Decision making: dealing with other’s criticism

Decision makingSome time ago, I was advising a person in his first steps on a leadership role, and it came up one of the most difficult issues in management, especially for young professionals: you can’t make everyone happy with your decisions.

Decision making is one of the main entrusted responsibilities companies place on managers, confident that they will do what is best for their departments and the company. Continue reading

A Great Example of Engineering Thinking

I’m a big passionate about all engineering fields. Some time ago, while I was looking for something on Youtube, I came across a documentary trailer about an alternative project to send a tripulated mission to Mars. The documentary was called The Mars Underground and, after watching it, I was fascinated with some engineering aspects of the film and it moved me to write this post on engineering thinking. Continue reading

Energy Measurement: How much are you really achieving with your strategy?

Energy MeasurementThere are so many things to consider in energy management; from specific actions to improve energy efficiency, to Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and procurement strategies. Although all of them are important and should be taken into account, there is one element that is paramount for a successful energy management strategy: energy measurement.

We can take many actions to improve our energy efficiency, but without the capacity to measure the results, we would never be able to know if we are in the right path. Measurement should be one of the first steps before starting working with energy efficiency. By doing that, we will know where we are in terms of energy consumption and will be capable of tracking and monitoring its evolution.

Implementing an effective energy measurement strategy could be difficult, especially in old facilities where the energy installation and distribution networks aren’t optimised to provide measurement capability. To be able to monitor our consumption effectively we should divide our measurement strategy in two groups: permanent measurement and access points for casual energy monitoring.

The basis of our permanent measurement system should be the overall consumption for the whole facility. It is important to have a clear picture about our total energy consumption. Sometimes we can use the measuring devices from energy companies to get this information. However, it is a good practice to have it also sectorised, especially if our company has areas with different energy needs. For example, in an automotive company, the largest energy consumer is the paintshop, followed by the body plant and lastly the assembly plant. If we only measure the total consumption, the reductions and improvements in the lower consumers won’t be evident enough and they will be difficult to track; to sort this out, it is better to measure and track the consumption separately.

When we plan our general measurement strategy, we can make the decision to allocate a permanent measuring device to measure the major consumers regularly. However, other times we only need to record the consumption of a machine or production line for a limited period of time; in this situation it’s not worth having such dedicated equipment on a permanent basis. For these cases rather than installing permanent measuring devices we can provide easy access to portable device in order to measure the consumption.
I will address the energy management policies topic in a future article. Meanwhile, here are some points related exclusively to energy measurement that are worth considering:

  • When we talk about energy measurement we should include at least electricity and natural gas, but we should also monitor water (although is not an energy, it is usually part of our overall green strategy), compressed air, heat and cooling, that sometimes can be measured indirectly at the point of generation.
  • Measure and monitor the consumption of the whole company and also the main areas separately, especially if the difference in their energy demand is high.
  • Keep track of your energy consumption and put your historical data in a graph to monitor its evolution, especially after starting implementing energy improvement actions.
  • When your budget is limited and you want to make sectorised measurements in your facility, if you are already measuring the total amount of energy, you can install one less measuring device and get the remaining area consumption by subtracting all the partial measurements from the total.
  • When you track your consumption regularly, you can detect drastic changes, identify the causes and act promptly to fix the problems.
  • When building new facilities, keep the energy networks sectorised. If it’s not worth installing a permanent measuring device, make sure to provide an accessible point of measurement
  • It is a good practice to set up the company policy regarding energy measurement. Establish a specific power limit so all consumers above that value will have fixed energy measurement devices.
  • If you have a limited budget to spend in your measuring strategy, you can track your consumption at a general level (maybe installing permanent measuring devices only for the complete plant and a few critical sectors). Measuring devices can be expensive, especially if we need ones with especial capabilities like real time recording. A good approach for this could be hiring a company that provides this kind of services. They are usually affordable and if we use this resource smartly, it can be really cost effective.

All in all, it is important to measure and monitor our energy consumption. If we want to take our energy efficiency seriously we need to quantify and validate every improvement we made to be sure that we are getting the expected results. Furthermore, it is crucial to keep all the improvements sustainable over time.

Do you know HOW your equipment fail?

The old maintenance approach was traditionally based on replacing the equipment’s components at the right time, just before they fail. This viewpoint was derived from the belief that all the components would progressively wear down until they finally fail. Six Failure PatternsNowadays, the modern maintenance approach is based on the fact that only a small percentage of equipment actually follow this behaviour. However, since the classic belief is somewhat intuitive, there are still many maintenance departments who base their maintenance strategy on it.
Let’s have a look at the different ways a component can fail during its operating life.

Continue reading

Energy Efficiency: Why should we care?

Energy Efficiency

During the last decade, taking care of the Energy Efficiency of facilities has become a normal practice for an increasing number of companies. Undoubtedly, minimizing our impact on the environment is paramount to preserve our planet. Notwithstanding, there is another aspect of energy efficiency that makes it even more attractive for companies. Continue reading

An alternative way to meet your staff’s training needs

Training method to face machine failuresHaving a training plan for your personnel is always a good practice. However, sometimes it’s not possible to find the adequate course because the topic is too specific, the course is not available at that moment or is too expensive.

Many years ago, while working at a maintenance department, I was looking for a training course for our personnel and couldn’t find one that fulfilled our requirements in terms of cost and availability. Still, I really needed to train our technicians so I found an alternative way to do it. Continue reading

How to Validate your Decisions Using Statistics (Analysis of Variance) – Part II

crossroadsIn the previous post I showed how to solve a simple problem by performing an Analysis of Variance (if you haven’t read it, please click here). The example was about three different methods to perform a task and we wanted to know if we are getting different results or the variations on the data are only due to the population dispersion.

Generally speaking, we compared the variances between the three samples and the variances within each sample and used the Variance Ratio Test to know, with a specific confidence interval, if the samples are coming from the same population, which in practical terms (referred to our example) means that the different methods are not changing the outcomes. In our example we rejected this hypothesis, so we can say that there is a significant difference between the methods. Continue reading

9 Points for Effective Brainstorming (Part II)

BrainstormingIn the first post I described the main key points for planning a successful brainstorming session. They were basically the tips related to the preparation of the workshop. Now let’s focus on some useful points to lead the session itself. Continue reading

How to Validate your Decisions Using Statistics (Analysis of Variance) – Part I

Are we producing the desired effects?In manufacturing environments, as well as in many other settings, we take actions and modify parameters, procedures and processes to obtain a specific result (usually to improve the situation). In these cases we need to know if the obtained result is a expected consequence of our changes or we’re just observing variations inherent to the population, that are not related to our actions.

One of the techniques we can use is the Analysis of Variance which is a powerful tool used in statistical design of experiments, Lean Manufacturing, Reliability Engineering and in situations involving many variables and/or samples from different populations.

It’s true that many software can perform this calculation automatically; however, it’s important to know how the method works – at least with a simple example like the one below – to be able to interpret and take advantage of the results the software we’ll give us when solving more complex problems. Continue reading

9 Points for Effective Brainstorming (Part I)

Brainstorming SessionBrainstorming is one of the most popular tools used by professional teams to find innovative solutions and ideas. It’s a quite popular technique and I’ve heard many times of people suggesting a brainstorming session to find innovative solutions for difficult problems. However, to be effective, this technique needs to be carefully led. I’ve seen many brainstorming meetings that derived in a disorganised discussion without achieving any concrete results.
After leading many brainstorming meetings I’d like to share with you 9 tips for running a successful brainstorming
session. Continue reading