“The Only Constant in Life is Change”

This famous quote from Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, rings true today.

Every day ends with a sunset. Depending on where you live, it can be breathtaking. The sun eventually hides behind the mountains for the evening.

In some places, the sun dips into the water until the next morning. Do you remember the last time you sat still to watch the sun set into the sea? To watch the light of the day grow dimmer. To watch the colors of the day turn into deepening shadows. To watch the day change into night.

If the last few years have taught me anything is how I must continually adapt to change. Not only adapt to it, but come to expect it, grow with it, and thrive with it.

Here’s the thing though, at a manufacturing plant, constant is a good thing. Your customers expect a consistent product or service.

They expect that every time they install a new piece of equipment from you, that it will operate just like the last one. That the new software package will integrate into their systems just like the old one. That the customer service rep will address their questions just like that other guy they spoke to last week. Indeed, constant is a great thing.

But as we know, markets change all the time. Even the needs of these very same customers change and evolve over time. Being able to adapt to these changes can make or break a company. Cassette recorders, anyone?

So how do you balance the need for a consistent product or service against the backdrop of a fluctuating … well, everything?

Management of Change

At a manufacturing plant, the essence of this saying is captured in a system called Management of Change (MOC) or Change Control (CC). The MOC process helps the plant document the current state and expected state of a piece of equipment following a change. The MOC documentation process is critical to manufacturing operations.

Years from now, someone must be able to go through your MOC package and understand exactly what was done without you in the room. Think of that for a second. Your documentation needs to be able to speak to a new reader years, maybe even decades down the line.

A good MOC process allows you to walk through every component of the change that you want to make, one small step at a time.

Core Elements of a Good Management of Change (MOC) Program

The MOC process is unique to each manufacturing plant depending on their needs and size. However, there are some core elements of a good MOC program.

Name: Who is doing the work? Will all the work be performed in-house? Will some or all of the work be outsourced to an external company? Is this company on your approved contractor list?

Scope: What are we doing? Is it just the equipment that’s being changed, or do you also need to upgrade the graphics? Do you need any new alarms as a result of this change?

Justification: Why are you doing this? Is it a business need? Is it as a result of an incident, near miss or other accident? Is it an optimization project?

Impact: Do you need to alert any regulatory bodies about this change? FDA? EPA? OSHA? What about country-specific regulatory bodies?

Quality: Will the product work just like before?

Environmental, Health & Safety (EH&S): Safety is inherent to your design. Did you run this change by your EH&S Lead to ensure compliance? Do you need hand rails? Do you need to add guarding to the equipment, especially if it rotates? Do you need to post up warning signs for new hazards? Do you need to modify the safety interlock system?

Drawings: How are you going to capture the changes in your drawings? Are the most correct drawing revisions easily accessible?

SOP Revisions: How are you training your team on these new changes? Are you doing the training, or will the external vendor be doing the training? Will a “read-and-accept-the-SOP” model work? Does the training need to be held “on-the-job”? Are the right people being trained? Who only needs to be made aware? Whose role is most impacted by this change?

Signatures: Yes, I understand and approve this change.

The more complicated the change is, the more thorough the MOC process needs to be.

Benefits of a Good MOC Program

A good MOC program brings out the best from your entire team and by extension, your company.

Everyone will know what a good MOC looks like and drive improvements without being prompted. All they have to do is look up the last well-written MOC and point a new employee to the right direction. New employee says “Wow, I need to step my game up if I want to be part of this company”. And the cycle continues.

There are many benefits of a good MOC program:

  • Drawings that actually match what’s in the field or on the production floor (my personal pet peeve)
  • Safety of your employees since every MOC has to address the impact to your employees
  • Equipment reliability as critical upgrades are processed the right way, the first time
  • Reduction in rework since the change is communicated out in a timely manner
  • Increased profits over time as these changes improve production output while maintaining quality

Although change can be tedious and difficult, if it is managed well, the outcomes will be well worth it.

The Beauty of the Sunset

The sun changes position every minute of each day. At the end of the day, the sunset alerts you that it is now time to change from day to night. Even though the sunset brings about change, its beauty remains constant.

This article is also published on Linkedin.

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