Filed under: — Doug Contreras @ 3:29 am on

George was a brilliant businessman and a consummate salesperson. He had an engaging personality enjoyed by customers and employees alike. Like many entrepreneurs, he involved himself in too many areas of his business and due to the time constraints created by his over-involvement, he tended to leave things unfinished and in disarray. His style of communication was not too much different. So as not to waste time, his statements on company policy were brief, verbal and expressed in bits and pieces. While George had the whole concept in his head, he would vocalize only enough to deal with the issue at hand. His policy position one day would often seem to be completely opposite to the one stated the day before. As the guy who was recruited to bring order and organization to his company, I developed the following approach:

  • Each time an issue would arise that called for a policy proclamation, I made note of it and George’s response.
  • Afterwards, I would discretely poll the affected people as to their interpretation of the policy and arrive at a consensus opinion which resulted in a draft procedure describing the action details and the responsible parties.
  • Next I submitted the draft to George who inevitably shot it full of holes. This forced him to respond in writing to my misunderstandings which formed the basis of my draft revision.
  • Upon submitting the revision to George, he generally cited only one or two minor issues which I addressed in the final version.
  • When George signed off on the final version, I sent copies to the responsible parties. Additionally I established and maintained 5 indexed loose leaf binders, one for George, one for Production, one for Sales, one for Customer Service and one for myself.
  • At our next production meeting, George and I would discuss the new procedure in detail to insure that everyone was on board.
  • On a periodic basis, I would review each procedure with George to insure its continuing validity. Additionally, I made it a point to review them with the responsible parties to clarify any misunderstandings and determine any problems with compliance.

This is only one of many approaches that can be used to establish a formal statement of company policies. Some would argue that a procedural manual is overkill for a small business; however in the above situation it was critical. For a business to grow and thrive, employees and staff need consistent and clear direction!

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Filed under: — Doug Contreras @ 2:55 am on

Make no mistake about it, setting up and effectively managing a PM program takes a fair amount of time and a lot of ongoing commitment. However, the toughest part in implementing a program will be changing the fix-it-when-it-breaks mentality within your organization. Having personally seen the before and after results, I am convinced that a properly constructed and soundly executed PM program will improve equipment reliability and performance and translate into saved time and money. If you are considering a program for your company, I hope that the following outline will be of some help.

  • Establish a preventive maintenance procedure that defines the overall goal, the responsible parties and acceptable time allowance for completion of each activity.
  • Identify each piece of equipment and its location.
  • Breakdown each piece of equipment into its key components.
  • Define the repetitive maintenance actions needed to insure the reliability of each key component. Many OEM manuals have a section devoted to PM and oftentimes they can be found on the Internet. In the absence of one for a specific component, look for one that is similar and adapt it paying particular attention to the activities covering cleaning, lubrication and wear.
  • Define the length of time between each action.
  • Set-up an overall schedule so that mechanics’ activity is balanced (avoid crowding actions into a specific group of months while leaving other months unscheduled).
  • Generate two activity reports for each component due once per week, one for the assigned mechanic and one for your reminder file.
  • Collect completed reports and remove corresponding reminder copies.
  • Develop a weekly status report summarizing all open items, responsible parties & due date.
  • Select an individual to manage the program. The right person should be detail-oriented, on-time with his or her assignments, and technically-oriented.

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Filed under: — Doug Contreras @ 6:43 am on
If you ever had the rare opportunity to be in the cockpit of a commercial airliner prior to takeoff, you would undoubtedly have noted the dialogue between the co-pilot and pilot as one reads the list and the other performs the check. As a student pilot I learned of the value and importance of checklists. Starting with my first lesson, my instructor continually stressed that a safe pilot never trusts the pre-flight check process to memory. During my days of training, I can remember reading dozen of stories in flying magazines about how something forgotten ended in disaster.
There is a lot to be said for using the checklist approach in managing a business. Although setting & executing a job or a process from memory may not necessarily produce an unsafe or disastrous result, it can end in a product or process that cannot be sold. Documenting the details of your jobs and processes and using a systematic checklist can help you avoid costly mistakes.

The following is a partial list to suggest some of the things that might be documented in the form of a job specification:

  • Approval Dates
  • Customer(s)
  • Dimensions (Size, Capacity, Weight, etc.)
  • Formulas & Ratios
  • Job Type
  • Line Speed
  • Location of Approved Samples
  • Package Labeling
  • Packaging Count
  • Packaging Details
  • Possible Production Lines
  • Process Description
  • Process Machinery
  • Process Machinery Settings (Dimensions, Pressure, Temperature, etc.)
  • Product Code
  • Product Description
  • Product Name
  • Qualified Operators
  • Qualified Set-Up Personnel
  • Special Customer Requirements
  • Special Tooling
  • Staffing (Number & Descriptions)

Documenting your jobs and processes is only the beginning. Insist that your supervisors and staff methodically use the documentation to check their work!

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Filed under: — Doug Contreras @ 8:51 am on

Over the years, I have successfully managed a number of projects teams and did so without the benefit of special courses or training. Until I decided to write this entry, I never gave much thought as to the process, but this is a reasonable outline of the steps that have worked for me:

  1. Clearly define the objective in detail.
  2. Define the resources answering the following:
    Who will be on the team?
    Who will we need outside our organization?
    What kind of supplies do we need and who are the possible sources?
    How much can we spend?
  3. Timing:
    When is it due?
    Cost restraints that might affect timing?
  4. Detail the basic steps of the project in a memo and distribute to the team.
  5. Meeting #1:
    Seek the team’s input on the basic steps and the timing issues.
    Refine the basic steps and resolve any timing conflicts.
    Assign the basic steps and request that assignee(s) break down their basic steps into secondary steps and submit in writing to other team members prior to Meeting #2.
    Set a date and time for Meeting #2.
  6. Meeting #2:
    Discuss secondary steps and refine as appropriate.
    Set a date and time for Meeting #3.
  7. Using the results from Meeting #2, write a preliminary plan including responsibilities and timing. Submit to the team prior to Meeting #3.
  8. Meeting #3:
    Finalize the plan adjusting timing providing flexibility.
    Agree upon regularly scheduled meeting times and dates.
  9. Develop a report to systematically track the following:
    Basic and secondary steps
    Where each step stands in relation to the timing goal
    Issue the updated report to the team prior to each meeting.
  10. Subsequent Meetings:
    Discuss progress and timing issues.
    Keep meetings short and try to do problem-solving outside this format
  11. Publicly recognize and laud team member(s) success.
  12. Meet with each team member one-on-one on their turf for informal updates.
  13. Fully document the details of the project.

The scope and complexity of the project will govern whether some of these steps should be expanded or eliminated.

Good project management requires attention to detail, constant follow-up and strong motivational skills. Keep this in mind when selecting a project team leader.

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