Sweat the small stuff

Back in 1997 an inspirational book by Richard Carlson titled, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: And It's All Small Stuff, became a bestseller. It's still very popular. Based on the idea that we can reduce stress and anxiety in our lives "if we learn not to worry about little things," Carlson provided a plethora of tips on how we can learn to deal with life's annoyances and enjoy "the magic and beaut...

09/10/2004


Back in 1997 an inspirational book by Richard Carlson titled, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: And It's All Small Stuff , became a bestseller. It's still very popular. Based on the idea that we can reduce stress and anxiety in our lives "if we learn not to worry about little things," Carlson provided a plethora of tips on how we can learn to deal with life's annoyances and enjoy "the magic and beauty" of life.

Unfortunately, the title almost became a mantra for anybody who wanted to duck responsibility or ignore details. That isn't the point of the book, of course, but for many the title said it all.

One place the concept most emphatically does not apply is in today's industry, where sweating the small stuff is the heart of quality and productivity. By sweating the small stuff, for example, the Japanese provided a model that turned U.S. industry on its ear.

I'm reminded of this notion periodically when I contemplate what defines excellence in plant engineering and maintenance. As I have the opportunity to study what makes various plants outstanding performers, I'm invariably struck with their attention to the details of the basics.

Successful preventive maintenance, for example, is dependent on attention to the small stuff that prevents the "big stuff" from happening. And it requires relentless attention to the details of scheduling and record keeping. Preventive maintenance demands sweating the small stuff.

The same holds true for predictive maintenance. PdM is, after all, an analysis of the small, telltale details that signal something bigger will happen if action is not taken. It is meaningless without attention to the small stuff.

And what about the bigger activities like shutdowns/turnarounds, rebuilds, or expansions? Here again, the more detailed and thorough the planning, the greater the likelihood of completion on time and on budget. We all know the agony of watching a project come to a halt because a single, "insignificant" part wasn't in stock or some other detail was overlooked.

The list could go on and on. And while every enterprise likes to point to its major accomplishments, the most successful ones recognize that continuous improvement is the result of innumerable small accomplishments. It isn't enough to reduce energy consumption just by installing the latest technology. You still have to turn off the lights when they aren't needed.

It may be all well and good to keep our perspective by asking, as Carlson suggests, "Will this really matter a year from now?" After all, so much of what we fret about is unimportant in the total scheme of our lives.

Yet, I've never run across a plant that was able to achieve excellence with the slogan, "Don't sweat the small stuff."

It's vital to develop big ideas, set big goals, and keep a focus on the most important things in our lives — professional and otherwise. But it's sweating the small stuff day by day that eventually makes those ideas reality and provides the foundation for continuous improvement and consistent excellence.





No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2016 Product of the Year; Diagnose bearing failures; Asset performance management; Testing dust collector performance measures
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me