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Prairie Dawg Practical: Hey Prairie Dawg, “when to shut it down”

by Tim Holmberg, DEMI Equipment

When to shut the plant down has a lot of different contexts. Is this a call usually made at the end of a season — just before the forecasted snow storm hits or is it when something catastrophic mechanically [within] has just revealed its ugly wrath and the remaining portion of the plant couldn’t possibly make it through the next couple minutes without imploding. Or is it simply the guys running the plant are not doing their expected procedures and the project is bleeding out of control? There are so many different types of possibilities to what this means so let’s cover a few of the more common instances experienced in today’s business climate.

  • As we have often heard on the ever popular show “Gold Rush” (now getting into its 8th season) the dramatic words “shut it down!” — usually with a high anxiety camera shot or angle, all the mining crew running from afar just to get to that emergency shut off switch — got my heart racing with anticipation as to what went wrong now?

Great stuff for television drama I guess, but is it all that far from the truth? Either way I believe there are lessons to be learned or some training resulting from what is most likely a scripted scene in order to get the shot for television. All operations should be discussing what to do in emergency situations — weather mechanical or physical injury do to a work related incident. This is a great reminder to make sure emergency shut down procedures are being discussed and brought to the surface from time to time, even if they originated from what we tune into on a weekly basis in television land.

  • I often hear of plant operators with demanding workloads still lurking in front of them pacing throughout the day watching the weather forecast to see if they should start ramping productivity to a faster pace, longer hours, or quite possibly with a bit less maintenance time allotments in order to get all those last minute jobs finished before the first big snow or freeze. Or maybe that infamous season ending weather is going to come sooner than expected. Is it wise to respond in this way to what is coming beyond one’s control, do you have plans in place to run extra aggressive toward seasons’ end when everyone is already being run hard throughout the course of your regular scheduled work season? Is this safe to all aspects of the operation — both in equipment standards and human interface — or is it time to call it and say those season ending infamous words “shut it down!”
  • Is corporate pushing us beyond the job description we were hired to do, or have they bid the work without understanding if there was ever any chance of making the product without going into the “red”? Did they expect us to do this job and complete it on schedule with old worn out equipment that is way undersized for production needed to be accomplished in this short timeframe, or are we as a crew going to accept being labeled ineffective?

These are the details of the estimated unknowns.

  1. Most employees would immediately stand they’re ground and say the work isn’t ready because of — (fill in the blank) — and rightfully so. However, if the organization has already base lined this operation and worked these exact same conditions with prior knowledge and success, the argument may fall on some corporate deaf ears and the inevitable will soon be approaching.
  2. Maybe the production was plagued with breakdowns due to additional wear not as easily maintained this time around created from seasons past, is this an argument worth debating or does it ultimately come back around full circle and once more reveal an ineffective maintenance/repair plan or schedule and once more fall on those corporate deaf ears?

Remember, nothing lasts forever unless there are plans in place to gauge and adjust along the way and when the planning or adjusting get beyond the comfort zone of the decision makers we will often hear “shut it down!” Let’s just hope that within a specified coarse of time we once more hear the more popular phrase “fire it up!”

If you enjoy these random aggregate and quarrying equipment based subjects, please tune back in for more topics to come. Please email me a subject or topic and any associated questions you would like to see discussed and I will gladly do my best to respond based upon my specific point of view.

Questions or Comments? Tim Holmberg


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