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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Do we have a "Six Sigma" safety culture with LANS and LLNS at the helm?


Do LANS and LLNS each follow the "quality management principles" or have safety work cultures with sustained safety attributes which trend toward a "Six Sigma Safety" or comparable safety metric? 

(If you don't think "Six Sigma" properly quantifies safety metrics, suggest and comment on alternative safety metics please) 

https://safety.cat.com/cda/files/3066657/7/6+Sigma+Safety_Williamsen.pdf

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

Six sigma is a 1990's production metric buzzword that has limited applicability to prototype and first-of-kind efforts that are most of the work that llnl or lbnl or slac does. I don't know a thing about sandia or lanl. NNSA forced it on the labs as another good idea from bureaucrats unfamiliar with either industrial production or the research environment.

Toyota uses this method for production, not for prototyping or reasearch.

Not to say that assurances, safety culture, and numerical methods in production are not important, but the large investment required to implement
six sigma is overkill for fast paced, transient data-driven research.

Anonymous said...

February 15, 2015 at 7:33 PM

Your are a prime example of the "overthink" culture that is so destructive to making the changes that are needed at the labs. You make things to complicated and clumsy. You become blind and lost while those who are more agile and fast win. Toyota is in a brutally competitive businesses of making cars. They do not overthink it, they do it and they do it well all they while making a profit at the same time. There is so much we can learn from successful business. The problem faced by the labs is the overarching culture that that is closed minded and resits changes. You are not in graduate school any more, the world is changing and that is why the labs needed to change. I am saddened when I see the blog and the persistent stubbornness of the lab culture that has caused so many problems through the years.

Anonymous said...

Toyota is in a brutally competitive businesses of making cars. They do not overthink it, they do it and they do it well all they while making a profit at the same time. There is so much we can learn from successful business.

February 15, 2015 at 7:59 PM

Yeah, bad ignition switches and faulty airbags. Whose "safety" is important to Toyota. Workers? Maybe. Customers? Obviously not. I'm not sure this should be a beacon of safety example to the rest of the world, certainly not organizations involved with nuclear weapons.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, bad ignition switches and faulty airbags. Whose "safety" is important to Toyota. Workers? Maybe. Customers? Obviously not. I'm not sure this should be a beacon of safety example to the rest of the world, certainly not organizations involved with nuclear weapons.

February 15, 2015 at 8:24 PM"

There always has to be a snarky comment from some "I know better because I am a scientist" type. Just listen to yourself, see what your culture has done to the labs? They are seriously thinking about a contract change at LANL. This could happen to LLNL soon after that. Do you want to take that chance with your benefits? Congress if fed up with the labs and for good reason. Toyota on the whole works with way more things and people than the labs ever will. Open your mind we can learn from them and other companies that have to compete in the real world. If we do not than the contract might just change. If it gets too bad Congress might just pull the plug on all the NNSA labs. Scientists are like children but we need adults at the labs or at least very strict adult supervision. This is real people.

Anonymous said...

LANL and LLNL Bad. Toyota Good. Ignore all evidence of poor safety practices at corporations: GOOD. YadaYadaYada. "This is real people" Yeah, but you aren't.

Anonymous said...

February 15, 2015 at 9:26 PM

Snark, snark, snark. This is getting old. What do you hope to accomplish with your snark? People are trying to suggest ways to improve the place and to be realistic about the situation. And all we get from you is just more snark...Sigh

Anonymous said...

Please, oh wise one, enlighten us with your six sigma corporate nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Can't speak to the LANS safety culture, but LLNS is generally limited to multi-format top-down safety "talking points". If an employee initiates a down-up safety discussion, they are toast.

An exception to the down-up safety discussion followed by career reprisal may occur IF the safety concern can be spun as a net positive for the responsible LLNS management chain. However, once the safety concern activity is approved and in play, this is not a likely scenario.

Anonymous said...

YadaYadaYada. February 15, 2015 at 9:26 PM

Snark, snark, snark. February 15, 2015 at 9:39 PM

Now, now children, it's past your bedtime. Please go to sleep.

Anonymous said...

I worked at 5 nuclear facilities at LANS and have never been trained in 6-sigma, I don't know the first thing about it, let alone heard of it. I've never heard my management discuss it or mention it. Does that help answer the question?

Anonymous said...

Eight or nine years ago at LANL, Six Sigma was ballyhooed in my Division, outside speakers were brought to mandatory management meetings, "representatives" were appointed for each organization to be trained in detail and then to train the organizations. Explanatory pamphlets were printed and distributed. It became the opening topic of every meeting, by management fiat. A few months later it was dead, never to be spoken of again, the only effect having been a few weeks of tortuous disruption of the careers of the "representatives."

Anonymous said...

People who can, do. People who can't, become managers. People who can't manage, become quality assurance specialists. People who can't do that, become six sigma experts.

This has nothing to do with the so-called "cowboy culture" of scientists. It has everything to do with the lack of common sense and the zealous adherence to process simple for the sake of it. Some people are too narrow to see reality through the dense fog of procedure.

