Mr. Colin Duncan with SEAM Group Talks About The Performance Triad

In this week's Industrial Talk Podcast we're talking to Colin Duncan, CEO at The SEAM Group about “Unleashing the Potential of Your Organization through the Performance Triad of Safety, Reliability and Maintenance”.  Get the answers to your “Performance Triad” questions along with Colin's unique insight on the “How” on this Industrial Talk interview!

You can find out more about Colin and the wonderful team at the SEAM Group on Unleashing the Potential of Your Organization by the links below.  Finally, get your exclusive free access to the Industrial Academy and a series on “Why You Need To Podcast” for Greater Success in 2020. All links designed for keeping you current in this rapidly changing Industrial Market. Learn! Grow! Enjoy!


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Colin Duncan, Scott MacKenzie

Scott MacKenzie  00:04

Welcome to the industrial talk podcast with Scott MacKenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let's go. Yes, you have, yes, you have joined the industrial talk podcast. This is where we celebrate you, industry heroes, that's you, pointing to you, and we celebrate you because you are bold and you are brave. You dare greatly. You you solve problems, which we need to do, especially today. You're you're changing lives, and you're changing the world as we speak. Right? This very moment. And thank you, again, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you very much for joining. All right, in the hot seat, we got a gentleman by the name of Colin Duncan. And he is the CEO at SEAM Group. And you know, what we're gonna be talking about, we're gonna be talking about reliability, we're going to be talking about safety. And we're going to be talking about maintenance, and how they all sort of inter relate to each other. Very cool conversation. Collin is great, but without a doubt, he's great. Let's get cracking.

Scott MacKenzie  01:22

Okay, I know, I know.

Scott MacKenzie  01:26

I love geeking out on this stuff. I just think that that because of where we are today within industry, and who we have out there, who are just really innovating, it is more more important than ever, as I tell you, no, shoot, how many? How many interviews Have I done of industry leaders?

Scott MacKenzie  01:46

I don't think I'm exaggerating a million. But the reality is, is that each one of those leaders, each one of those innovative push the envelope, trailblazing industry leaders get down to this, they're always educating. Yep. Because the world is changing that fast, always educating, looking to collaborate, which is one of the biggest themes that I get every time when I have these conversations,

Scott MacKenzie  02:17

is their desire to collaborate with individuals to companies, the people that whatever it might be, to collaborate in such a way to solve problems, right. And I again, carp on or go back to the fact that one, we can't be doing this alone.

Scott MacKenzie  02:37

We have to be collaborating, we have to find companies that want to collaborate, and we want to have companies that get stuff done, and you want to work with those individuals. You want to work with those companies. And the bottom line is that you're driving to innovation, right? You're just constantly driving to innovation. You're never ever satisfied with the status quo. You are integrationists. And that's what makes industry so spectacular is because we're always educated, we're always collaborating, and we're always innovating to solve the world's problems, to deliver products more efficiently to solve to develop a product that meets a specific needs. And it's global. Right? It's global. That's the kind of club that you belong to you, industry hero. Love it. All right.

Scott MacKenzie  03:30

Now that I've just got done preaching, let's get on with the interview itself. Now, again,

Scott MacKenzie  03:37

I mean, Collin is is I mean, the the wonderful team at SEAM Group, they there get it, and they just see it, and they just, they're driven to be able to, to look at safety and reliability and maintenance and pulling it all together. Because they are just like we are an industry just like we are with collaborating, we that's bound together, there are ties with those incredible solutions. And to just sort of leave one as a standalone doesn't give the whole picture. It's not that holistic look at how you keep people safe, how you keep that asset up and running, which is, well, it is, you know, putting more money on the bottom line, and how do you do it with with a sense of

Scott MacKenzie  04:27

focus, and having your your dollars spent properly? Right? Again, we're gonna be talking about this triad, safety, reliability, maintenance, and you can't, I mean, and it can apply to everything it can apply to anything. So it's really, really important. great conversation. All right. You can tell I'm a big fan of SEAM Group.

