Tag Archives: business

Syntron Material Handling to be acquired by Kadant

Tupelo (MS), USA – Kadant Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Syntron Material Handling Group, LLC from entities affiliated with Levine Leichtman Capital Partners. Syntron is a leading provider of material handling equipment and systems to various process industries, including mining, aggregates, food processing, packaging, and pulp and paper.  Continue reading Syntron Material Handling to be acquired by Kadant

You can turn teamwork into success: Plan…Do…Review

Planning and Doing (Implementation) come natural to us. However, setting time aside and reviewing what has been done or implemented is not common practice. Always stick with the process step that you are at the time. When you are planning stage, do not do any of the other two things. The same goes for the Doing and Reviewing part. You will save on nerves, effort and money if you do the well.

The most vital component to a successful team task is the review process. It is the most frequent overlooked task in any project you need to undertake. Some projects may make great progress at first and then later fail because along the course of anything you do in business there will always be some tweaking along the way and no one ever took the time to include this in a review phase. The “tweaking” changes the dynamics of a project and if no one takes time to record what, why and how it happened you will not be able to capture why the results were different than expected. This is extremely frustrating for everyone and wastes resources with a direct impact on the net bottom line because you will never know why you failed, or worse why you had success.

Think of how many team based projects you may have been involved in that did not provide the desired results. I venture saying that the vast majority of them failed because no one thought of drawing the line at the beginning of the project and ask that there be a time line, a set of criteria for the results be reviewed and measurements. This normally leads to so called open ended projects. This is one of the biggest morale busters as the involved people will not be able to conclude anything. Something that was supposed to be only a temporary or experimental measure now has become the permanent solution without openly and officially saying so. One of the most important items any employee is looking for in an organization is that his or her contributions are “worth” the effort and make a difference. How is the employee ever going to figure this out if you never conclude the project? A winning company turns the knowledge from a finished project into common practice. Working for a winning company is equally important to an employee.

Another such waste comes from not paying attention to what phase you are in. What I mean by that is that most teams get so far ahead of themselves and start doing without thoroughly finishing the planning session. Did you ever paint a room in your house or apartment? Well, then you know what I am talking about. It takes so much more effort and mostly time to prepare for the painting, than it does to do the actual painting. Make sure that you have covered the must-have items of a successful endeavor such as mission, goal, strategy, tactics, responsibilities, authority, timeline and the most important one: measurements. Take this into account when you form a team for a specific task. Make sure to allow ample time for the team to plan the course of the project and only then start thinking about the implementation part. Do not mix up the project phases. When you plan – plan; when you do – do; do not forget to review – just review and do not start revising your plan in the midst of it. Finish it well by recognizing the contributions made and that the project either did or did not turn into common practice.

A plan is only a plan as long as you stick to your plan. Otherwise it is a new one. Do not get me wrong here. I am not advocating that you go through with a project when a team recognizes that it makes no sense. But I am saying that you need to adhere to the distinctly different process phases of your project once you have all bought into the course of action. Otherwise you will diminish your success rate of any project.

Ralf Weiser

Who wants more Munk Debates?

Who wouldn’t! Debates beat apathy. The Munk Debates is cool. The more so since climate change was the theme for the Fourth Munk Debates. Climate change, just like continental drift, has been around for a few billion years. It took geologists from 1915 to 1950 to slow down to continental drift and call it plate tectonics. So, it’s about time to debate climate change. Why not call it weather dynamics? I work with metrology, the science of measurement. I took a crack at testing whether or not annual temperatures at several locations in Canada have changed significantly as a function of time. The average temperature of 6.57 centigrade in 2007 at Ottawa International Airport was significantly higher than the average temperature of 4.79 centigrade in 1939. Similarly, the average temperature of 8.30 centigrade in 2007 at Toronto International Airport was significantly higher than the average temperature of 6.04 centigrade in 1939. Average temperatures didn’t change at international airports in Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria. Neither did the average temperature in Coral Harbour and Iqaluit change significantly during the test period under examination.

