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RAISON D’ÊTRE People’s capability, motivation and energy determine the success or failure of every organization and strategic initiative. Further, under the present and expected future […]
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Today, companies that use heavy equipment typically spend significant amounts of money to acquire these vital assets. Maintaining the fleet and keeping the equiment in good condition helps protect the substantial financial investment they represent. We should know since we’re one of the leading commercial construction companies in the nation; that means we also know all about maintaining heavy construction equipment to increase productivity and extend the lifetime.
Maintaining Heavy Construction Equipment
Consider implementing these eight steps to assist the operation of heavy job site equipment:
Step One: Maintain Operational Records
Possibly the most helpful step owners take in performing regular maintenance of heavy equipment concerns keeping complete, accurate records and servicing checklists. By outlining the protocols involved in servicing each piece of machinery used for construction services, and tracking inspections and repairs, companies help preserve the useful working life of vehicles in heavy equipment fleets. If personnel changes occur, new employees will know which items require maintenance.
Step Two: Perform Regular Cleaning
Another important step a company takes to preserve and maintain heavy equipment in good working order involves scheduling a regular cleaning routine. During field operations, heavy construction equipment faces adverse environmental conditions. From pounding rain to muddy terrain to dust storms, the forces of nature will batter machinery. Scheduling frequent cleaning of the equipment helps maintenance personnel keep track of the condition of different items much better. Additionally, this process contributes to the appearance of heavy equipment at work sites.
Step Three: Record Fluid Levels
Some experts recommend establishing written guidelines for keeping fluids filled. Although not all items of heavy equipment use fluids extensively (antifreeze, windshield wiper fluids, etc.) some do. Documenting periodic refills enable maintenance personnel to detect potential operational problems at an early point, sometimes.
Step Four: Perform Regular Lubrication
Just as automobile engines benefit from regular greasing and oiling, engines and motors in equipment used for heavy construction projects usually also require periodic maintenance. Following manufacturer guidelines in this area helps to preserve the equipment and will extend their lifetime. Maintaining documentation detailing maintenance issues is critical to keeping heavy construction equipment up and running.
Step Five: Protect Electrical Wiring
Experts recommend paying particular attention to protecting any electrical wiring on heavy equipment from exposure to the elements. For instance, it may make sense to cover machinery with a secure protective tarp, or to shelter the equipment under a covering to prevent unnecessary wear and tear on the electrical components. Rainwater, melting ice, and snow can leak inside the machinery during years of field operations, and without proper protection, exposure to the elements will drastically shorten the productivity and lifetime of the equipment.
Step Six: Check Tire And Axle Condition
Usually, manufacturers produce very durable mobility mechanisms for heavy equipment, yet it still makes sense to inspect the parts of the machinery in contact with the ground at periodic intervals. Chunks of debris, such as loose gravel or mud, may lodge in out-of-the-way locations, and removing this material assists the operation of the machinery. Additionally, checking the tread and general condition of the dump truck, trailer tires, and axles helps avoid problems in the field.
Step Seven: Inspect For Leaks
It makes sense to take a few minutes to check for visible signs of oil leakage during regularly scheduled heavy equipment cleaning sessions. Most sources recommend establishing written protocols for this type of inspection. By paying attention to possibly leaky valves, owners of this expensive equipment can obtain necessary repairs much faster, assisting the operation of the machinery.
Step Eight: Inspect For Misalignment
The rough terrains in which heavy equipment routinely operates may impose burdens on vehicle alignment in some situations. Although this type of machinery withstands adverse conditions much better than many other vehicles, assuring proper alignment in some cases remains essential. Scheduling regular inspections to review this issue helps extend the working life of some items of construction equipment.
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Remember those orange juice commercials? The ones where people tried to poke a rolling orange with a straw? It’s easy to think of the oil drilling process like that: Difficult to find the bullseye for the straw, but just a matter of sucking up the juice once it’s stuck. Unfortunately, the whole thing is considerably more complicated — and dangerous.
The process begins by drilling a hole deep into the earth. To do this, a long bit attached to a “drilling string” is used. The bit varies in diameter from five to 50 inches. After each section is drilled, a steel pipe slightly smaller than the hole diameter is dropped in and often cement is used to fill the gap.
This “casing” is used to give some structural integrity to the hole and to isolated high-pressure areas of rock that can explode if allowed to release.
