Monthly Archives: December 2012

Time Tracking: Is This You?

time-trackingA company that runs around the clock, or relatively close to it, has very little downtime to set aside for repairs and mishaps. Many don’t even have a plan of action if something were actually to occur that stopped all production. You lose much more than you realize when production slows, and several companies are so busy putting out fires that they leave no room for the planning that is most profitable.

It is very likely that you may not even be aware of the unprepared state of your company. Pharmaceutical companies that rely on continuous production, as well as power plants that provide energy for an entire town, are only two examples of the many businesses that can’t afford to lose days on end. In any situation in which there is a time constraint, there is a strong possibility of losing resources that cannot be recovered. Once you’re running 20 hours a day, there is guaranteed to be tension.

Companies running around the clock, although they have difficulties with time management, often do better at planning their schedules than those who don’t. These companies do not have the spare time to simply muddle their way through. When you do not realize the time that is wasted, you cannot recognize the pain of unplanned downtime. Every company should be aware of their available time, or lack thereof.

It is essential that you are tracking your downtime, and there are several main questions that you should be asking yourself.

  • Are you tracking both your uptime and your downtime?  If you’re not, it is critical that you begin to do so. Having an accurate understanding of these two important factors will help you make better decisions when things go wrong.
  • When you have unplanned downtime, do you know the cause? Your unplanned downtime comes at a cost; therefore, you should also consider how much you are losing when production stops.
  • What is the cost of each production hour, and what do your lines cost to run versus what they cost not to run?

The answers to these questions can indicate where your problems lie as well as stimulate thought in regards to possible solutions.

When you are not properly tracking your time, you risk increasing your costs lost by substantial numbers. Many companies lack the understanding required to track their production, and others are too caught up in the day-to-day struggles to measure time accurately. Within either situation, a mechanical contractor is incredibly beneficial in working to get companies ahead. With maintenance, installation, design services and more, many problems will be remedied quickly and efficiently. Capitalize on your downtime if any is available, and always be prepared for the worst.

Business Interruption Insurance: Keep it Updated

business-interruption-insuranceInsurance is one of the smartest investments a business can make. It is impossible to predict the future, but leaving ourselves unguarded against the unknown is a risk that many businesses cannot afford to take. In particular, businesses that are up and running all hours of the week depend on a disaster plan to help mitigate obstacles. As beneficial as business interruption insurance may be, it is simply a waste of money if it is not kept up to date.

Purchasing business interruption insurance is customary for those who are at a high risk of loss if anything were to stop production. This type of insurance covers a period of downtime resulting from a natural disaster, providing a safety net for those businesses that cannot afford a standstill. However, many owners fail to realize that this type of insurance is incumbent on the insured. This means that the individual buying the policy is solely responsible for ensuring that all documents represent the most current information.

Initially placing business owners in charge of maintaining the insurance policy may seem like a good idea, but unfortunately, it is all too easy to tire of the paperwork. It becomes easy to duplicate the previous year’s paperwork, believing that little has changed. This poor habit obscures the fact that your business expenses and probabilities of expenses have changed, and the insurance is not going to cover the damage that is not listed on the paperwork. Not only are you not covered fully in the event of a disaster, but you are charged extra as a penalty for not having submitted the correct insurance amount. It may make more sense to assign a member of your staff or accounting firm that handles your finances to thoroughly complete this paperwork.

If you have gone through the process of purchasing insurance, it is in your best interests to make certain that the paperwork is properly filled out. Otherwise, it is a waste of money. It is comparable to buying car insurance with a $2,000 deductible when you only have $500 in your bank account. There is little point to insurance if you are lacking full coverage.

Your disaster plan should incorporate aspects of insurance that do more than cover the downtime. You will also need funds to deal with the emergency work that will be necessary to restore your business to a fully-operational status. It is essential that the paperwork is completed diligently each year. Otherwise you might realize too late that your coverage is not as good as you thought it was. Take a close look at your disaster plan today, and make sure that it is up to par.

What BRC Standards Mean to U.S. Retailers

brc-global-standards

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), once responsible for food safety standards only in the U.K., now sets the standard globally with more than 17,000 BRC certified sites in the world. Walmart, the largest U.S. retailer, is adopting BRC to ensure they meet the most stringent food safety requirements, and many other retailers in the U.S. are following their lead. BRC certification ensures that companies meet international food safety requirements, including the General Product Safety Directive and the Food Safety Act 1990. The BRC was the first to meet the standards set by the Global Food Safety Conference, formerly known as the CIES International Food Safety Conference, at which the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) provided benchmarks designed to increase safety while reducing the number of audits required.

