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Coming out of the Swamp

It’s been a hard six months at work. Started off well, with me refocussing following handing over the maternity cover role that I had done for most of 2013. It even became inspirational, as I spent two weeks away in Hamburg on a training course which defined a programme for safety management that I fundamentally believe in and can see the opportunity to reduce the number of people who get hurt substantially. It’s perhaps the way to break through the plateau that our performance has been at for the last few years.

And then reality started to bite. There was the small matter of the COMAH report to complete (see
Milestone Revisited for more details) which consumed a huge amount of time and effort, and on top of that the revised lean manufacturing programme for the factory. Now, about a decade ago I was trained in the JIPM’s TPM process, a child of the Toyota Production System, and I fundamentally believe in the rigour and logic that such a system requires. My company has now adopted a new, improved, focussed evolution of this system that promises a substantial, sustained reduction in cost combined with substantial performance improvements. Now, this is fantastic, music to my ears, but it has been a completely demoralising and exhausting process.

The level of rigour is substantially higher, and there is a huge pressure on time. The system is new, and the core company processes and procedures aren’t fully aligned. Officially they are, but they’re working out the bugs and contradictions at the moment, and the goalposts are moving as we play the game. Indeed, I commented to a colleague that it felt like we used to play football, and have now moved to play rugby, only to find out that while we’ve been learning Union we’re actually playing League. As a result, it’s hard, and I’ve taken too much home that should have stayed in the office. Over the last month we’ve had two harrowing audits, and are now picking up the pieces to move things back to a more normal footing. The plus side is that we are in a better position than we were before!

Jill and the boys have been fantastic, and very patient with me, and I owe them a big thank-you.

Anyway, tonight I’ve been sorting out photos that I’ve taken for people so I can share them, clearing my personal email account and generally getting things done. This follows an afternoon where Jill and I got on with essential maintenance in the garden. Slowly, normality is returning...