The drilling process is, not surprisingly, unlike using a power drill on a piece of wood. The most prominent difference is that the he hole is filled with “mud” — a mixture of fluids, solids and, chemicals — that lubricate the bit and help move the broken rock out of the way.
As the bit moves deeper, new sections of pipe are added to the “string.” These are screwed on to the topdrive at the surface in a process known as “making a connection.”
Completing the Well
Once the hole has been drilled, it must be “completed” or prepared for extraction. Usually, this involves perforating the casing so oil or gas can enter the tube. Sand or gravel is often added to the bottom most reservoir to act as a screen.
Fluids — often high-pressure water or an acid — are then pumped through to clean and fracture the rock, encouraging it to begin releasing hydrocarbons. The main reservoir is then sealed off and connected to the surface with smaller diameter tubing.
All Important Production Phase
The most important phase of drilling “at least from the prospective of the drillers” is the production phase. This is the period during which oil or gas is actually pulled from the ground.
For most wells, the pressure inside the reservoir is enough to push the oil or gas to the surface. In more depleted areas, however, some other means — like a pumpjack — is necessary.
A well does not die, but rather reaches its “economic limit,” the point at which the oil or gas coming out of it no longer covers the costs associated with operation. When this happens, tubing is removed and cement is pored to ensure hydrocarbon reservoirs remain separate from water and the cut off from the surface.
The pump head is then excavated and removed, a cap is welded in place, and the whole thing is buried.
With so many steps taking place down relatively narrow holes deep below the earth’s surface, there is a lot of room for accidents to happen. As proven reserves shrink and become more difficult to replace, drillers are forced to search for deeper and less reliable sources of hydrocarbons and these places are often more difficult and dangerous to drill.
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Anton, a technical specialist at a Pharmaceutical Company, left his manager’s office and walked back to his desk. He sat there quietly for a moment staring at the window wall that faced the area he shared with several other technicians.
Suddenly, Anton picked up the heavy urn that held the dozens of colored pens he used in his work. As his colleagues looked up from their desks, Anton dumped the pens on the floor and smiled at them. He stood up, wheeled around and threw the urn with all his strength at the door to the manager’s office. The urn hit the door with loud crash and smashed into bits spraying the area with its shards. Five minutes earlier, Anton had been told by his manager that he would receive a substantial raise for an especially impressive report he had completed.
Why would a person who had just been awarded a pay increase do anything like that? And that was exactly the question Anton’s boss asked himself as he appeared in the doorway to find out what had happened. The manager’s eyes took in the scene. Anton standing at his desk-agitated, defiant, fearful. The other technicians looking either at Anton in disbelief or at the manager with amusement.
Anton’s boss looked Anton in the eye. He put his hand on Anton’s shoulder and said quietly, “Let us go into the cafeteria for a cup of tea”. As the two left, the manager turned back to the group of employee and said firmly, “I think it’s time you returned to your work”.
In the cafeteria, Anton’s boss prepared a cup of tea for each of them. He brought the tea back to a corner table and sat down facing his angry, unhappy employee. He said, “For the moment, Anton, suppose we talk about something we can agree about-like — the weather”. Ran gestured angrily with his arm, as if to say that the suggestion was ridiculous under the circumstances. The two sat for several minutes not saying anything at all.
Finally, Anton said, “Did you think you could buy my fidelity for a few paltry dollars! I’m not in such desperate need for money. That report I prepared was my original work. My name should go on it when it is sent to the home office. And my accomplishment should have been acknowledged by a change in my position and title as well as by a salary increase. The salary increase will make me the most highly paid person in the technical specialist’s group. How do you expect me to continue to work with them under these circumstances?”
“I had thought that the increase in pay was recognition enough for your work,” said the manager. But I had no intention of concealing from the home office that you had prepared the report”.
That’s not what the other technicians say,” said Anton. “They say you squeeze as much as you can from your talented subordinates and take all the credit for their work”.
“Is that what they say about me?” asked the manager.
“Yes,” said Anton, and a lot more. They say that the only way for an employee to get a raise from you is to flatter you. To be your ‘yes’ man and orderly”.
“They say that, too?” said the manager.
“Yes. And while I was working on that report with you, they were laughing at me, saying that I was just trying to flatter you into giving me a raise. Now you’ve shown they were right!”
“Well,” said the manager, “perhaps that is the way it looks to you. And to your associates, too. I can understand that. And I can understand how angry this has made you.
“It has upset me very much,” said Anton.
“I can see that. You have a great deal of energy and talent. You have put much of it into this project. You feel that you should receive complete recognition for this accomplishment, and you’re not sure that you will,” replied the boss.
