How standardization creates responsibility

When it comes to implementing HSE processes like permit to work, LoToTo and production communication in organizations, there seem to be two options. One is to harmonize HSE guidelines across the business, while giving a level of independence to the sites and plants. The key argument is that ownership and responsibility are created when plants set up their own process and choose their own software. The other one is to impose standardized processes, per business unit or for all plants. Here, efficiency in terms of buying process, IT and auditing are the most commonly used arguments. Why does it have to be a choice? What if responsibility goes hand in hand when standardizing?

Many corporates have Lean and / or continuous improvement programs in place to standardize manufacturing and maintenance processes. In addition to these, Cardinal or Life Saving Rules programs are common place.

Easily adopted
At iB&X we find that key HSE processes like permit to work, LoToTo and production communication can also be incorporated in these continuous improvement, Lean and life saving rules programs. The benefit of this, is that plants can learn from each other and that proven improvements in one plant can easily be adopted and implemented in other sites. However, it is not enough for sites to simply use the same guidelines. This does not necessarily result in colleagues understanding how another plant is working. We see a lot of discussion when people, in their attempt to learn from each other, first need to invest a considerable amount of time to understand how things are organized.

Jointly define
Plants within a corporate organization or business unit generally have comparable products and processes, yet there can be a significant variation in HSE performance across plants. By standardizing results, KPIs and scores can be compared and experiences exchanged. But that fact alone is not enough to ensure ownership and responsibility. The way we see it, is that this needs to be created by engagement at a higher level: by having the sites jointly define the standard way of working.

Once they have determined the standard together, the next step for them is to create a standard set of indicators. This set should contain qualitative indicators and indicators that measure efficiency, identifying waste in the process.

Shorter learning curve
With this set, the plants can jointly determine a baseline, a first target. Now that everybody is working according to the same standard, valuable and efficient discussions can take place between plants, sites, regions and business units. The learning curve is much shorter and no one has to reinvent the wheel. On the contrary, we have found that people greatly value having a peer group where they can ask for help and support others.

In addition to this, once the first baseline has been achieved, the plants can evaluate and set new targets or indicators.

Great sense of reponsibility
In our experience, stakeholders from the shop floor to the boardroom highly value and benefit from this approach. They can determine relevant and achievable targets, plus they have an extended peer group in other plants, to rely on and draw ideas from. Ultimately, the mutual goal is to continuously improve HSE performance in order to reduce incidents and equipment damage and ultimately, send colleagues home safely. This way of standardizing creates a lot of energy and a great sense of responsibility among all involved.