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In my last newsletter I stated I had taken a new part time role at one of the local universities here in Melbourne. Most of my dealings have been with 3rd year engineering students, but occasionally I get to deal final year and postgraduate students.

Remember, when dealing with students, they have been conditioned by the education system for the instructors to tell them the scope of work. I am still learning how to deal with the new paradigm (which is different in industry, where we workers often define our scope of work). While describing what I expected on a drawing, I said they would not need to show lubrication pumps. One student asked “what is a lubrication pump?”
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We have safety rules for a reason (often a very good reason). But sometimes they can cause problems. For example, I have arthritis in my feet, and I have taken to wearing sandals to better manage the pain. Normally this is not a problem, but if I call on a client, and they have footwear rules, this can be a problem for me.

I recently visited an industrial site. I was going to only be in the office building – I was not going to go into the process at all. I asked the guard at the gate if I could wear my sandals onto his site.
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Two articles really caught my eye this month. One was from the UK (thanks to my business partner Patrick Alilovic for finding it,), which discussed risk management and aging facilities. The other was from Australia on how Shell is closing its 90-year old refinery in Sydney, reducing the number of operating oil refineries in Australia from 8 in 2003 to 6 after this closure. They both highlight the need to manage risk with older and aging facilities in a cost effective way to stay competitive, but from a completely different perspective.

The UK article is here. It is an excellent read, and discusses how predictive maintenance can be used to basically stop the aging process. My overly simplistic definition of predictive maintenance is … repair based on actual data from measurements. Since we do not want to shut down to do the measurements, we need to install instruments to make the measurements while operating. This requires a significant investment from management, because management must resist the temptation to cut the maintenance budget for one or two years to reduce overall operating costs (and thus falsely justify a bonus).
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My wife recently upgraded her phone. And it was a MAJOR upgrade, as she had not upgraded in 4-years. She found herself using many new features, and learning about other new features that she did not fully understand …

And then … I realised she was embracing change.
Many organisations need to change to keep pace, yet they often have problems changing. The problems are numerous, but are often related to employees / staff / key personnel resisting the change, instead desiring to keep things unchanged.
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Many times I have come across so called “rules of thumb” in delivering my training courses. And I am surprised at how often many people “blindly” accept them – almost with the same reverence as accepting the words of a legally binding standard. I do try to drive home the point that a rule of thumb is a “starting point” for doing a calculation or an assessment, but it may not be the final answer. Read more »

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Contingency planning – I am sure everyone has done it in some form. We do it in our personal lives, we do it in our professional lives, and we do it in our recreational lives. Some classic examples include:

+ a backup plan for rain for an outdoor wedding (alternative plan)
+ strapping knees or ankles to minimise the chance of injury (risk reduction)
+ buying insurance (compensation)
+ building fire drills and evacuation drills (law, good practice, risk reduction)
Project Management is a discipline that requires almost continual and ongoing contingency planning (many project managers will question my use of the word “almost”). Read more »

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The speedometer on my car goes to 230 km/hr. I seriously doubt if I have the skill to drive my car that fast, but if I could (and did) my car woudl not last very long. As the load on the engine increases, the maintenance requirements also increase – sometimes drastically.

This is one of the interesting things about industries using combustion engines and combustion gas turbines – we have the more power / more maintenance cost trade off to constantly consider.

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As I write this, the Australian Open Tennis tournament is being contested. A men’s singles match from the second round caught my eye. It featured Gilles Simon and Julien Benneteau, both from France. Simon won more games (25 to 24) and more points (165 to 163) but Benneteau won the match 3 sets to 2. Using different measurements, Simon would have won.

It got me thinking about measuring success in industry, and if there were “successful” results that would have been failures had other measurements been used.
When I was in operations, we had one measurement that management used to show overnight performance on the morning report – sales gas calorific value. If we made 1003 Btu/cubic foot it was considered as good as possible. If we made 1004, questions were asked. We them implemented a project involving adding a new supply field. Overtime, the plant produced 1004 Btu/cubic foot. We never could produce 1003. I stopped trying to figure out the plant, and looked at the measurement. I came to the conclusion that for this NEW feed, 1004 was optimum. I spent a great deal of effort trying to get management to accept this “new” measurement. Eventually I was successful.

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First of all … I hope 2012 is an excellent year for you.

It appears Thomas Kuhn developed the concept of paradigm shift in 1962 when he wrote “The Structure of Scientific Revolution”. Today, the term is used and often abused, but it appears to be a change of thinking from one way to another.

I recently had a mild paradigm shift. I say mild because it is not earth-shattering, and some of you will roll your eyes at my paradigm shift, but it is a paradigm shift nonetheless.

As part of my training courses, I often discuss valves. I introduce valves with hand gestures, and I am adamant the delegates use the correct hand. This is because most valves are right handed. A right handed valve is closed by turning the top of the hand wheel to the right (a clockwise motion). The term “righty-tighty lefty-loosy” applies to valves. By turning the top of the hand wheel to the right it become tight (the valve is shut off or closed). By turning the top of the hand wheel to the left it become loose (the valve is loose, therefore opened). When delegates use the incorrect hand, the demonstration does not work as well.

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I am finishing 8 trips in 9 weeks, and last time I wrote of my “interesting” experience with a hotel smoke alarm. It was my first experience with a smoke alarm in a hotel, and it was caused by a software error.
So imagine my surprise when it happened a second time in 3 weeks. The second time it was real. Not serious (trivial really), but real. The second incident was caused by a person that lit a candle in their room. Somehow, the candle ignited a piece of paper, and (to the surprise of the candle burning guest) that activated the smoke alarm. I had to evacuate my hotel room AGAIN. Unlike last time where I had shampoo in my eyes, this time I was fully dressed and working on my laptop. But it was raining (and not just raining – it was absolutely pouring).
When I travel I do make a note of the fire exits, but after the shampoo incident I thoroughly check them out. And I had no trouble evacuating. On the way down the evacuation siren stopped, but not in time to stop me from having to go outside into heavy rain.
At the ground level, the hotel staff advised all guests they could return to their rooms as the fire was extinguished. It was here that staff told me about “candle person”. And unlike last time, I was impressed with the response of the hotel staff.

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