on from the structured cleaning and inspection routines, the need to tighten various fasteners and fixings may be identified. Ideally, the tightening will be carried out using a calibrated torque wrench.
Don’t give up on root cause analysis (RCA)
Some operators and technicians are sceptical about RCAs. RCAs’ bad press is often due to a rushed process with trigger points being set too low. Team leaders should understand the need for good RCA.
Bring accuracy to product and size changeover
Of great relevance to manufacturing is product changeover. Many companies find they struggle with product changes. The machines and operators can only perform accurately when given accurate data.
Get involved in operator asset care (OAC)
Involving operators in OAC takes their effectiveness to a new level. OAC is all about production and maintenance working as a team. It is best sustained when it is part of a structure and has a road map clearly planned. An OAC programme is based on the principle that the people operating production equipment, on a daily/regular basis, are the ones most capable of improving equipment reliability and performance.
Benefits derive from good data
Complaining about the problem machines are having and expecting management to do something about is a lost cause. To effect change at management level you need to bring data to the table.
That SOP is there to be followed
Instil into your operators that the standard operating procedure (SOP) is there to be adhered to, ensuring the equipment is fit to start, perform a product change or shut down.
Respect your operators
Looking after your operators will pay off in terms of job satisfaction and productivity. The best equipment operators enjoy their work, they see the value in what they do.
John Saysell is head of business development at MCP Consulting Group Ltd.
As published in Process Engineering, May 2019