“My work has always meant more to me than money,” said Anton. “Even my wife says that. And she expected that I’d receive not only a pay raise but also a new position in recognition of this project”.
“Your wife feels the same way you do?” asked the manager.
“of course,” said Anton.
“And do you really believe I intended to take advantage of you? That I won’t see that your work is given full credit at the home office? That I have been using your talent and rewarding it only with a small pay raise?”
“Not exactly,” said Anton. “But after all my hard work, I suddenly felt that I was being taken advantage of. That’s what the other technicians has predicted”.
“I’m sorry they feel that way and say that about me. Perhaps I should reexamine my relationships with them, for I value all of them,” said the manager. “I value you very much, too. I had not realized how much recognition in the form of a new title or assignment meant to you. Let me see if there isn’t some way to demonstrate to you my genuine appreciation for your contribution to this organization. I’ll try to do it in such a way that it does not put you in a bad light with your associates”.
A few minutes later, the manager returned to his office and Anton went back to his desk. The technician at the next leaned over and whispered to Anton, “Did the boss give you hell?”
“No,” said Anton, “he turned out to be a good person after all. I see his point of view and he sees mine. It really was stupid of me to lose my temper that way, but the manager never said anything about it”.
“That’s right,” said the other technician, “he can make you angry occasionally, but he’s a better person to work for than most”.
Above real case illustrates three vital aspects of human relationships:
Each person moves within a unique cause-and-effect system of his own. Anton’s behavior was the direct result of an external stimulus that energized his unique set of inherited and culturally, environmentally, and experientially conditioned attitudes. They caused him to respond in a particular way. Other persons would almost certainly react differently in this situation (to an identical stimulus). Each would have his or her own unique behavioral system. If we knew exactly the quality of the attitudes in a person’s behavior system, we could accurately predict what action that person would take under various circumstances.
Motivation provides the main drive for each person’s behavior. The goals each employee seeks direct his inner forces in ways that may appear either acceptable or unacceptable by his superior and to his associates. But they are rational to that individual. Anton’s actions were influenced by his boss and also by the other technicians. In sorting out his motivations, Anton was trying to satisfy his own goals and to harmonize them with those of the manager. At the same time, he was conforming to what he felt his work group expected from him. When the three sets of motivations appeared in hopeless conflict, Anton became frustrated. In his unique behavior system, the reaction to intense frustration was an emotional explosion. In the unique system of other persons, the reaction might be to cry, or to sulk, or to resign, or to work even harder to master the situation.
Leadership is the process of influencing employee behavior. This is especially difficult since it must be done within the limits of the individual’s motivational system and the constraints imposed by the work group. Anton’s boss handled this leadership problem well. He developed an empathy with Anton in order to learn more about his motivational system and the influence Anton felt from the other technicians. With this knowledge, the manager was able to help him redirect his behavior in a way that satisfied Anton’s goals, the manager’s goals, and perhaps, those of the work group.
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From a decision viewpoint the overall problem of the business of the firm is to configure and direct the resources-conversion process in such way as to optimize the attainment of its objectives. Since this calls for a great many distinct and different decisions, dividing the total decision ‘space’ into several distinct categories can facilitate a study of the overall decision process. One approach is to construct three categories: Strategic-, Administrative-, and Operating decisions. Each related to a different aspect of the resources-conversion process.
Operating decisions usually absorb the bulk of the firm’s energy and attention. The object is to maximize the efficiency of the firm’s resources-conversion process, or, in other words, to maximize profitability of current operations. The major decision areas are resource allocation (budgeting) among functional areas and product lines, scheduling of operations, supervision of performance, and applying control actions. The key decisions involve pricing, establishing marketing strategy, setting production schedules and inventory levels, and deciding on relative expenditures in support of R&D, marketing, and operations.
Strategic decisions are primarily concerned with external, rather than internal, problems of the firm and specifically with selection of the product-mix, which the firm will produce, and the markets to which it will sell. To use an engineering term, the strategic problem is concerned with establishing an ‘impedance match’ between the firm and its environment or, in other words, it is the problem of deciding what business the firm is in and what kinds of business it will seek to enter. Specific questions addressed in the strategic problem are: What are the firm’s objectives and goals; should the firm seek to diversity, in what areas, how vigorously; and how should the firm develop an exploit its present product-market position? A very important feature of the overall business decision process becomes accentuated in the strategic problem. This is the fact that a large majority of decisions must be made within the framework of a limited total resource. Regardless of how large or small the firm, strategic decisions deal with a choice of resource commitments among alternatives; emphasis on diversification will lead to neglect of present products. The object is to produce a resource-allocation pattern, which will offer the best potential for meeting the firm’s objectives.