There are reasons why the national laboratories are cost-ineffective bastions of bureaucratic waste. It's similar to the ever increasing complexity of our tax code. Policy makers keep implementing fixes needed to correct their previous fixes.

Anonymous said...

What "fix" was already in place at LANS that should have prevented:

1. a LANS employee from taking sloppy "inorganic/organic" notes for the WIPP radiative drums

2. a group of LANS employees from not catching the error in note taking

3. DOE IG "questions about the lab management's oversight of written procedures for handling the waste"

4. DOE IG "Initial reports that followed the incident also blamed a slow erosion of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's safety culture"

Anonymous said...

7:59 pm/8:47 pm, read your own posts if you want to see "snarky". You do not understand the culture you rail against, and my jaw drops reading your warning about "contract change". You must be the only person at the lab who thinks LLNS has a positive impact on anything except the bank accounts of the executives, and you must also be the only person who would not be happy to see LLNS replaced. If your biggest concern is your TCP1 pension plan, then you are part of the problem. And remember, LLNS can change that plan at any time, or make it ruinously expensive for you. You can only count for sure on one thing, death.

Anonymous said...

February 16, 2015 at 6:19 PM

What you imply is crazy! How can the workforce be against the very company that runs the same place !? Are their fates not shared? LLNS and LANS where brought in to save the labs,..and you have to realize this and be part of this or get out of the way. The lab culture has been a huge problem for many years. If privatization cannot save the labs or change the lab culture than what can? Congress is likely ask this very same question and they may just decide to: change the contract and put someone in who can and is willing to kick the scientists asses and put an end to the goddam cowboy culture. This won't be pretty for anyone. They may decide that one of the problems is the benefits which gives the scientists a feeling that they are special. One solution is to get rid of all benefits and to fire anyone, on any whim, for any reason, at any time. This would sure as hell change this rampant cowboy culture in a hurry and bring in a new workforce that "gets it". You would not see a blog like this talking about the labs lab, and if there was one it would say how great the place is and how the management was top notch. There other option is just to close down all these goddam NNSA labs. Scientist are out of control and cannot be trusted. The point is that you need to STFU and hope LLNs and LANLs can keep the contract and protect you. Do you really want to be in the real world, do you think you can survive in such an environment? You have a good deal here, the managers have a good deal, do not mess this up for us. Think about this very for a long time before you post your next inane snark that the public can see.

Anonymous said...

February 16, 2015 at 9:17 PM

Wow, alcohol or crack? One or the other, you need help. Anti-scientist, anti-intellectual, pro-corporate goons. What the hell is "the labs lab"?? You should, in your words, "STFU." You are too stupid to be posting here - go back to Mommy's basement and play some stupid game on your computer (paid for by Mommy).

Anonymous said...

9:17 pm, I am in the real world, and I am flourishing. You, on the other hand, would starve. Not least because you have crazy ideas, and you are unable to control yourself. There are more important things, like national security for instance, than your pension or kissing up to LLNS.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Are they still pushing that 1990's total quality management detritus? When I was working for BFEC on the NOVA laser in the late 80's and 90's TQM was all the rage with the suits in BFEC management. They had us counting M&Ms and meditating on mantras of "paradigm changes in processes" What a steaming load of entrails. TQM, 6-Sigma and all other similar programs are the last ditch efforts and ideas of backward looking organizations that are on the teetering edge of a long slow death spiral into banality.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me! LANS is still working on 0.000001 sigma. 6-sigma, give me a break!

Anonymous said...

The elements of Six Sigma are of interest and they do trend progressively upward in comprehensiveness and explicit accountability. For purposes of discussion, Six Sigma elements can at least help establish a framework from which to reference the real safety culture at LANSLLNS.

Given our recent safety history, to say no safety metric applies at the labs, is the wrong approach and a sure path to WIPP repeats.

Are you a new lab employee that thinks this "safety culture" topic doesn't impact you? Consider the budget and employment uncertainty at LANS as a direct result of the WIPP review to LANS employees with no direct or indirect WIPP involvement in the DOE IG WIPP investigation.

Safety is something that can be printed or spoken. Safety-culture is the degree to which we follow through and immerse ourselves in it.



From another post:

"Three Sigma" (level)

-well defined responsibility and accountability at ALL levels

"Four Sigma" (level)

-quality of supervision, attitude toward safety, manager/employee communication, hazard correction, employee involvement, program awareness, support for safety, safety climate, and management credibility"

https://safety.cat.com/cda/files/3066657/7/6+Sigma+Safety_Williamsen.pdf

Anonymous said...

Amazing that after so many years and so many failed attempts to inculcate this garbage, there are still those who are willing to be brainwashed by this "revenge of the C students." It's all about studying and talking about safety to the exclusion of actually having to do any work.

Anonymous said...

"...It's all about studying and talking about safety to the exclusion of actually having to do any work..."

No it is actually about "walk the talk" and to integrate safety into the work at all steps, as opposed to an afterthought appendage, or viewing safety as a burden.

I recall a 4-wheel drive story told to me years ago about an older man trying to convey the importance of negotiating each off road obstacle with care and patience to a young 4-wheel drive truck owner. As the young listener became visibly unenthusiastic about such a strategy, the older man said, "I know slow is slow, but it is a lot faster than stuck!"

