Remember the wolf pack

Real progress comes from inside the plant. The more I witness real success stories in industry, the more convinced I am that real progress is nearly always internally generated and driven.
By Richard L. Dunn July 1, 1998

Real progress comes from inside the plant. The more I witness real success stories in industry, the more convinced I am that real progress is nearly always internally generated and driven. That’s one of the major reasons plants need to be wary of outsourcing.

This is not a slam at outsourcing. It has its time and place. In fact, it’s a necessity. But a plant can’t count on contractors to drive the progress that most companies are looking for. The plant employees, and more specifically the plant management, must be the driving force.

No where is this situation more critical than in plant and facilities management. The big projects — the ones that make a significant long-term difference — must be initiated and managed internally no matter how much of the project is contracted. This simple truth is becoming clearer to me as I talk with plant engineers about what they are doing and the benefits they expect to accomplish.

For example, there appears to be growing recognition on the part of top management that their facility’s assets are capable of producing more capacity than they had previously thought possible. Among the sources of this additional capacity are reductions in scheduled and unscheduled outages, process related losses, and others. And among the methods for claiming additional capacity are improved maintenance processes, increased equipment and system reliability, and concerted efforts by facilities and production personnel to work together in uncovering and correcting root causes of diminished capacity.

There is an old saying that the strength of the pack is in the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is in the pack. And so it is in the industrial plant. The strength of the plant is in the individuals with the vision and dedication to pursue a course of continuous improvement. And these individuals, in turn, are strengthened by the support of the plant as a whole. It’s rare that a contractor becomes an integral part of such a relationship.

The motivation to accomplish great progress, the initiation of culture-changing ideas, and the desire to move into new technologies and methods have to come from within the plant. The enterprise that depends on outside forces for the big ideas or the passion to excel with stretch goals and real innovation will always be a follower.