Retrofit Realities: 15 Tips for a Seamless Transition, Part III

Retrofit Realities: 15 Tips for a Seamless Transition, Part III

By Dean Starovasnik

“A really great talent finds its happiness in execution.” - Goethe

In Parts I and II of this post, I outlined the first 10 Planning & Preparation Tips for a Seamless Transition.  But, even the most fastidious planning and preparation in the world can’t guarantee a successful retrofit without proper execution.  Implementation is game time!  Every action and move from here on out will determine whether the retrofit succeeds in being seamless or not.  Following are 5 implementation tips for a seamless success…

1)    Daily meetings between operational leadership and implementation managers are necessary to keep everyone informed on the day’s work and any changing circumstances.

Setting up a cadence for such meetings and conducting them religiously even when there are “no changes” will ensure Murphy’s impact is minimized.  Spend some time just reviewing what will be done each day to allow both groups to envision the day and identify conflicts earlier rather than “too late!”

2)    Identify all critical spare parts necessary to keep the new equipment operational during both start up and transition to an operational condition.  

Acquire these parts well ahead of time to ensure long lead items are not a factor.  Since “cut overs” and ramps are usually more compressed and pivotal in retrofits, eliminating down time while waiting for parts requires having such spares on hand, even if in a consignment basis, during the go live.

3)    Ensure retrofit areas are properly identified and cordoned off as necessary. 

Temporary personnel, visitors, inspectors and such will be in the building. The longer the retrofit takes, the more likely this is. Be certain that even a completely uninformed visitor can tell where it is safe, and more importantly, where it is unsafe for them to be. 

4)    Communicate up and down the hierarchy of the organization. 

Ensure all decisions makers, even those outside the immediately affected functions, are aware of the plan, the progress and the projected completion for the retrofit.  Their interactions with customers, suppliers and internal staff will be much more effective if they are kept apprised.  This will also ensure that bad news is aired out quickly and with a minimum of impact.  “Bad news never gets better with age” is a truism too often validated in the midst of a retrofit.  By keeping senior managers proactively updated they are less likely to intervene unexpectedly, often with distasteful results.

5)    “Plan the work. Work the plan.” 

Circumstances will change.  Identify their impact on the retrofit and its subsequent completion.  If at all possible, proceed apace with the plan as developed.  However, the great benefit of extensive planning is that it makes improvisation so much easier.  All the interconnected factors have been examined and understood and the various personnel are already connected to the project, if only for information.  To come back around to von Clausewitz, in this case his disciple, Moltke, “No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  Be prepared to make decisions to change the plan when the enemy, reality or Murphy, intrudes. 

From the customer's perspective, the ideal retrofit is one they didn’t know occurred.  One day they’re receiving packages from you with known expectations…then the next, like magic, they realize your service levels have improved and they’re receiving orders faster.  And, you realize you've achieved a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Remember in Part I how I compared a retrofit to “replacing the engine on a VW bus with a brand new supercharged V8 during a road trip”?  Well, it’s really not that easy, but with the proper planning, preparation, and implementation, you’re bound to have a smoother ride.