Scott MacKenzie  04:54

I'm a big fan of anybody that is an any company that is willing to do what

Colin Duncan  05:00

They do educate, collaborate, and innovate. I'm a big fan of anybody that does that. Enjoy the interview with Colin, column. Welcome to the industrial talk podcast. It is a great honor that you just here to share your wisdom and insights with all the listeners at industrial talk. How are you doing today? I'm good. Thanks, Scott. I'm very well away from California. And I'm jealous. It's probably a great gorgeous day, right? All the way from California. And the accent suggests that too, does No. Yeah. Yeah. That the other side of the street of California, whatever that is. That's where? All right for the listeners out there. Let's get a little level set and give us a little background on who Collin is nothing big, nothing fancy. Just who you are. And then we're gonna dive into a great topic that I'm pretty passionate about. Yeah, no, Sure. Absolutely. I mean, the short version is, as you can probably tell, I'm British. I have been in the US No. 17 years.

Colin Duncan  05:56

Proudly a citizen since 2016. Here. Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Colin Duncan  06:02

I would say, folks, I've got a foot in both camps, I guess. Still so.

Colin Duncan  06:06

dual citizen. dual citizen. Yeah. Technically. Yeah. So no. So my previous business, you know, the short version is my previous business was a safety consulting firm that I suspect a lot of folks will know, BST, very strong in the safety, leadership, safety, culture space,

Colin Duncan  06:26

ran that business for close to a decade,

Colin Duncan  06:30

actually sold it to a German testing inspection business called decorah.

Colin Duncan  06:36

left their 2016 been involved in safety

Colin Duncan  06:41

boards of a number of safety companies, some of which you'll know.

Colin Duncan  06:47

And actually, interestingly, during that period, I

Colin Duncan  06:50

did some work with a friend of mine, David Michaels, Dr. Michaels was the head of OSHA. Under the hammer administration, longest serving head of OSHA, we actually looked at setting up a Research Unit at George Washington University when David left his OSHA post, he went back to his professorial role at GW, and that the research unit was primarily focused on studying the relationship between production or productivity, and safety. Because both I in my role as CEO of BSc and decorah.

Colin Duncan  07:27

And David, in his role at OSHA, we've seen this

Colin Duncan  07:31

abundance of anecdotal evidence that companies who were safe tended to get other good things to happen. See, I'm sorry, I got an interrupt real quick, because that is not the,

Colin Duncan  07:43

the thinking out there. And the reason is, is that they think that you can't be productive and safe. One has to be more or less. And, and that's an interesting observation or or study. And there are actually many, you know, studies for maybe another discussion, but there are quite a number of interesting studies in the, in the academic literature, looking at the relationship between productivity and performance outcomes in manufacturing environments, and safety. And the short version is if you go after safety, you can often drive other performance outcomes in production environments, the converse does not hold true. Right. So

Colin Duncan  08:26

see, but then, just just to finish the picture, in terms of my background, I joined the SEAM Group

Colin Duncan  08:33

in the fall of 2019, in the role of CEO and,

Colin Duncan  08:39

you know, we are in the process of really putting together an integrated approach to safety, reliability and maintenance, which, you know, why did I take this role? Why am I so powerful is getting ready to act like and why joining the dots here, right, Scott?

Colin Duncan  08:58

Make it easy.

Colin Duncan  09:00

You know, I was kind of had some real passionate about this, you know, my experience leading a safety Consulting Group globally. My experience, you know, talking to David Michaels, the where we can connect the dots in production, manufacturing, distribution environments, between safety, reliability and maintenance. All three of those boats rise with the tide, there is the result, a collective benefit, and I frankly wary somewhat of the narrative one will often hear on the shop floor of well, they put production productions more important safety. I, my experience is that when you talk at the executive level, it's not a case of we want one or the other. We want both.

Colin Duncan  09:47

The challenge is how do we get there? And that's the answer, frankly, that same group we're trying to we're trying to solve, how do we partner with our clients to bring those disciplines together?

Colin Duncan  10:01

So that you get collected efficiency across all three.

