Morgan Smith, chief operating officer of Y-12/Pantex contractor Consolidated Nuclear Security, talked about the need for self-criticism and self-assessment in a message to CNS employees last week. He cited the company’s positive response to a couple of recent issues at Pantex, including an early-May safety pause and the “Code Blue” order that brought extra scrutiny to issues with the potential to impact the plant’s weapons mission.
Smith talked about workplace introspection in broad terms, and he also discussed highlights of the contractor’s recent self-assessment that was sent to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Production Office. That assessment, at least in part, dealt with the ongoing concerns regarding conduct of operations at Y-12.
The CNS executive acknowledged there have been problems, but he said there has also been some progress. He said the pursuit of excellence “is a journey that requires continuous dedication and focus.”
He cited three areas that CNS “openly identified” in its report to the NNSA as needing more work.
1. The need to improve working conditions “so they are conducive to performance excellence.” Initially, Smith said, that will mean more attention to cleanliness and clutter reduction, 7S work process improvements and “enhancement” of waste management capabilities. He urged employees to contribute to housekeeping upgrades, cleaning and better organizing work spaces.
2. Lack of communication. “Given the pace of change over the last 10 months, it is clear that managers have not been provided with sufficient information to most effectively answer employee questions and provide appropriate perspective on what is coming next,” Smith said. He took personal blame for not spending enough time “explaining where we have been and where we are headed.” He said he is meeting with small groups of first-line supervisors and managers to given them better info to share with employees.
3. The impact of distractions. Smith said the “magnitude of changes” created during the transition of contractors has had an impact in the workplace. “Chief among those distractions has been changes to the benefit plans,” he said. Smith said CNS has already made some changes to get rid of problem areas and will continue to look at ways to modify the benefit plans “to ensure we appropriately support all employees in the conduct of our mission.”
Excellence, Smith said, is a never-ending journey. But he said with “deep introspection” and working together, more can be achieved than ever imagined.
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