Quality Compliance Management

Date: 09/14/2009
Location: Paris

The recent creation of a whole new job category is proof that quality compliance is no laughing matter. Which doesn’t mean you can’t have fun following the rules!

That’s the good thing about Tom Allan. He really knows how to joke around. Last Friday, for example, just before leaving the office for the weekend, he shared a funny YouTube clip with me and his 28 direct reports in the Quality organization. A spoof advertisement on effective people management, the 60-second clip features star American football linebacker Terry Tate, who has ostensibly been hired to “improve” productivity in an office environment by brutally tackling inefficient staff members. Dressed in fully padded game gear, Tate, 6’4” and 140 kilos, blindsides a series of unsuspecting coffee room idlers and carefree small-talkers, then berates them for offenses such as not respecting coffee break time limits and making personal phone calls.

 “Hey man, did you SEE it?” Tom cackled on appearing outside my door a couple minutes later. “That’s what our QCMs are going to do! They’re going to put our house in order!”

Of course Tom was only joking. As vice president of Quality Systems and a former hockey player for whom loosened teeth and cracked bones are minor matters, naturally he couldn't’t help admiring the directness of Tate’s method for improved quality on the job. But what Tom really meant was that his team of 47 newly appointed Quality Compliance Managers, or QCMs as he calls them, is now poised to transform our organization, implementing continuous improvements in quality compliance through a host of employee-friendly tools and techniques. He’s not really going to hire Terry Tate. I don’t think so, anyway.

Going for the Juggler
Instead, Tom is putting confidence in people like Luke Kuwertz, a six-year Schlumberger veteran who until July 2008 was doing a good job as service delivery manager (SDM) for our US Land GeoMarket, based in Oklahoma City. As SDM, Kuwertz, a 30-year-old Englishman, was responsible for the endless activities related to service delivery—all repairs and maintenance, and the coordination of all assets (tools and vehicles) at the location.

“There was too much to do, too many roles to fill, too many issues to resolve,” Kuwertz laughs now. “No SDM has time to focus just on improving quality. That’s a separate full-time job.”

Exactly. But Kuwertz became convinced of this fact only after assuming his new role, in which he now spends roughly 60% of his time on but a single activity—investigating Risk Identification Reports (RIRs).

This sounds monotonous, but it isn’t. In fact, Luke Kuwertz has learned much more than he ever imagined he could, just by focusing on RIRs. For example, he points to an incident that occurred on the Oklahoma City base last November, when a “job” was “shipped” to a rig without all the tools and gizmos necessary for the assignment. That is, one little box was missing from the truck that left the base. The box contained a flow restrictor for a PowerDrive drilling tool. In the end, our Oklahoma team was able to get the box to the job before it was needed, but it was clear to all that in different circumstances a similar oversight might cause serious delays and disgruntlement on the part of our client. Hence the RIR.

Why on the Wall
In the past, as SDM, Kuwertz explains that he would’ve “resolved” the issue by simply getting the box to the rig ASAP. That’s all he and his team would’ve had time for. But now that he had the “luxury” to focus on the root causes of the box’s mysterious absence, Kuwertz was able to conduct what he calls a “5-Why Analysis,” whereby he asks why the box wasn’t loaded on the truck five times.

This also sounds monotonous, but when combined with the use of a Schlumberger Systematic Cause Analysis Technique (SCAT) form, the “5-Why” trick actually works wonders in uncovering the real reasons behind a risky incident.

“On the surface, it seemed like somebody just forgot to put the box on the truck, but when we got right down to it, many other contributing causes were involved,” Kuwertz explains. “In the end, it wasn’t a people problem at all!”

Indeed, three main, entirely unsuspected causes were ultimately revealed. First, inconsistent and confusing paperwork was found to have clouded communications about what needed to go on the truck. “Nobody could make heads or tails of the forms involved,” recalls Kuwertz, noting that the R&M department used one type of form while the Logistics department used another. “We couldn’t very well punish the truck loader for that!”

Second, Kuwertz and team discovered that the software being used for shipment records neglected to allot space for non-SLB auxiliary equipment—such as the box containing the flow restrictor. So the system had no way to warn users of a missing element.

Third, the Oklahoma City base possessed no distinct “staging area”—which, in the best of all worlds, is a well-marked space on the base lot within which all tools needed for a given job are placed prior to being loaded on the truck.

Thanks to his new role as QCM, Luke Kuwertz has had time to fix all three of these problems once and for all, implementing tools and processes for sustainable quality improvement at our Oklahoma City location—and for wherever else these problems might appear.

“By addressing this RIR in depth,” he boasts, “we’ve prevented a potentially serious incident from recurring and we’ve improved the efficiency of our operations.”

All this, and Luke didn’t have to tackle anyone. Let’s hope Tom’s not too disappointed.

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