Savannah River Remediation (SRR), located in Aiken, SC provided a report-out to the OpExChange on November 2, 2021. The magnitude of the service they provide is worthy of high recognition. Their purpose is to manage and eliminate “the most significant environmental hazard in the state of South Carolina.”
Their mission is to safely disposition liquid radioactive waste by converting it into two stable solids that are environmentally safe. Doing this safely and efficiently is extremely important not only to South Carolina but also to the nation and the world. This report-out from SRR included an operational overview, a detailed presentation on their innovative peer recognition program, and an introduction to a new continuous improvement reporting program.
Rodney Blackmon is the plant manager for the Saltstone facility, the final operation for this massive, 310 square-mile site. Approximately 2,700 SRR employees work on this campus. Rodney walked the team through their batch operations which include storage tanks of hazardous waste, underground transport to their effluent treatment facility, and final processing in their Saltstone facility where the material is mixed with concrete grout. He also supplied a good comparison of lean manufacturing activity in the process industry versus that in a discreet production facility.
The nature of the work performed there is extremely hazardous – high pressure, elevated temperature, mechanical and electrical energy, chemical and radiological risks. Rodney shared that because of the potential for a significant event, their safety systems have physical backups and there are backups to the backups.
The safety culture is critical at this site. Even with all their safety precautions, there are people involved and they will make mistakes. Their culture is such that even small mistakes are rigorously examined and studied “to wring out the very last lesson learned to prevent recurrence.”
RAVE Employee Engagement Program
The President of Savannah River Remediation, Phil Breidenbach, gave an in-depth presentation on their highly innovative approach to employee recognition – the RAVE program. The acronym stands for “Reinforcing Achievement of our Values and Expectations.”
Phil shared SRR’s mission, vision, and value and expectations with the group. He pointed out that there are posters, banners, and reminders throughout the site as reminders for employees. He noted that this is probably not much different than seen at most sites throughout the OpExChange. “Our job,” Phil stated, “is to make them more than a poster on a wall; more than words on a page; to get those into people’s hearts and minds so they actually affect behavior.”
The RAVE program is founded on positive reinforcement. Recognizing people for exceptional behaviors that exemplify their values and expectations will reinforce the conduct they want to see replicated. Phil emphasized that this is focused on the behavior and not the task.
“The intent is not to recognize people for what they did … The intent is to recognize them for how they did it, in accordance with our values and expectations.”
The RAVE program is a peer recognition program that helps employees recognize co-workers for exceptional performance, one of SRR’s expectations of all associates. It enables them to nominate co-workers for an observed behavior that exemplifies the SRR values and then to present them with a small gift. What makes this so powerful is that the entire process occurs quickly, and it is a face-to-face presentation.
The technology behind the program enables very quick, nearly real-time recognition and reward for behaviors they want to see repeated. The observer enters the nomination on an app either on their phone or a government computer. This is texted immediately to a level-two manager who reviews this. If approved, this is texted back to the nominator, who can pick-up a $25 gift certificate and present it to the recipient. Their goal is to identify, approve, and award the RAVE within a few hours of witnessing an exceptional behavior.
Although the program is innovative it is also simple. Phil pointed out that it could easily be transported and even improved upon at other OpExChange facilities.
The Baseball Card Process
Jessica Bricker is the Mission Excellence Manager for SRR. She shared a new program that they now use for capturing and communicating their CI successes with their customer, the Department of Energy. They create one-page, high level summaries that capture the improvement projects and related benefits. The process involves collaboration from Mission Excellence, SRR management, the subject matter experts, finance, and the DOE. Jessica provided an example of the “Mega Salt Disposal Unit” that achieved over a half-billion-dollar cost savings and avoidance. She also shared a template for the baseball card with OpExChange members to use at their facilities.
About Savannah River Remediation
Savannah River Remediation (SRR) is the liquid waste contractor at the Savannah River Site, which is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy. SRR is a team of companies led by Amentum with partners Bechtel National, Jacobs, and BWXT. The SRR Team is responsible for the closure of underground waste tanks, safely reducing South Carolina’s single greatest environmental risk. Located in Aiken, South Carolina, their diverse team conducts operations across the Savannah River Site. This includes the Defense Waste Processing Facility, Tank Farm operations and associated production and disposal facilities. Their engineers work to find new ways to safely complete their mission of achieving tank closure through the disposition of liquid waste in a safe and cost-effective manner. SRR has been an active OpExChange member for nearly seven years.
The OpExChange is a peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina known for generating data-driven success for members through benchmarking and best practices activities. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provides access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If you are interested in joining, contact Mike Demos (Mike@OpExChange.com ) or visit the OpExChange website to see current companies: https://www.scmep-online.org/pages/memberlisting