I love the concepts and teachings of Lean Manufacturing, which were originally pioneered by Toyota. In a nut shell, “Lean” is a systematic process for eliminating waste within a production process. Although Lean was originally developed to streamline mechanical production processes, the concepts translate nicely into any organization.
The book “2 Second Lean” written by Paul Akers is a very quick read, and an excellent introduction to Lean principles that will quickly get you hooked on the concept. (Read Paul’s book for free here)
The basic premise of 2 Second Lean is that everyone in your organization, every day, should be looking for ways to streamline processes to permanently save at least 2 seconds. By setting the bar low (at 2 seconds) it really gets people focused on even the smallest time saving, but in reality most of the changes that get made will save much more than 2 seconds. You’ll quickly find ways to save 15 minutes, 2 hours, or even days.
Now let’s look at the real world using the example of filing a near miss report.
Here’s the scenario: A deckhand is walking across the deck of a tug and trips on a wire that wasn’t properly stowed, nearly falling overboard. He thinks to himself “That was a near miss! I should file a report!” Here’s what ensues:
The deckhand has to go inside and walk up two flights of stairs to get to the wheelhouse.
In the wheelhouse he pulls a binder off the shelf and pulls out a blank copy of a near miss report.
Darn! It’s the last blank copy, so he first has to make a photocopy on the wheelhouse printer.
- He goes looking for a pen.
- He fills out the details of the near miss report.
- He then has to scan the paper copy (assuming he knows how to operate the scanner).
- He goes to a PC and opens the email application and logs in.
- He drafts an email to the Designated Person Ashore (DPA) and attaches the scanned document (assuming he knows where to find the file).
- He files the original paper copy in a drawer or puts it in an envelope to go to shore on the next crew change.
Overall that is easily a 15 to 30 minute process on a good day, and it may have involved other people if he needed help with the scanning and emailing steps.
This is a horribly convoluted process, and my prediction is that the next time the deckhand trips on deck he’ll look up at the wheelhouse, two decks up, and think “I’ll file that near miss report later.” And then he never gets around to it.
- Now let’s keep chasing that piece of paper and see what happens in the office:
- The email arrives on shore
- The DPA prints out the email attachment (We’re back to paper again!!)
- He enters the details of the near miss into an excel spreadsheet for statistical reporting and tracking (back to electronic again!)
- He creates a file for this near miss and conducts an investigation into the root cause and planned corrective actions. (More Paper!)
- He emails the people in the organization about the follow up corrective action that needs to be taken
- He monitors the corrective action in a spreadsheet to ensure that it gets completed and verified
- He files the related paperwork in a drawer or filing cabinet.
- During the next audit he has to go digging through drawers to try and find this piece of paper again if the auditor asks to see it.
The amount of waste in this process is huge, and yet it’s pretty typical of most companies that we’ve toured.
Now using the concepts of 2 Second Lean, let’s follow this process again using Helm CONNECT after the deckhand trips on the wire:
- The deckhand goes into the galley, and grabs the iPad that is attached to a holder on the wall.
- He opens the Near Miss Form in Helm CONNECT.
- With the iPad he goes outside and takes a photo of the wire laying on the deck.
- He enters his description of what could have happened.
- He clicks the “Submit” button.
That’s a much simpler process that will increase to likelihood of the next near miss getting reported. But let’s not stop there. Let’s see what happens on shore:
- The DPA receives an email notification from Helm CONNECT that a new near miss report has been filed.
- He clicks on the link in the email to view the form and the attached photo.
- Back in the office he enters the details of his root cause analysis into Helm CONNECT and creates a corrective action.
- He closes the near miss report and it moves into the searchable history of Helm CONNECT.
- Helm CONNECT sends an email to the person the corrective action was assigned to.
- The Assignee clicks on the link in the email to view and close off the corrective action.
- The DPA gets a final email letting him know that the corrective action was completed.
Later, when an auditor asks to see the history of that near miss, the DPA does an electronic search and shows the auditor a full closed loop communication history for that near miss including the original form and photo, the root cause analysis, follow up corrective action, what was done to resolve it, when it was closed, and by whom.
That is a significant time saving, and when you multiply it by the number of vessels in your fleet, and the number of near misses that are happening, this simple process improvement could save many many hours both onboard and on shore.