Scott MacKenzie  10:05

Yeah, because today maybe no, maybe I'm dating myself. But in the past, these were silos, right? production did production stuff. Or, well, let's just say operations did operations stuff, maintenance didn't maintenance stuff. Reliability was just a buzzword. And safety was just to keep you out of trouble to a certain extent, but really, really, is that operations sort of ran the thing, because that's where the money was made. Maintenance was always the, the, you know, problem child to a certain extent, because they were spending capital, and, and cost and money. And everybody's like, hey, heard about this reliability conversation. And then safety was just because we had to have one, because somebody said we did. And that's the way that I was the culture.

Colin Duncan  10:55

Just keep it right. I think one can see that culture. But I think what you will find is, organizations with, you know, more sophisticated understanding of their operations, understand that it's a system, all of the pieces interact. If you if you look at things that happen when you have unplanned downtime. Well, one of the things we know with unplanned downtime, is that that tends to cause your maintenance costs to be higher. Things take longer to fix your rushing inventory, you're trying to normalize your operations afterwards tends to be longer. But But what about unplanned downtime from a safety point of view, we know that the footprint in incidents that take place with the no matter how serious, they are particularly more serious ones, you tend to find the footprint of unplanned maintenance, unplanned downtime, where people are trying to get the line back up and running, the work isn't properly planned beforehand. People are rushing, they're doing, you know, pre task risk assessments on the hoof. They're trying to figure out how to get everything back up. And in the process, people get hurt. So there is a symbiosis that everybody actually understands is there is just a case of not being reactive and being proactive across all three disciplines, right? So as I look at this, and I think you guys, it seemed call it the triad, right. And so we're looking at a triangle, we're looking at safety, we're looking at reliability, we're looking at maintenance, and having that triad sort of harmoniously work together.

Scott MacKenzie  12:41

companies and help me through this is that we naturally say, What's higher and priority, we just prioritize naturally. So I always say safety's number one. And then and then of course,

Scott MacKenzie  12:57

reliability, and it's just you just naturally go there. How do you take a company that has this existing culture, and begin to roll it out? Is there an incremental way of being able to do that?

Colin Duncan  13:12

There are multiple facets to how you get the culture aligned, I think, you know, step number one, is making sure there are clarity around the goals and objectives of the different stakeholders.

Colin Duncan  13:28

You know, before one starts to work quotes on culture, you better understand that the outcomes are outcomes that everybody shares.

Colin Duncan  13:40

So I think that's step number one, I think step number two, you referenced silos earlier,

Colin Duncan  13:46

is recognizing and valuing the expertise and talent that exists in the different silos, operating disciplines, whatever you want to call it. And finding a way of having your professional groupings, share that expertise and evaluate collectively. It's interesting to me, whether it's a maintenance, reliability or safety, we've got really robust what we have methodologies developed over the last three or four decades to allow us to maximize the uptime and performance of our production environment. But we've also developed very rigorous disciplines from a hazard identification, risk management point of view for safety.

Colin Duncan  14:32

Surely, we're all better served if if the folks who are working across those disciplines understand what sits within the disciplines and can't leverage off of each other. Because it is a system you know, the reality is we can't run any production environment without human beings. So if we don't understand the factors that determine whether or not human beings operate in reliable ways in the context of the you know, the engineering

Colin Duncan  15:00

The plan that we're working with, we're gonna run into problems.

Colin Duncan  15:04

So it's, we had this conversation offline, and we were talking a lot about people and culture. And and you brought up a good point in your, your, your points here, one, I think it's imperative. And correct me if I'm wrong imperative that you've get those stakeholders all shaking their head saying, Yeah, this is important. Yeah, we've got to do that. Because naturally, once it starts to go down into your operations there, then if the clarity is not there, then again, people and culture, it'll start to begin being suboptimal, for lack of a better term, because there's no clarity, nobody shaking their heads. And that's where it always resides. It's got to be there. It has to be there. And I think this comes to forgive me for now sound like a scratch record here on talking about the management system that the system that you operate, if you look at Exxon Mobil post of alldis, what did Exxon realize they had to do? They had to really make safety, operational reliability into everything they did. So Exxon haven't, you know, it's publicly available, the operational integrity management system Owens, and it's, it is about reliable operations, that it's not a safety system is about running your, your your business reliably. And again, I think some of the more sophisticated sectors have learned from industries for whom reliability was non negotiable, the nuclear industry, the airline industry, industry, please don't come to me and say, yeah, by the way, I just got this secondhand talk on, you know, widget over here, and it's hanging off the wing. No, nobody wants to do that. Although is a brief aside, am I the only person who's thinking right now? Oh, yeah, I'm going to start traveling soon. Because I'm getting vaccinated this week, I will get an aeroplane. Well, wait a minute, that airplane has been sat in the desert for the year, a year and a half? I don't know. Am I the only person who's

