Time for Spring Cleaning?

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Yes, it is that time of year again. You are working around the house, cleaning this, rearranging that ," "kicking the tires" so to speak. The job can be quite challenging.

You also might want to consider spring cleaning within the plant. It could be time to apply new paint, throw out trash, donate equipment to universities and even sell that old mixer to the used equipment vendor. You might want to make a "spring-cleaning/kick-the-tires" list.

Making that list

Your plant is made up of people, equipment and materials. Although spring cleaning in the people area might be desirable, it is not the focus of this column.

With regard to equipment, maintenance is important. It is not an extraneous expense and needs to be a priority.

Did maintenance go as expected over the past year? Do you need to review your preventive maintenance program?

Preventive maintenance issues might have changed since last year. Perhaps some maintenance was unnecessary, and other maintenance not performed actually was needed. Or maybe some maintenance that was cancelled still is needed and needs to be put back on the list.

How about the maintenance projects that come around infrequently ," are you prepared for these? Do your maintenance crews have sufficient training to handle these projects? Do you have the equipment to do the jobs? Have the jobs been scheduled? Does your maintenance crew know about them? Are you going to videotape the maintenance? Does your maintenance crew allow this?

Do you need to outsource specific maintenance projects to contractors? If so, have you checked recently to see if these outside contractors still are available and what their services will cost?

Have the technologies for infrequent maintenance projects remained the same over the years? If not, how have they changed? Have new techniques or equipment changes been introduced that could make the maintenance unnecessary in the future?

Infrequent maintenance projects are difficult in that you might not be sure when they are needed. For example, acid liners look rather worn at 10 years. Is it time to change the liners? Probably not, considering their service life is 15 years. But are you sure? Do you need to test them?

Keeping in touch

As part of spring cleaning, you might want to visit your suppliers. Do you know who they are? Personal contact certainly improves information exchange.

Have you updated any technology recently? Is it being used effectively?

Do you have new human resources? Do you make effective use of those? Do you have performance indices on utilization? Are you providing an environment that keeps morale high? Are new people receiving fair and timely treatment and training? What new skills do you need in your work force?

Are your management skills effective? Management skills sometimes need a special "tire kick."

The "go-go" 1990s are over. You might want to evaluate old business themes such as Six Sigma and empowerment. Are they still effective?

Have you conducted a walk-through of the plant lately? What are your people telling you? What is your process telling you? What things are you not hearing that you want to hear?

What is working well? What is not? How can "failures" in processes and procedures be avoided?

One last question: What have you overlooked?

Simple questions such as these often can be quite revealing.

Spring is here ," time to start that list. You probably have a lot to do.

Tatterson is a technical editor for

Chemical Processing. He is a professor at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. Contact him at gbt@ncat.edu. He also teaches short courses for the Center for Professional Advancement, www.cfpa.com.
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