Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cost-saving decisions? :--

Are these really cost-saving decisions? :--
1) To have pirated softwares to run the computer systems.
2) To have duplicate, counterfeit parts installed in the systems when the originals are available in the market.
3) To put ‘unauthorized person’ (somebody whom the manufacturers of a device do not certify) to attend or service the device.
4) To replace the device with a human substitute when the device has become dysfunctional.
5) To deny communication , even a ‘BCC’ or ‘CC’ labeling of messages to certain recipients , all for the only reason of cost-savings, ! (where purposefulness is not questionable, only the cost)
6) To refuse communication to ship’s other staff by the Master or other management rank, with the office management in the name of cost incurred!
7) To “enforce” rules like switching off the lights, using the stationery items precariously, etc to say -- cost saving!
8) To hold cost-saving at higher regard than “safety first”, for example in a decision to lay-off regarding laying of a ship.

My old company, the SCI Ltd, has once sent out a circular talking about the cost-saving plan of the company in its hard times of seeing disinvestment by the owners, the Indian government.
Cost-saving is always a disliked concept by maximum employees of any company in any field. Nobody wants to see his status icons be taken off, leaving him behind to live life at the bare minimum. Cost saving is quite an anti-thesis to the concept for expanding any business. The more one invest in his business, the greater he is likely to get returns, provided the investments have been systematic and directional. Cost-saving is also likely to meet at cross with the philosophy of “Safety First” at every second step.

Repairs concept in the broader terms of management of ship operations:

Alternation and Duplication are two widely known methods of handling breakdowns on board ships. The concept of managing ship equipment and machinery talks mainly of the PMS only, which is the Planned Maintenance System, and, maybe, never talks on the breakdown maintenance of devices.
In fact the ISM and other regulations such as ISGOTT have such heavy hurdles in place that no intelligent ship-staff will want to call repairs as his forte, if his ship-owners are a truly regulations-compliant people. Filling the forms, risk assessments, following-up the manuals, skills of the crew, -- these all are discouraging to achieving the repairs of any device or even the simplest of pipelines repairs.
therefore the two methods talked above have been resorted to. In fact the cost incurred to achieve Alternation and Duplication (A&D) appears to be taken up for recovery by method of crew size cut-down and minimal stoppages or lay-offs
Intelligent ship-owners will also appreciate that they can never be sure of their crew's repairing skills. The crew has been certified by the governments about their operating skills, a part of which implies that ship crew should be expected to have an understanding of principles of the machines they are going to operate. This may not be necessarily enough to do its repairs beyond what the manuals 'Troubleshooting' can teach them. Some lessons of repairs, such as plugging, leak repair techniques, are however known or learnt as basic seamanship skills; but for the modern techno- ships it is very minor.
Thus the basic premise of repairs should rest on the assumptions that ship staff may not be skilled enough and therefore workshops or a foresight-full dry-docking be harnessed. It's is over here that cost-cutting charm plays it's music.
Taking a moment off the topic, I would like to add that cost-cutting is something natural to us , Indians ,having been brought in a country which has a culture of 'Savings' and which was traditionally a poor and a socialist 'collection'(which we call a 'nation') of people. The more acclaimed theories on cost-cuttings are not much known to us, and we therefore work it through our culture understanding only.
Many companies with Indians or developing-nation managers in it often allot shipstaff to do odd jobs for which the staff may not have skills, or the manufacturers refuse permission to any 'unauthorized persons'.
Also, the tenure of ship staff's association with a shipping company is also very unsure factor. They may not return to the company, more surely if they see too many dysfunctional items. They may be unwilling. They may be elsewhere occupied. They may hide, don't report the defect for the fear of having to repair them.
Thus, it is wiser to keep this realm of repair to the ship's technical managers only and not the staff.
The better approach is to have ship staff use the A&D device, while the defective item is put for repairs urgently, if possible.
The next step of the problem rises about reporting of the defects. Often the ship-staff take the easiest route of declaring the whole item to be defective without any specific description of what troubles they faced in the operation of equipment. Inter-organizational problems then rise such as 'what actions you took', 'no spares you supplied' , 'not my job', 'YOUR job!'. Many inter personal problems and acute judgments of each other’s “Confidential reports” also set rolling in these tough hours. People take thoughts on leaving or surviving life as seafarers. Blame becomes the game. More silent and hidden problems start.
It is, therefore, smarter to adopt a better and robust maintenance system. Continuous and honest reporting with accurate observations are very important therefore. Onus of this rest with the Ship-staff while the companies keep a check on this through regular ship-visits, reviews and technical auditing.
the company on its end should preserve and analyze the reports regularly. They should take prompt actions lest an emergency situation arise on board the ship.
Inter-personal troubles are common to be seen work-places of defective machineries. Bad ship is a birth place for bad ideologies.
The position of ship's masters and chief engineers is also very scrutiny-worth here. To achieve 'his' (because we tend to take jobs so closely as they are our personal agenda, or a promotion tool) ends he often manipulates the messages and seizes up the communication console to establish his power, control and authority on the rest. There, how good or bad the messages are interpreted get dependant on one man's entire outlook only.
In my case, when the company representative came, he insisted that there was no official message for cancellation of scrap plan, while truthfully the vessel staff was always under the impression of vessel planned to trade further. Who's at fault in this understanding error? I'm sure, the master for one, and that company guy too who has adopted divergent speech and written message - method as his strategy to achieve his task.
Ethical insight of Indians in regard to business practices to be put for questions again at this hour,
And I'm pretty sure it was possible to run the ship with good ethics. But then, we slip into taking unethical route faster than most other persons.
Then, occupational health concepts are not much known by us.