Administrative decisions are concerned with structuring the firm’s resources in a way, which creates a maximum performance potential. One part of the administrative problem is concerned with organization flows, distribution channels, and location of facilities. The other part is concerned with acquisition and development of resource: development of raw-material sources, personnel training and development, financing, and acquisition of facilities and equipment.
While distinct, the decisions are interdependent and complementary. The strategic decisions assure that the firm’s products and markets are well chosen, that adequate demand. Strategy imposes operating requirements: price-cost decisions, timing of output to meet the demand, responsiveness to changes in customer needs and technological and process characteristics. The administrative structure must provide the climate for meeting these, e.g., a strategic environment which is characterized by frequent and unpredictable demand fluctuations requires that marketing and manufacturing be closely coupled organizationally for rapid response; an environment which is highly technical requires that the research and development department work in close cooperation with sales personnel.
In this sense ‘structure follows strategy’ – the environment determines the strategic and operating responses of the firm, and these, in turn, determine the structure of authority, responsibility, work flows, and information flows within the firm. As new business environment changes, different strategy opportunities became available to business. As firms took advantage of these opportunities and thus changed their previous strategies, operating inadequacies develop which dictated new forms of organization. Alfred P. Sloan in his memoirs has diagnosed one of the major requirements which strategy has imposed on structure: to organize the firm’s management in a way, which assures a proper balance of attention between the strategic and operating decisions.
Such balance is difficult to achieve. In most firms everyone in the organization is concerned with a myriad of recurring operating problems. Management from top to bottom continually seeks to improve efficiency, to cut costs, to sell more, to advertise better. Problems are automatically generated at all levels of management, and those, which are beyond the scope of lower management authority, become the concern of top management. The volume of such decision is great and constant, particularly because of the need for daily supervision and control. In fact one of the major concerns of top management is to avoid overload by establishing decision priorities and by delegating as much as possible to lower managers.
By contrast, strategic decisions are not self-regenerative; they make no automatic claims on top management attention. Unless actively pursued, they may remain hidden behind the operations problems. Firm are generally very slow in recognizing conditions under which concern with the operating problem must give way to a concern with the strategic. Usually when such conditions occur, operating problems neither ceases nor slacken. On the contrary, they appear to intensify.
Conditions in the environment of the last decades demonstrate these competing claims on operating and strategic responses. On the one hand forces of change buffer many firms: technology obsolescence, saturation of demand, rapid obsolescence of products. On the other hand, the very same firms have to meet competition of intensity which they have never experienced before.
The immediate demands on management time and effort raised by such operating problems can readily obscure the fact that the basic ills lie not in the firm but in its environment. Even when a continuous downward trend in profitability or obvious signs of market saturation strongly point to the need to revamp the entire product-market position, a natural tendency is to seek remedies in operational improvements: cost reduction, consolidation, a new advertising manager, and the most popular may be that the demand for the firm’s products is on a rapid decline.
Since strategic problems are harder to pinpoint, they require special attention. Unless specific provisions are made for concern with strategy, the firm may misplace its effort in pursuit of operating efficiency at times when attention to strategic opportunities (of threats) can produce a more radical and immediate improvement in the firm’s performance.
A proper balance of managerial attention requires three kinds of provisions. One is to provide management with a method of analysis, which can help to formulate the firm’s future strategy. The second provision is to provide a method by which management can determine the administrative structure, which will be needed to manage under the new strategy. The third provision is to provide a method for guiding the transformation from the present to the future strategy and from the present to the future administrative structure.
The balance of management attention to strategic and operating decisions is ultimately determined by the firm’s environment. If the demands in the firm’s markets are growing, technology is stable and customer demands and preferences change slowly, a firm can remain successful by focusing its attention on the operating activities, and letting its products, markets and competitive strategies evolve slowly and incrementally. In such environments a majority of firms typically focus their attention on the operating decisions. Strategic decisions seldom find their way into the corporate office, and the strategic evolution of the firm is ‘from the bottom up initiated and implemented through cooperation among the R & D, marketing and production departments.
