On being … process improvements

By Ingrid Sapona

Last weekend was haul-out at my sail club. Fancier clubs own travel lift cranes and use paid staff to launch and haul out boats. Our club hires two cranes and crane operators and the members pitch in to haul all 340+ boats over two days.

This was my 17th year working haul-out. There are all sorts of crews to work on. Some of the jobs are strenuous and physical, and some rather cushy. The kitchen crew works hard keeping everyone satisfied with coffee, morning and afternoon soup, and a hot lunch, but at least they’re inside all day. Most other crews are outside, regardless of the weather (which can be pretty miserable this time of year)! One thing all the work has in common: there’s a lot of hurry up and wait.

This year I worked on the parking crew. With every boat owner on hand at some point during the weekend to bring their boat over to the crane, there are a lot of cars around. And, once you start putting boats on cradles, the yard fills up pretty fast. Plus, there’s a lot of heavy equipment – things like forklifts and boats on cradles – being moved around by amateurs. So, making sure cars are not in the way is important.

Parking within the yard usually fills up pretty fast. There have been many times when I was there by 5:45 a.m. to work on a crew but I was turned away because they had already run out of parking space. That meant parking in a nearby public lot for the day, which was not ideal. This year the planning committee re-configured where boats would be placed on that first day. As a result, a whole new area was available for about 25 more cars. Plus, over the summer, the club repaved a roadway down the side of the yard and they added a gravel shoulder. That meant space for another 25 or so cars. These two changes meant we didn’t have to turn away a single car this year.

During our down time on the parking crew, I was listening to a book about managing teams. Though I wasn’t particularly into the book, it did help me focus on refinements I’ve noticed different crews have made to the launch and haul out process over the years. For example, years ago someone had the idea of renting a golf cart for the weekend. The property is quite big and a golf cart is easy to drive, it fits in small areas, and it makes schlepping things from one end of the yard to the other much easier. This year there were three golf carts zipping around.

The kitchen crew also has been honing its processes. In years past, they brought the soups out  the cranes. This year they served the soup under our large main tent – it’s easier for the kitchen crew because it’s closer to the clubhouse and there’s a dry space under the tent for everyone to sit while they warm up with their soup.

A bunch of us also noticed that there were fewer snacks (cookies, muffins, candy) than in years past. Some speculated that the cutback was due to austerity measures. Others attributed it to poor planning by the new kitchen crew chief. I prefer to think that the folks in charge had our health interest at heart.

Over the weekend, the parking crew came up with some changes for next year. For example, we have a large motorcycle parking area that often has 4-6 bikes parked there during the summer. On haul out weekend only one bike was there. Next year we’ll make sure that bikes tuck in somewhere else on the property for haul out weekend so we can put cars there. And we’ll do things differently near the fire hydrant. The pavement near it is painted so that no one parks there. But, on Sunday morning we let one car park there, but asked him to be sure to leave half the space free. Later, when none of us were watching, someone else slipped in next to the car. Clearly, they thought that if one person can park in the marked area, they could park in the other half. Next year we’ll used a couple lawn chairs to block half the space. Live an learn…

In the clubhouse, a team was experimenting with tracking each crane’s progress (boat-by-boat) on an iPad and then projecting the results on a screen in the clubhouse. This way, boat owners don’t have to guess when it’s time to go to their boat to bring it to the crane. If this works, we may stream the progress on the internet so members can check it from home or from their phone. That would be very helpful.

Over the weekend I also noticed some bitching and moaning about some things that were being done differently this year. But, resistance to change is almost as inevitable as change itself. Personally, I admire the thought and effort my fellow club members have put into improving the launch and haul out process. Sure, some of the changes may not have been as useful as hoped and so we may go back to the old way. But, I applaud the willingness to try new ways. After all, you don’t know if they’re an improvement unless you try them.

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona


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