PotashCorp Champions Succeed Through Specialization

It Isn't about New Technology, but About Siemen's Instrumentation Technicians and Their Relationships with That Technology

By Jim Montague

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"Another crucial part of our Champion Concept was mentoring," explained Emery. "Once a technician masters his technical area, he becomes the champion, go-to person, resource and reference for it, and then he rotates with and mentors guys who are less experienced in that area. In the last two years, some areas are more evolved and active, such as DeltaV, which is in the center of all we do, and so we have two champions for it.

"Now, any of our guys can build DeltaV graphics and work in Control Studio. And when ever newer technologies come along, we're prepared to try and keep up and get trained on it. This has been a kind of off-the-wall revolution, but when my boss saw the reduced downtime and savings that Champion Concept could help us achieve, he became very supportive."

For example, Emery reported that Potash NB has seen large dividends from using ValveLink software to perform predictive maintenance. "We have millions of dollars invested in all our valves, so it's essential to keep them maintained and repaired," he said. "In fact, we just saved about $55,000 because we didn't have to send out valves that were scheduled for repairs, but were actually OK, while we also found other valves that weren't scheduled for maintenance, but did need to be sent for repairs."

Emery added that having these predictive valve diagnostics and expertise in place is especially crucial because Potash NB's recent expansion means it now has twice as many valves to maintain as it did before. "We've been so busy, and in the past we had to focus on putting out fires, and we didn't have time to learn all the things that ValveLink could do. Now, our two DeltaV champions understand the software, and do weekly valve checks. This turned up the valves that weren't on the maintenance schedule, but did need repairs, and this prevented a plant shutdown that would have cost millions of dollars."

Emery reported that another benefit of the Champion Concept is far better documentation and information-access procedures. "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 them immediately usable by everyone else through a Microsoft Access database. We used to waste a lot of time searching for documentation and other information, so this immediate access is astronomically beneficial to us."

Likewise, Fenwick reported that he and his instrumentation colleagues didn't know at first how many advantages they could gain with the AMS software suite, but specializing with Emery's Champion Concept unlocked this potential. "We were a little suspicious at first, but the Champion Concept really allowed me to get my creative juices flowing about AMS," said Fenwick. "It was a little like Industrial Psychology 101: Giving guys responsibility over specific areas helped them take ownership, and say, ‘This is mine.' "

Emery concluded, "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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