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Concierge, we need ice under the overhead crane please.

Summertime brings beaches, vacations, warm air, and outages. Outages, for some of us, are the time of year when we shut down assets and production units for extended periods to conduct period inspections, corrective maintenance, and/or large-scale upgrades. During these outages, we tend to have internal team members and outside contractors working long hours and sometimes working on top of each other's jobs to achieve the critical path. These types of conditions have the potential to increase the probability of a safety incident due to a variety of internal and external influencers. To steer the organization to a successful outage from a timeline, budget, and safety performance, consider leveraging the concept of a concierge.

Why a concierge in manufacturing?

Have you walked up to a hotel in a city you are not accustomed to, after just getting off of a long trip, and felt complacent or confused? And out of the corner, a trained employee that seeks out the body antics you are showing, smiles and says, “Good afternoon ma’am, can I assist you with anything?” This concierge is tasked to look for individuals that look disconnected and provide immediate connections to information. They are not the ones that will make you a well-needed dinner, but they will point you to the closest restaurant before it closes. They are not the ones that can get you a tube of toothpaste that you forgot to pack. But they point to exactly where the local drug store is or how the attendant at the front desk has a stash of toothpaste for times like this. They don’t solve your problem, instead, they guide you to the next step to solve your problem. This action is triggered by your body posture of looking tired, mind not on task, or complacent.

During outages, I have seen the best organizations adapt a concierge concept to seek out stray body postures. Near the end of the outage planning process, the concierges get introduced to the timeline and jobs from a high-level view. They learn where the need is for ice-chest, carbohydrates, and water around the production units. They will sync the outage timeline in parallel to their timeline of resources. Their strategy is strategically located “boundary marker-like” visual support to the critical path.

Finding the concierge resource

During the outage, individuals from staff departments typically have no activities that correlate to the critical path. This should become your resource to fill the role of the concierge. Departments such as business planning, finance, and quality, to just name a few, become the concierge. This creates empathy between the staff departments and the operations, but it also enables the homogenization of high-performance teams we all seek. The individuals that would typically have a slow if not stagnant week because of the outage, are active components critical for the success of the outage. They are there around the clock, some with radios on, responding to calls that say, “Concierge, can you get me some more ice and water underneath the 32-crane in the shipping aisle?” The concierge responds, “On it.”

During the outage

During the outage, the concierges are roaming around the designated walkways and staying clear of the danger-tape areas. Most have a special color vest that marks them as a concierge and a support team member during the outage. They were all part of the planning process of the outage and participate in outage progress updates, so they are conscientious of critical lifts, dangerous areas, confined space entries, and who is where work is being done. They monitor the pulse of the outage being keen acute to the tension and where high-risk jobs are taking place. They are trained and coached to drift to these areas, seeking out the body antics that indicate the need for their service.

As they walk around, they are handing out the coldest of waters, smiling at the employees conducting these critical jobs, and seeing if they can help. They might hear, “Can you get me a new box of rags?” The concierge might not know how to do this, but they know who to contact to help assist. Just like a concierge in a hotel, they guide to solving the problem.

As the concierges hand out cold waters, they refill ice in the ice chest strategically placed around the production units. They bring forms of carbohydrates such as oranges, bananas, little packets of electrolytes, and individually bagged pickles (Yes, pickles. Might touch on why pickles in a future blog). They are not handing out high-fructose items such as candy bars, bags of chips, or sodas. They are focused on mindset-enabling items.

The intent of the concierge

I have seen this concierge approach work many times in my career. It successfully guides an outage’s high-risk jobs by reducing their risk because of the heightened focus on the attentiveness and properly fueled condition of the team. It dedicates an underutilized portion of the company's resources, during outages, to become a critical member of the success of the outage. Most importantly, it can be a cornerstone of building a culture of a high-performance team.

This "concierge program's" intent is to create an environment focused on reducing complacency and decreasing the potential of a safety incident. Additionally, the intent is to “pay forward” and create empathy. These staff departments typically create zero value to the corporation’s critical path during these outages. The critical path is to safely get the operating units back up and running to produce the product or service that is sold. And when we get back up and running, we all get back to our normal roles and responsibilities. But during the outage, we are all holistically and collaboratively focused on success. We are all in.


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