Does your organization have the right documents to ensure that your workers complete their tasks correctly and safely? Operational readiness is an essential piece of any worksite puzzle and requires proper documents for success. In this article, we’ll describe the basics of operational readiness, its importance, what you need to consider, and how technical writing can help.
What is Operational Readiness?
Operational readiness is the idea that your product, solution, or project is ready to go without issue. It enables you to reduce operational risks and increase safety, productivity, and efficiency. This applies to every step of your process, from the initial stages of deployment to maintaining the systems and equipment you have on the job.
Why is Operational Readiness So Important?
One cannot overstate the importance of operational readiness, yet it isn’t always implemented. Since job sites can “technically” perform without this type of preparation, many will take a major risk by putting off this part of planning. These organizations open themselves up to serious problems, including failure to comply with industry standards and regulations. They also may face other issues: downtime for equipment, medical emergencies, and loss of product and profit.
“The need for effective operating procedures has been confirmed in countless studies related to major accident causes. In fact, an average of 36.2% of incidents resulted from inadequately written procedures in a study covering more than 50 years of data. During that same period, operator error was the cause in an average of 26.2% of the events.”¹
By not having operational readiness strategies in place from day one, you’re putting your workers and site at serious risk. You can avoid incidents, and potential lawsuits, by having the right documentation available to employees.
And that’s not all. A study found that “30% of the potential value of a major program can be destroyed as a result of operational readiness failures.” Startup delays due to lack of operational readiness can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. In 2011, $700,000 cash flow was lost each day for a new North American ethylene cracker because of failures at startup.
So operational readiness should be ready to go from day one. This means making it a part of your project cycle management. Your project scope should include details regarding operational readiness, how you plan to tackle it, and the risks that could occur if neglected. With the right approach, you can improve delivery of your product, solution, or project. You can increase business continuity, keep on schedule, reduce risks, and get a more accurate picture of the costs your company could potentially incur.
¹Analysis of Past Incidents in the Process Industries, Symposium Series No. 154, IChemE 2008, includes “Quantitative Analysis of Major Hazard Incidents,” I.M. Duguid, 1998, 2001, 2005.
What Belongs on Your Operational Readiness Checklist?
Now that you understand the importance of operational readiness, start building up your plan. Documentation represents a significant component of operational readiness. You’ll need to think about:
No matter the site, no matter the project, your staff needs to have the resources on hand to help them perform their work safely, to the best of their abilities. These resources include the following items:
- Training materials
- Training resources
- Defined communication channels
- Standard operating procedures
Your staff needs to easily access these documents at all times. This may mean having several copies available, including an online version.
Project risk management should work hand-in-hand with your operational readiness plan. Your organization needs a thorough understanding of what can go wrong at launch; also, with clients, maintenance, and all other aspects of production. You have much to consider here, from communication issues to user habits, so make sure you’re asking the right questions.
Don’t forget to include the steps you must take towards recovery if the worst should happen. What steps can your employees take to further reduce risks?
Of course, you also need clear documentation for maintenance schedules and plans. How often does your equipment need check-ups? Preventive maintenance? What should be done if a piece of equipment begins breaking down? Whom should your employees call if the equipment shows worrisome signs or operates incorrectly?
Maintenance isn’t an afterthought. You don’t want to wait until something becomes a problem to make a plan for fixing it. You should have clearly outlined procedures on day one to achieve full operational readiness. Every day your equipment has downtime due to faulty maintenance plans costs you money.
Operational readiness should also take costs into account. This means the initial cost of getting ready for operations, including documentation and training, but also the cost of maintaining quality throughout the project.
Does your industry have certain compliance standards you have to meet? Make sure to include these in your operational readiness plan. In many cases, government and industry organizations require you to have such documentation for compliance.
Why Documentation Can Make a Difference
Documentation and written procedures have proven essential to any worksite or industry. Not only does documentation improve operations, but it also reduces serious risks—including those to the employees. Quality procedures improve compliance across the board with industry requirements. You’ll do better to have a plan, instead of scrambling if the worst should occur.
What Types of Documents Should You Have?
Some examples of documentation you should have on hand include those listed below.
- Standard operating procedures
- Equipment manuals
- Contact information
- Training materials
- Rules and policies
- Guidelines for operations, behaviors, and equipment
- Workplace policies
- Work instructions
What Should These Various Documents Cover?
Your documentation needs to clearly outline certain aspects of your operations and answer various questions as listed below:
- The project
- What will the project entail?
- What is the desired outcome of the project?
- Startup procedures
- How will your project start?
- What is expected to occur?
- What steps can be taken to reduce risks during the startup?
- What equipment will be used during operation?
- How is it properly used?
- What preventive maintenance needs to be done? How often?
- What should be done in the event of a critical error or problem? Who should be called?
- Normal operations
- What should occur in the day-to-day operations of your organization and project?
- What steps should your employees take to ensure quality and consistency?
- What errors can occur? How can they be avoided?
- What troubleshooting steps should be taken regarding the project or equipment in the event of a problem?
- Actions to take in the event of emergency
- Who should be called?
- What actions should employees take?
- What evacuation actions do you have in place?
- What are the shutdown procedures?
- What are some examples of emergencies that could occur?
Don’t Forget About Training
Training materials represent one of the most important things you should have when it comes to operational readiness and documentation. Granting your employees access to the documentation they need to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities will ensure they understand what they need to do. It will also show them exactly how to reach the appropriate people and which manuals to consult for questions or concerns.
Some examples of training that can help with operational readiness and ensure your project goes smoothly at all levels include the following:.
- Training modules
- Self-study guides
- One-on-one training with management
- Hands-on experience
- Q&A sessions
- A review of all site materials and documentation necessary to perform a job
- Annual events and meetings that ensure reinforcement of training
Training and documentation means that your workers have the knowledge to fully and safely complete each and every one of their tasks with fewer risks and increased productivity.
Do you need assistance creating or revising your documentation for operational readiness? We can help you meet the needs of your industry, worksite, product, project, and employees through technical writing. Visit our services page to learn more about what we offer, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.