Denis, paper machine superintendent for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 3B of the Leadership Development Lab:
“Back in the fall of 1998, PM3’s second press suction roll shell failed from a cracked shell and had to be replaced with our last spare suction press roll. This last roll was the spare for PM3’s first and second press and PM4’s first press. This was not a good position to be in, as we knew from history (due to their alloy selection years ago) that these shells were going to fail in time and would require replacement.
I immediately submitted a capital project request to replace the cracked shell with an upgraded roll (ventanip concept), identical to the upgrade we had made on PM4 a few years earlier. Paper machine #5 was also upgraded the same way a few years earlier than PM4.
With these two documented projects, this improvement was the logical project for PM3. The cost of the upgrade was about $100,000 more than replacing the shell with a new and better alloy shell. The proposed upgrade of about $350,000 offered virtually no risk and the benefits were great – no vacuum assist, therefore one less vacuum pump required, increased change schedule, lower maintenance, and a much shorter delivery time to complete the project.
A week or so later the management team decided to replace the shell instead of performing the upgrade project. To say the least, I was very upset with that decision and voiced my opinion in a not well-appreciated manner.
Shorty after, the maintenance manager got involved and was able to crunch the numbers needed for extra justification from the loss time reports to help support the upgrade.
A short time later, the project was reviewed a second time and it was decided to proceed in order to be able to complete the project by the following May during the normal mill-wide shutdown of the plant. The project was completed on time in May of 1999.
Looking back today, I know we all did the right thing by supporting the upgrade project, especially with the increased cost of manufacturing faced by all newsprint manufacturers.
The lesson I learned from this experience is that I will always stand up and voice my opinion when I strongly believe that the right thing is not being done. As I have matured, I see more clearly the need for all the supporting documentation I can gather.
The action I call you to take is to stand up and voice your opinion when you strongly believe in something and use diplomacy in your approach. Remember your job is to sell, not to just be self-righteously right.
The benefit you will gain is the satisfaction of doing the right thing on decisions for the sake of your employees, your department, and your company.”