BRC certification is not a legal requirement but instead, one that is demanded by consumers. To meet the stringent requirements set by the GFSI, the entire supply chain has to work together. Producers have to be efficient and have processes in place that demonstrate they meet the strict standards. At TMS, BRC standards do not change the way we manage our client’s needs. They must have a p

lan in place to address breakdowns and other issues; we help our clients develop a reliable plan and we’re there to make sure that plan is employed properly.

If a line isn’t functioning or if they have a breakdown that causes them not to produce at the level they need to, TMS is responsible for getting them up and running in the shortest amount of time possible. We are also there to help them install new machinery that leads to better efficiency or to make the adjustments they need to existing equipment when they develop a new process. We play a huge role in helping our clients maintain the quality they need to achieve BRC certification.

Because these producers run so lean, with only a small warehouse space and most of their inventory already spoken for, having a reliable mechanical contractor is critical. The time these producers have to make changes inside their facilities is precious. They can only afford to create enough bridge inventory to get them through the downtime with no errors. When I tell a client that they’ll be down for three days and then I’ll bring them back up and running with the new process, they need to be able to count on that, because they will not have any more inventory than that to cover the downtime. You have to be able to meet the timeline you promise to prevent a breakdown in the entire supply chain.

This efficiency is part of meeting BRC certification, because – especially with food supplies – the less time spent in storage and transit, the better. We help our clients get their products into the consumers’ hands safely and reliably.

When Disaster Strikes Nearby or Far Away

disaster-planningIf disaster strikes, how prepared is your business to weather the storm? You have probably written out a plan of action for use in the event of a crisis, and that’s a good thing. The problem arises when businesses feel secure in their plans, even though they haven’t revisited them to ensure their information is still relevant, up to date and accurate.

When was the last time you audited your disaster plan?

It’s not enough to make a plan and then tuck it away in your files to forget about until it’s needed. Businesses change. Assets change. Your disaster plan has to change with them, or you might be looking at significant losses in the event of a major disaster. At least once a year, it’s important to revisit your plan to determine if it’s still the best course of action.

How do you determine what the best course of action is? The answer may be different for every business, but most will have a few things in common. For one, it’s important for any business to determine what their most critical assets are. That is, if you are blindsided by a disaster, what assets do you need to take care of first to get back on track as quickly as possible? Or at the very least, which ones need to be protected to avoid the biggest losses? Even if you can’t immediately get running again, you can at least try to protect those assets which make running possible.

For instance, a client’s roof was ripped off by a tornado, and their plant lost power. Going into the disaster area, we knew they needed to move substance through their piping before it hardened into concrete. We fired up the generators and connected a small compressor to actuate the valves, to move this substance through. It wasn’t an easy process. But how much harder would things have been if nobody knew which assets to protect first? The substance would have hardened, and piping would have been destroyed. Things could have been a lot worse had there been no plan in place.

Pull out your plan, and make sure it’s updated with your most critical assets and with what processes would need to be taken care of first in the event of disaster.

Go a Little Deeper

Sometimes disaster strikes somewhere seemingly far away but with serious consequences for your own company. In today’s global economy, businesses are using suppliers and manufacturers from around the globe to provide the materials, products and labor they need to get things done. So what happens if there is a disaster which effects one of your suppliers?

This very thing happened to a client in the Midwest who was using a supplier in Tennessee. Their supplier’s factory was shut down after a tornado touched down. Our client was used to receiving a weekly rail car full of soda ash from the supplier, but while the factory was out of commission, there was no way for the materials to be sent. They needed a new supply. Fast. Soda ash could be purchased locally in super sacks, but it took many of those to equal a rail car. The company also had no backup method of feeding the materials into the factory. Eventually, we determined it was necessary to load a rail car with super sacks of the soda ash to keep their production lines going. Without a plan in place to acquire the necessary materials, things still got done, but they could have gone a lot smoother if there had been a clearer plan of action.