Colin Duncan  17:16

got it all? Because I had the same question. I said, look at that, I mean, fact that you guys are out of Cleveland, a bust up on Cleveland, you got a lot of continental airplanes just sort of sitting there. They got the little, you know, Collins, it's sitting up there, right, and I could think about is that they're sitting is somebody going to be doing the maintenance, I feel a bit more comfortable. I drove through the Mojave tailender last year, there's a bunch of them. So in the desert there, I'm more comfortable going on those because the client won't have done quite as much harm to them. But anyway, we're getting off

Colin Duncan  17:50

high reliability industries, learn things about how you have to understand the interaction between your management system, your engineering and processes and your people. And that reliability is something you engineer across all three, it's not something that sits separately from the others.

Colin Duncan  18:13

And that, for me, is, you know, trickling down the learning from these high reliability industries, to industry more broadly, I think, is something we can be doing. And part of that is if you if you if you if you have had exposure in the nuclear industry, you'll find that the technical professionals do share the technical skill set that they have, and frankly value, the respective skill set that they brew,

Colin Duncan  18:43

you know, say safety in the nuclear industry isn't something that sits in a separate, you know, holster governor.

Scott MacKenzie  18:51

Let me ask you this, and it's along the same lines. And some of the pushback, of course, is is added costs. Now I'm, I'm manufacturer, this chemical, and I compete with this chemical company, and I'm doing all of this stuff. And if I deploy a system, like in a nuclear facility or plane, it just adds cost. And and so that that might be a flawed viewpoint of it. But the reality is, now I can't compete with this over here, because I'm trying to be responsible over here.

Colin Duncan  19:25

And, you know, it's nice to think that way, I can share with you some anecdotes, but I think there's also I'll go back to some of the academic studies that have come across. There's plenty to show that you know, when you actually study these relationships, you find that organizations that invest in a systemic approach to these three disciplines, get outcomes across all three. And what we have to bear in mind is that if we get outcomes across all three, we are definitively reducing our cost that makes us more competitive.

Colin Duncan  20:00

If it's actually the siloed mentality that increases the cost, the integrative approach is the one that eliminates costs. And I'll tell you, I remember working with a aluminium

Colin Duncan  20:16

smelting, rolling operation globally, this is an organization, a lot of folks will know,

Colin Duncan  20:24

with a couple of 100 facilities across the globe. And, you know, remember them moving a plant manager to a site in China, the, when that individual was moved was the worst performing site globally on any of their production scorecard metrics.

Colin Duncan  20:47

The individual who was moved there, determined that focus number one was going to be improving safety of the of the plants.

Colin Duncan  20:57

You know, they'd had a pretty torrid record from a safety point of view. Over the next two and a half years, that plant plant went from the bottom on their production scorecard, to the top decile.

Colin Duncan  21:14

That plan, man, I did it using it, you know, it can sound cliched, but did it kind of using safety as a bit of a Trojan horse for what was about engagement, alignment, culture, change, focus, priorities, communication, all the things that make an operation run smoothly. And, you know, this is me revealing my bias and my safety background. But you will generally find the great thing about safety is that people won't argue with the inherent value of the outcome. We don't want, we don't people get hurt when it comes to work. We want them to go home. In the same physical condition, they came here and it's a pretty it's a relatively easy coalescing agents, you know, so a thought comes to mind, I put my, my plant manager hat on, and I like what you're saying, I hear you, and it's great.

