Behavior-Based Quality (BBQ) considers the key risks of any process or system that produces a product, including people! Quality, when driven by a Management Operating System (MOS) with the appropriate tools for decision making, embraced by the entire business and accepted into the culture, thereby making it everyday practice (behavior) is critical to driving the desired behaviors of the workforce.
Most of us view product quality as dependent on the formulation, process, and materials. While this is the basic, narrow definition as directed by the process mass balance, we look at product quality as the relationship of multiple operating elements and the people that control them driven by an influential culture that defines, trains and rewards the behaviors deemed critical to product quality.
The culture (encouraging and rewarding specific behaviors) drives the interrelationships of people to operate and maintain the facility and is as critical as the science of formulation and material specification.
Continuous process facilities almost always work a 24/7 by 365 schedule covered by multiple teams (a fixed set of operators) with some designated relief workers. To ensure high product quality, it is essential that the plant settings and operating technique be consistent across these teams. Additionally, teams must respond to abnormal conditions consistently. We have found that this is not always the case in reality, although it is assumed to be so by leadership. Teams tend to ‘tweak’ the operations with variances to standards.
Certainly, the condition of the equipment and all assets in a facility are recognized to contribute to the final quality of the product. Slightly lower speed or flow on pumps and sub-performing heat exchangers, for example, have affected the process overall. Planned and preventative maintenance programs consider these effects; however, they are not always performed according to plan and schedule. Operations override to meet volume demands take precedence over maintenance needs, thereby jeopardizing future product quality and potentially volume capability.
The process of analyzing the volumes of data from the multitude of tags on process controllers along with the direct examination and testing of equipment to predict which elements need maintenance or replacement falls to Reliability Engineering. Their contributions are critical to the volume sustainability of the facility and the quality of the product produced. Again, operations-override affects the scheduling of this work jeopardizing future operations.
One key to success is the inclusion of all groups in the Sales and Operations Planning function of any facility. We have found that understanding and incorporating the needs and timing of all concerned groups (sales and marketing, operations, maintenance, reliability, capital engineering, etc.) into an operating schedule, with buy-in from all parties, leads to higher schedule accuracy and product quality.
Another key is the skills and capabilities of the supervisory workforce. The first success key points out the requirement of building a great operating plan that considers all needs. However, to execute a great plan, you need great people. Supervisors are the oil that makes the machine work smoothly. Supervisors who communicate successfully up and down the organization, provide critical commentary on the work plans, and maintain strong relationships with front line workforce through expectations and feedback are the backbone of plan execution.
The third key is a well-defined Management Operating System (MOS) that provides real-time information flow up and down the management structure along with key performance metrics that allow all parties to make decisions and take action within their accountabilities. It requires a combination of formal, structured meetings and allows for ad hoc communication as well to ensure the uninhibited flow of data and information both ways.
Quality is always an important element of any program we develop and implement with our clients to achieve specific objectives, usually associated with a mix of throughput, cost, and safety. Generally, the client guidelines have a quality that cannot be sacrificed to improve any of these specific business drivers. If anything, we always strive to enhance the quality of products through improvements to overall operations through workforce engagement and sustaining behaviors.