Sustaining change

By Steve Gahbauer   

Facilities Maintenance Industry Manufacturing Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada Potash Corp. PWC

How Potash Corp. transformed maintenance and made it stick.

Underground, moving Potash. PHOTO: POTASH CORP.

Underground, moving Potash. PHOTO: POTASH CORP.

Adapting the company culture to change and how to manage it is challenging enough, but it doesn’t end there. Change has to stick.

Implementing and sustaining it was the topic of a joint presentation at the MainTrain conference in Calgary presented by the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada.

Javier Sanchez, manager of change management for Saskatoon-based Potash Corp., the world’s largest fertilizer company (by capacity), and Doug Stretton, a manager with PwC’s People and Change Practice, offered suggestions on how to implement change and sustain it.

The large-scale maintenance transformation project at the mining company, enabled by a single software implementation across multiple sites, allowed employees to leverage new tools and maximize the return on investment.


“Change management is a structural approach to help individuals accept and embrace a transition from a current state to a desired future state,” said Stretton, director of PwC’s Enterprise Asset Management Practice and a subject matter expert (SME) with specialized knowledge in maintenance and supply chain business processes.

He stressed the benefits of change management depend on people’s ability to follow aligned processes and use the system. In Potash Corp.’s case, it was a given that the work in the maintenance, procurement and inventory functions would change significantly.

The change management strategy was to help employees eagerly accept the transition from different business processes to an aligned process and a single enterprise asset management (EAM) system. This strategy followed a logical route from first contact, creating awareness and fostering understanding, to engagement, enabling people, and commitment to continuous improvement.

Creating a simple system
Each of the company’s 16 sites had a different business process for maintenance, procurement and inventory. The challenge was to align these individual business processes into a single system.

During the first year (2012-2013) the company went from design to construct to implement, starting with business process alignment, a software solution, system configuration, and then testing, training, set-up support mechanisms, schedules and site preparation.

During the second year (2013-2014) the company went through the implementation process with a deployment schedule driven by data collection and conversion, and by operational requirements.

This involved developing leadership at all levels, from senior executives and site management to front line positions. It also involved improving leadership buy-in and understanding the aligned processes and the proposed single EAM system.

It was necessary to create a change champion network plus awareness of, and interest in the EAM initiative as a priority for maintenance. That’s why it was so important to ensure the initiative was marked by clear and frequent project team communication.

The strategy ensured EAM stakeholders improved their understanding of how processes are changing and what the benefits of the new tools would be. This was accomplished by comprehensive system and process training at all sites.

To sustain the change:

    • leaders from all areas are enabled and eager to support it;
    • there’s a change champion network at every site;
    • training is an ongoing activity;
    • a tiered support model is in place; and
    • all sites are leveraging the new processes, software and systems.

As a result, Potash Corp. is now enjoying the benefits of a transformed maintenance department.

This article appears in the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of PLANT West.


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