Scott MacKenzie  22:10

How, how long does some type of thing like this generally take to begin to change that culture to begin to deploy what is necessary, and then create a sustainable

Scott MacKenzie  22:25

process going forward?

Colin Duncan  22:28


Colin Duncan  22:30

You know that the don't say 18 months, if you say 18 months, so help me God, I'll come and reach through that zoom. I was going to equivocate for more than 18 months.

Colin Duncan  22:41

British would say how long is a piece of string, which I know doesn't always translate here? But I mean, it depends where you're starting from. Right. And it depends what it depends really on how intractable some of the problems are going to be. But you know, how long it takes should not be determinant of whether or not it's the right thing to do.

Scott MacKenzie  23:03

You're right about that. And

Colin Duncan  23:05

the other thing I would say is, you know, we talk about culture very loosely, but it's, it's maybe better to focus on, you know, shifting the dial in terms of kind of the climate in the near term. And, again, this is something that's been written about more on the safety side of things. But understanding that, you know, countries begin amorphous, and engineers tend to run the environments we're working in. And engineers don't like things that are amorphous, some kind of positive kind of get. But there are things you can measure real time in terms of participation, alignment, collaboration,

Colin Duncan  23:43

these these are things we can see happening, we can set near term goals. For the outcomes we're trying to deliver in three months in six months. A lot of us say, you know, worry about the long term culture change stuff later, let's actually focus on the things we can get traction on near term. And particularly, let's focus on the metrics that will tell us we're making progress towards the goal.

Scott MacKenzie  24:10

Do you find it I know this is going to be hard to answer to a certain extent do you find greater adoption of this triad? process? If you're capturing a business upfront? Hey, we've got the capital, we're going to be planning ahead, we're going to be able to, you know, run through what we want to and have our scheduled maintenance and things are not scheduled. Sorry.

Scott MacKenzie  24:39

Plan means all of that stuff. Do you find it easier in a more Greenfield type environment?

Colin Duncan  24:48

That's an interesting question.

Colin Duncan  24:51

I think one might argue that in a Greenfield environment, necessarily safety is going to

Colin Duncan  25:00

sort of comes to the fore simply by virtue of, you know, the nature of the construction and commissioning process, you'll, you know, you'll have heightened awareness.

Colin Duncan  25:13

You know, the converse of that is that

Colin Duncan  25:16

one might often find the reliability and maintenance considerations that can have an impact on safety, perhaps don't get enough attention when the site is still grief. Yeah.

Colin Duncan  25:31

And again, that comes back to, you know, systems thinking. Now, I remember a

Colin Duncan  25:37

client, we work with a mile business who had a failure at one of their facilities in South Africa.

Colin Duncan  25:45

You know, and the short version is the inherent design problem was, you know, created in the handoff between design and operations. Yeah.

Colin Duncan  26:01

You know, I think we'll see a full footprint of that quite commonly. Yeah, so I think the answer is yet. Yeah, maybe. But but but in reality, we want to keep everybody calibrated on it's not a case of what's easier, or what's harder, it's a case of what's the right way of managing the system? See, that's, that's an interesting point, because I think it has its own challenges, right. It's just God's you know, and I know that I've been in an environment where you're, you're commissioning the asset, first, you're building it, then you're trying to commission it, and everybody's just looking at the money. And the money is like, hey, let's get going. Let's get this thing spinning. And, and there, there is a tendency sometimes is to cut corners, or to not

Scott MacKenzie  26:46

align that pump properly, or whatever it might be. And then you find out that So yeah, I think there's a, there's a rash of other things. But another simplest level, you know, I was looking at one of our teams sent me some images, just last week of a facility where that, you know, the client had had a near miss,

Colin Duncan  27:09

could have been relatively serious for the individual involved. And simply looking at the

Colin Duncan  27:16

This was

Colin Duncan  27:18

around a fire suppression system, you look at the design of the equipment in the room. And for somebody to access one of the shut offs, they would have had to crawl around energized equipment in a space that was about the size that I'd know. Maybe my 18 year old daughter could squeeze in there.