Only a minority of firms in growing and stable environments are strategically aggressive. These are the firms led by restless and ambitious entrepreneurs who are bent on expanding the firm beyond the limits made possible by its markets. If environment turns turbulent and changeable, and/or demand approach saturation, firms no longer have the option of a dominant concern with operations. Continued success, and even survival, is possible only if management gives a high priority to the firm’s strategic activity.
Sooner or later, a majority of firms have to become vigorous strategic actors. The alternative is to go bankrupt.
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You most probably have heard the old cliché “there are no problems, only opportunities.’ This might sound like pie-in-the-sky optimism to anyone stuck in the middle of a difficult puzzle or a stressful people problem.
But by using the proven, logical problem solving and decision making system you indeed can create opportunities from problems.
The biggest problem-solving mistake is dealing with the symptoms of a problem rather than its “root causes.” Sometimes even the “experts” don’t find the fundamental reason the problem exists right away. When symptoms are treated, “band-aid” decisions are made. Then old symptoms reappear, or new ones emerge, and the same old problem returns.
By taking the steps of systematic problem solving and decision-making you can prevent problems from recurring. They include:
STEP 1 : Problem Recognition
STEP 2 : Problem Labeling
STEP 3 : Problem-cause analysis
STEP 4 : Optional solutions
STEP 5 : Decision-making
STEP 6 : Action Planning
Problem solving and decision making begins by recognizing that a situation needs resolution. This boils down to listing of all hard and soft symptoms relevant to the problem. Even when the troubles are obvious, it is a good idea to start with Step 1. No matter how serious or stressful the first encounter with a problem may seem, it is usually only a symptom of the underlying trouble or real problem. Symptoms may be trivial, like one minor defect, or they may be serious issues that must be dealt with quickly, such as falling production levels. Regardless, they are often simply just side effects of the real problem that lies beneath the surface.
After completing Step 1, you should have a wealth of data on your problem. It may be confusing and you still may not know what kind of a problem you have. People may have different interpretations of the same issue. A problem will look different from different vantage points. Those doing the looking may label it with different words even though they’re talking about the same issue. Whether differences of opinions are about details or major issues, disagreement blocks the necessary teamwork to resolve things. Step 2 attempts to identify and label both sides of the conflict in a way that everyone can accept. The result of Problem Labeling is a simple agreed-upon statement of the common denominators of the problem. You need to identify the central issue that needs resolution. This should give you a unifying statement of the main problem.
Problem-Cause Analysis produces the true problem definition. So why have we taken valuable time with Steps 1 and 2? Because it is extremely difficult to sort through the mental and emotional issues that cloud a problem. Previous steps helped create general awareness of what the problem is and isn’t. These steps helped sort out the causes, contributing forces or stimuli that raised the problem in the first place from the effects, the symptoms, and by-products of the causes. Step 3 looks for the root cause of the problem. The root cause is a controllable, solvable force which explains why the problem exists.
Step 4 is called “Optional Solutions” because the goal is to complete a list of conceivable alternatives. You’re looking for any strategies, which will address the root cause and resolve the problem once and for all. Insisting on a comprehensive list prevents you from rushing off impulsively with the first idea that sound good. There’s a chance that if you follow the first off-the-cuff proposal, it will be inferior, inadequate, or unbalanced. You’ve come this far by avoiding short cuts. Don’t give in to the temptation now. A complete list of alternatives is essential before proceeding to Step 5.
Step 5 allows you to choose one alternative solution as a course of action. You make a value judgment on what to do about the problem. The result you want is a firm joint decision on the chosen optional solution. This means selecting one strategy from the list in Step 4 that everyone will respect. The philosophy of Step 5 is analysis and evaluation. This means lining your ducks up, weeding out the worst choices, and weighing remaining choices against each other. You will consider ranking, prioritizing, and scoring the alternatives to make your choice. The goal is to find the “right” solution using a practical, scientific process.
The best solution ever conceived and agreed-upon won’t solve a problem if it isn’t put into action. An action plan outlines who will do what, where and by when. An action plan organizes tasks which implement the decision in actual practice. Timing, personnel and other resources must be considered and choreographed into action.
Setting performance standards plus a follow up monitoring mechanism, is vital to ensure that the plan is carried through.
Always consider Murphy’s Law; “That which can go wrong, will.” No matter how well you predict the future, think through the sequence of implementation, or estimate time and resources, your plan will rarely go as conceived. It is better to anticipate problems and prepare as best you can. The best action plans include contingency thinking to avoid Murphy’s worst effects.
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