March/April 2013

Big on lean

Shop talk with continuous improvement leader Raymond Floyd

By Ryan Bergen

Plenty of people will promise big returns if they are allowed the chance to step in and change how mining operations are run. But thanks to a record of improving performance across multiple sectors, Raymond Floyd has executives at the biggest mining companies asking him how they can “make their workplace right.” While working at General Motors early in his career, Floyd was instrumental in adopting the lean manufacturing principles made famous by Toyota. He later adapted them to the processing sector with Exxon before Suncor Energy lured him to Fort McMurray. From 2008 to 2012, Floyd helped trim waste and improve output at Suncor’s mining and processing operations by using those lean methods gleaned from the automotive industry. Some of those experiences are detailed in his 2010 book, Liquid Lean: Developing Lean Culture in the Process Industries. Floyd now serves on the board of directors of two companies and says more books are in the works.

CIM: Can you give a hands-on example of how lean processes make a difference?

Floyd: At Suncor, there are more than 40 bays available for maintenance on trucks, shovels and dozers, and that sort of thing. In the original 2008 configuration, whatever bay became empty received whatever truck was next in line to be worked on. The problem with that was, although every craftsman had a big box of tools, they almost invariably didn’t have a tool or a part that was needed for that job, which they had to go get. As we organized to make the workplace right, we dedicated two bays for routine service, and those bays had every single thing needed: tools, equipment and parts, and trained craftsmen who knew all about routine service. So a truck that previously needed routine service and took 36 hours – and in some cases 72 hours – to get it, could pull into one of those special service places just like Jiffy Lube and go in and out in a couple hours and have the full service done.

As we expanded, we also set up bays that were right for transmissions, or suspensions, or engines. We also managed parts so that we never took a truck out of line until we had a bay, the required parts, and craftsmen available for that kind of work.

CIM: You also stress the need for a clean workplace. Why is this important?

Floyd: The emphasis on cleanliness is to make the status of the equipment visually apparent. If you have 10 years’ worth of leaks that have never been cleaned up and repaired, a small leak today is invisible. But if the equipment is clean, a small leak is instantly visible and you can fix it before something bad happens.

CIM: Since improving maintenance relies on people to both do their basic jobs and improve their work, how do you make sure staff are most effective?

Floyd: You have to have strategic goals that become meaningful to every individual, so that they know what to do. Then you have to have the improvement tools and you must make sure the people know how to use those tools correctly. You have to have a system for delivering the tools, and since the tools are often team-based, you need to have a system for organizing the teams so that the tools are used right. That way, people can say, “I know I’m doing the right thing and I know I’m doing it in the right way.” But, boundaries are also important. For example, we allowed our mechanics to make great improvements in the way they worked on a truck, but they weren’t allowed to change the design of the truck without engaging an engineer who approved the changes, which the front line teams then executed throughout our fleet.

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