Colin Duncan  27:42

And how often do we see that right? But you know, that the folks who were, you know, really doing that design that they're not, they're not thinking through some of the operating factors that we then see in the operating environment? A year, two years, three years down the track? That's really important. Hey, one last question. roadblocks. This is all great. This, listeners are just telling you, this is so important. And I like where this is going where they're truly committed to first safety, that triad safety, maintenance, reliability, safety, reliability mean, whatever it is. I like that. And I think that it cannot be separated. I like that. But then there's always roadblocks. What are these roadblocks?

Colin Duncan  28:30

Well, I mean, I think the first roadblock is we need operational executives to think dig in a little bit to understand the methodology and technical discipline that that professionals are using. Yeah, not a not skim over the surface.

Colin Duncan  28:51

You know, I think we need them, we need collectively to understand that the things that cause failure in reliability, maintenance and safety,

Colin Duncan  29:02

often have common pathways. Yeah. And understand that, you know, the discipline of understanding where the failure might occur, evaluate evaluating risk and consequence. And the modeling that we do across those disciplines is actually pretty common.

Colin Duncan  29:22

And that is we pull them together, we will kind of rapidly see the efficiency. So I think the roadblock is primarily around aligning the thinking and creating some level of intellectual curiosity.

Scott MacKenzie  29:40

I'm always down. I'm always down with educate more, just keep educating, collaborating, because you don't have all the answers. And then figure out through that collaboration, how you can be more innovative, more,

Scott MacKenzie  29:53

more inclusive all the stuff too, because it is.

Scott MacKenzie  29:57

I think you guys are onto something. I think it's pretty incredible.

Scott MacKenzie  30:00

Hey, are you active out there on LinkedIn?

Scott MacKenzie  30:03

Absolutely. All right, I'm gonna have, you know, listeners, I'm gonna have his link his LinkedIn link to a hell of a stack card.

Scott MacKenzie  30:13

His LinkedIn stack cards, bristling with skills. That's what you and you got a hell of a beer too. And then we also have quite as good as your scope, but I have to agree with you. Mine is pretty dazzling. It's not.

Scott MacKenzie  30:29

And then, of course, we've got a this was interesting listeners, we've got a giveaway here, mastering the Performance Triad, the seven parts, optimization strategy for reliability, safety and maintenance. It's a mouthful, but it's a free white paper, and I think you need to get it. So that's going to also be out there. Hopefully I can get I'll talk to somebody in your organization to either get them the paper or the link, either or

Colin Duncan  30:53

go out to industrial you will find it get it because this is important stuff. calling you pretty cool. I like it. Like the conversation my friend. Hello, Scott. It's been very enjoyable. Yeah, listeners, you know, we're gonna wrap it up on the other side. Everything that you want to know about column will be recapped over there. So stay tuned. We will be right back. You're listening to the industrial talk Podcast Network.

Scott MacKenzie  31:22

All right. I want to quickly thank calling once again Collin Duncan, with the SEAM Group that's sem gr o up.

Scott MacKenzie  31:32

Actually conversations spot on with all of the points loved it. Loved it geeked out big time. You can find Collin, of course you could go out to LinkedIn. It's the link is right here with this podcast. See Duncan at SEAM Group is the email. You can go to their website at SEAM SCA MGR. O up.

Scott MacKenzie  31:56

I'm telling you right now you will not be disappointed again.

Scott MacKenzie  32:00

I want you to be bold. I want you to be brave and I want you to dare greatly. That's what is the responsibility of all industry professionals such as yourself, because you want to be bold, brave and daring greatly. You're hanging out with people who are bold, brave and daring greatly, because you are responsible for changing the world and leveraging the ability to educate and collaborate and innovate. That's what we're all about. Alright, again, thank you very much for joining the industrial talk popat. We're going to have come back with a great interview shortly.

About the author, Scott

I am Scott MacKenzie, husband, father, and passionate industry educator. From humble beginnings as a lathing contractor and certified journeyman/lineman to an Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration, I have applied every aspect of my education and training to lead and influence. I believe in serving and adding value wherever I am called.

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