Championship Season for Industrial Instrumentation

How Potash Upgraded Its Systems, Training and Instrumentation Workforce All at the Same Time

By Nancy Bartels

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"I took the main areas [of responsibility] and divided them between the guys based on who showed particular talent and interest in each type of equipment," says Emery. "During the first few months, I made adjustments to even out the areas of responsibility and the amount of work each entailed."

In spite of some bumps and necessary adjustments along the way, "So far, things have been working pretty good," he explains. "Contrary to what they thought in the beginning, the guys feel better about the job they're doing. So, when people have enough time to train on and master the new equipment, then they're able to really take advantage of it and be happy."

Fenwick adds that under the new system, "You use less time to do each job. You can take more pride in your work, and it gives you a sense of ownership. [There's a sense of] in-depth ownership. [You're thinking,] ‘This is my baby. This is my project.'"

Passing It On

The second pillar of the Champion Concept is mentoring.  "Mentoring is crucial. It addressed the concerns the guys had about being called out to work on a piece of equipment for which they were not the champion. It also covers us when the champion is away on vacation or training," says Emery.

"Technicians go out with an area champion on a rotating basis to be mentored in areas in which they are not the champion. They learn the system well enough to handle minor repairs, and everyone understands that the champion is the go-to guy for his area of responsibility."

Taking Time

The Champion Concept isn't an overnight success program. Even after the initial training of champions, there's ongoing learning to keep up with new advances from the vendor.

"Getting the champions lined up was easier than keeping everybody up to snuff with training. There's the day-to-day training; then there's the training on new stuff or in-depth training. It's all about time management," says Emery.  "Be prepared to allow the people time to get into their various disciplines. It's going to take more time, maybe, than you think. It's time up front, but it's time well spent," he adds.

The Champion Concept has enabled Potash to reap the full benefits of its new systems, not only in valve maintenance, but also in boiler control, DCS management, even in the mundane business of documentation and information access. Emery explains, "We used to have information in binders, in books, in heads and on the floor," he said. "Now, we have an eRecords management champion, who gathers up all our loop sheets, manuals, calibration records and other information and makes it immediately usable by everyone else through a Microsoft Access database. We can type a tag number into our eRecords and find everything to do with that tag number."

Emery's final assessment of the Champion Concept is this: "AMS is a wonderful tool, but combining it with our Champion Concept is what enabled our team to learn and share while achieving efficiency and reducing costs. We are able to consume technology instead of technology consuming us."

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