Have you even considered what your plan would be in the event of disaster somewhere outside of your general area? If you do business with anyone outside of your own geographic location, it’s time you did. It is not enough to develop a plan of action as a means to protect your business should an earthquake or tornado or other disaster strike in your own area. You need to determine what will happen if something happens to your suppliers, contractors or anyone that provides a product or service crucial to your business, even if they are operating on the other side of the globe.

Where else can you find a product or material? What is the most efficient way of getting a backup supply? Can the backup method provide all the materials you’ll need, or will you need multiple backup suppliers to meet production goals? Can you cut down production temporarily? These are all questions you need to ask yourself as you audit your disaster plan.

Things to Consider When Hiring a Mechanical Contractor

hiring-mechanical-contractorFor those companies that run consistently with no scheduled breaks in production, it is important to know who to call when repairs need to be done. The costs associated with a lack of production extend far beyond the hours that are lost. It is crucial to get back on track, and in order to do so you must guarantee that you are hiring someone who is fully capable of completing the task at hand. Here are four major things to consider when hiring a mechanical contractor.

  1. Safety is the most important feature of any mechanical contractor, and one of the first things you should do is ask for what should be an impeccable safety record. It is likely that someone who is not safe is not a very good planner either, which means the proper steps are not being taken to accomplish a task. Unsafe practices jeopardize everyone on the property, and if they have hurt themselves, there is a chance they will hurt others.
  2. The next item to inquire about is the client list. Whether or not a mechanical contractor can boast of the richest clients is irrelevant. What you are looking for is consistency. If a mechanical contractor has worked for the same clients for several years, this is proof that all tasks are executed well. Nobody continues to employ someone who performs poorly.
  3. Major mistakes are another factor to consider. You need to know what mistakes have been made and how they were handled. If at all possible, talk to the clients wherein the major mistakes took place, and get their perspective. It is inevitable that mistakes happen. It is how a mechanical contractor handles a bad situation that proves their worth. The ability to be honest about mistakes and learn from them is invaluable.
  4. Once you have chosen your mechanical contractor, the next step is to encourage their completion of a pre-job hazard assessment. Before any project is set in motion – and again at the start of each day – a plan should be laid out. This daily plan details what the contractor will be looking at, the actions they will execute and what could go wrong. This provides an opportunity to mitigate any errors that might occur. If something unfortunate does happen, the contractor can clearly look back and view the steps that were missed. This assessment of a situation is a chance for the entire organization to learn and improve.

It is essential that your company is up and running again as quickly as possible following a mechanical failure. With these steps, you can ensure that the mechanical contractor you hire will expertly provide the services needed. You can’t predict when things might go wrong in a business that runs all hours of the day, but you can control the solution. The right mechanical contractor will turn things around safely, promptly and efficiently.

Keeping the Lines Running in Emergencies

keep-lines-runningLife as a mechanical contractor can take you in surprising directions at a rapid pace. To my knowledge, Hollywood has yet to mine this field for the next pulse-pounding story, but we do work with a fair degree of urgency when it comes to providing tornado response and when reacting to other emergency missions. It is times like these that our expertise comes in to play. We are able get people back on their feet quickly.

A situation that comes to mind recalls a client whose plant had a large fire. They are located about two hours south of Chicago; we sent our president and one of our laymen to take a look at things. The structure happened to be a rice-grinding plant that fed two other plants in the small town. So when this client’s plant shut down, the other two plants had about 10 days before they were going to run out of rice and would also have to shut down.

We arrived on a Friday, assessed the damage and had a plan put together by Sunday. We told them what we thought it would take to get them back up and running and how quickly we could complete the project. They agreed, and we had our crew out there by noon on Monday. Within 11 days of the fire, we had them back up and grinding rice. The other two plants never had to shut down.

One of the reasons we are able to respond so quickly is that we have engineers on staff to do our design. If we had brought in outside engineers, it would’ve been two weeks before they even gave us plans back. Our engineers had a plan ready for the client in two days, and by executing it on the third day, we kept the town going. Sometimes you just have to act, because there isn’t always time to wait.

People choosing to hire a mechanical contractor need to hire a company with the resources to turn emergencies around quickly. They need to have a plan put together should the worst-case scenario happen.

I can tell you from experience that having a relationship with a company like TMS means you have someone who will step in and take care of an emergency should one ever occur. Rapid recovery means the difference between a business having to shut down or not.