Some grasp of statistics is required to apply Fisher’s F-test and verify spatial dependence between annual temperatures in ordered sets. Weather dynamics do change from day to day, from week to week, and from month to month. Such short-term changes in temperatures do not merit a Munk Debates. What does merit a Munk Debates is the question whether or not geostatistics is a scientific fraud.
Here’s in a nutshell my take on the Fourth Munk Debates. Elizabeth May is Leader of the Green Party of Canada. She is a gifted and confident speaker. She knows a lot of environmental stuff. She doesn’t know much about temperatures recorded by Environment Canada. Given that the Leader of the Green Party does speak a lot in public, she should know where temperatures went up or down, since when, and by how much.
George Monbiot was her partner in the Fourth Munk Debates. He is a superb scribe with the Guardian newspaper where his penchant for hyperboles runs rampant. How to measure climate change as a function of space and time is far beyond his grasp. Monbiot says cool things such as, “Canada is a cultured, peaceful nation, which every so often allows a band of Neanderthals to trample over it.” He doesn’t know Sir Ronald A Fisher ‘s work is trampled over by a tribe of statistically dysfunctional geoscientists bred in France, Great Britain, and elsewhere on this planet. The May/Monbiot side debated The Case For Climate Change.
Lord Nigel Lawson and Bjorn Lomborg debated The Case Against Climate Change. Lord Lawson is in a class apart when it comes to a life of public service in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. His work has done much to cool down global warming to climate change. He is the author of An Appeal to Reason, A Cool Look at Global Warming. He is the Chairman of Oxford Investment Partners, and of Central Europe Trust. As such, he knows all about mining conglomerates and mineral inventories in annual reports. He is bound to remember the Bre-X fraud. He may be unaware that geostatistical software converted Bre-X’s bogus grades and Busang’s barren rock into a huge phantom gold resource. Neither may Lord Lawson remember the cast of characters behind the Bre-X fraud.
Bjorn Lomborg’s claim to fame is based on The Skeptical Environmentalist and on Cool It. He is adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He also set up the Copenhagen Consensus Center to bring together those who set priorities for the world. I had brought to his attention in August 2008 that junk statistics underpins Matheron’s new science of geostatistics. I wanted to know whether he applies geostatistical data analysis. Environment Canada points to geostatistical data analysis in its handbook for inspectors. The skeptical environmentalist did not respond to my message.
The Merks and Merks team wants to debate The Case Against Geostatistics. Dr Frits P Agterberg, Emeritus Scientist with Natural Resources Canada, and Dr Roussos Dimitrakopoulos, Professor with McGill University, are highly qualified to debate The Case For Geostatistics. Both are serving in key positions with IAMG (International Association for Mathematical Geosciences). Once upon a time, IAMG stood for International Association for Mathematical Geology. Nowadays, our world needs more mathematical statistics.

Engineering and Project Teamwork

The cause is bigger than the individual and the product is more than the sum of the parts

I have had the privilege to be part of a crack engineering team that gelled and matured over a several year period and then continued to get better and better with time and with each challenge. As is natural, each team member revealed particular strengths. The individual strengths tended to be diverse and cumulatively greatly broadened the capability. When inspired by leadership, towards a common cause that is deemed bigger than the individual, the individual strengths dovetail, not only filling the gaps but with strengthened bonds produce a powerful force. This is not a case for promoting specialization, quite the contrary. Individual strengths and leanings happen naturally. Indeed, individuals that are trained and inspired to be well rounded and complete don’t lose their strengths and leanings but achieve greater versatility and productivity and through a broader understanding of all functions are able to enhance the performance of others by their support.

Construction at Victor Project in the harsh Canadian environment
Construction at Victor Project in the harsh Canadian environment

Recently I had the privilege of witnessing such exemplary teamwork in action at the Victor Diamond Mining project, in Northern Ontario, Canada. I was there for Dos Santos International, starting-up and commissioning our three DSI Snake Sandwich High-Angle Conveyors. At the morning launch meetings as at the evening recap, the enthusiasm and sense of purpose was contagious. Clearly the cause was larger than the individual and this sense was shared by all team members from management to labor of the participating companies; the owner, the EPCM, the installation contractor and the various suppliers. Assignments, both planned and unexpected were embraced with enthusiasm and performed with pride and purpose. It’s no wonder that the Victor project is an example of success, coming in ahead of schedule and under budget.

Twin DSI Snakes at the Victor Mine
Twin DSI Snakes at the Victor Mine

The accomplishments, product of the teamwork, are the more impressive when the size, location and schedule of the Victor Project are considered. The following stats are taken from “E&MJ Dec. 2005” and “Canadian Business Dec. 2005”:

  • Project cost, (US Dollars) $ 982 million
  • Project life is 17 years
  • Productive mine life is 12 years, based on only one of 16 pipes (grading 22.3 carats/100 t), 6 million carats. Exploration continues on others in order to extend the mine life
  • Mine will produce annual revenue of (US Dollars) $ 117 million
  • The Victor kimberlite has a surface area of 15 hectors
  • Mine is located in James Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario, 90 km west of the coastal community of Attawapiskat
  • Mine is accessible only by air, and supplied by ice roads during 2 to 2½ months in the winter
  • Project schedule:
    • Environmental permits were approved in late October, 2005
    • Construction began in early 2006
    • Mine production began in early 2008, nearly a full year ahead of schedule
  • Project manpower grew to more than 800 during construction and settled to 380 for the productive mine life

I was privileged and honored to be a part of (if only as a supplier and observer) this very successful and exemplary project and team.

Joseph A. Dos Santos, PE

Coal Feeder for Gasification Plants

Dear Bulkaholics,
I am a new member of your community. My business is Coal to Liquids plants. Is there anyone with experience in feeder technology for coal gasifiers? The problem is to feed dried coal (especially in the case of lignite) into the pressurized (Siemens or Shell) gasifiers. The train: Coal Crushing, Coal Pulverizing, Coal Drying, Coal Bunkering, Coal Feeding has to be optimized and a save handling is required (preventing coal dust explosion). I am interested to hear from someone.