The same principles apply to safety at the labs in that fast, careless, or poorly thought out activities, can lead to a shutdown and zero activity.

Anonymous said...


The same principles apply to safety at the labs in that fast, careless, or poorly thought out activities, can lead to a shutdown and zero activity.

February 17, 2015 at 12:45 PM

At LANL it is not so much the "fast, careless, or poorly thought out activities" that have led to both shutdowns and zero activity. Rather it is the activities that have happened after someone looked at the safety policy and then determined that it did not apply. Over and over again this happens where the worker is not unaware of the policy, but just does not follow it.

The same holds for security incidents at LANL as well. It is not an issue of informing the workers of the policies, it is instead one of the workers not adhering to the policies.

Anonymous said...

"If we can demonstrate that you knew about the policy and did not follow it, you are fired, no questions, no exceptions" is the only thing employees need to be taught.

Anonymous said...

Two mission statements.

==================

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has a mission of strengthening the United States’ security by developing and applying world-class science, technology, and engineering that: enhances the nation’s defense, reduces the global threat from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, responds with vision, quality, integrity, and technical excellence to scientific issues of national importance.

------

Toyota will lead the way to the future of mobility, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people. Through our commitment to quality, constant innovation and respect for the planet, we aim to exceed expectations and be rewarded with a smile. We will meet our challenging goals by engaging the talent and passion of people, who believe there is always a better way.

==================

So which is better suited for a six-sigma approach to safety/quality management and why or why not...

Anonymous said...

"If we can demonstrate that you knew about the policy and did not follow it, you are fired, no questions, no exceptions" is the only thing employees need to be taught.

February 17, 2015 at 1:53 PM

Someone is getting it. There are rules, follow the rules, do not question the rules, do not make a snarky comment about the rules, do not say the rules are stupid, follow the rules or be fired. That is the only thing each of the workers needs to know and follow through with. Instant termination without the possibility of appeal or future employment and any NNSA lab. If such a policy where followed we would see some real changed in the lab cultures. Just something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Two mission statements.

February 17, 2015 at 3:08 PM

Both are meaningless blather.

Anonymous said...


To

"...At LANL it is not so much the "fast, careless, or poorly thought out activities" that have led to both shutdowns and zero activity. Rather it is the activities that have happened after someone looked at the safety policy and then determined that it did not apply. Over and over again this happens where the worker is not unaware of the policy, but just does not follow it..."

and to

"...revenge of the C students..."

The story below does not suggest a LANL employee "went rogue" on a procedure, nor does this seem to be a "revenge of the C students" useless safety exercise. The DOE IG findings suggest LANL has systemic and ongoing safety/procedural issues.

"Handwritten note could be source of WIPP incidents"

"...Bad note taking and miscommunication at Los Alamos National Laboratory is what led to the mishandling of the transuranic waste drum that resulted in the Feb. 14, 2014 radiological release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant..."

"...the Inspector General's report shows that LANL officials do not seem to know when or how the use of organic kitty litter was permitted..."

"...Instead of following the DOE's technical paper, which the LANL procedure writer aid was not provided, a handwritten note with the word "organic" being used was "improperly relied upon to revise the Procedure," the report said..."

"...Before, LANL was using ordinary or inorganic kitty litter or zeolite clay as an absorbent, which is acceptable as an absorbent, but from sometime between July 2012 to August 2012 LANL switched to using the organic kitty litter. This occurred even though the May 2012 technical paper written by LANL didn't mention using "organic" kitty litter as an absorbent..."

"...LANL made a procedural change to its existing waste procedures that did not confirm to technical guidance provided by the Department for the processing of nitrate salt waste," said the report..."

"...The revised procedures LANL used for treating the waste drums did not follow the Department of Energy's direction on the matter either, the report said..."

"...The revised procedures at LANL also, according to the report, did not take into consideration available information on chemical reactions such as the Environmental Protection Agency's 2000 study on waste fuel hazards..."

"...According to the EPA the treatment which LANL used, using the organic kitty litter as an absorbent, could ultimately be hazardous and that common references warn against mixing an organic absorbent with waste fuels..."

"...The Office of the Inspector General's report is consistent with many of the waste processing issues already identified by the Energy Department and the Lab..."

http://www.currentargus.com/carlsbad-news/ci_27508764/handwritten-note-could-be-source-wipp-incidents

Anonymous said...

This thread is chaotic nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Quality at LANL ...what a JOKE!!!!!

Anonymous said...

DOE IG findings suggest LANS has an eroding safety culture, poor procedural methods, poor tracking methods, an inability to follow DOE waste drum specific guidance, and failed to consider the EPAs year 2000 study of the hazards of using an organic absorbent with waste fuels?

What is LANS doing, not just talking about, right now regarding these disturbing DOE IG findings? More well polished safety talking points?

Anonymous said...

What is LANS doing, not just talking about, right now regarding these disturbing DOE IG findings?

February 18, 2015 at 7:51 AM

Same thing everyone does, or should do, about IG "findings": Nothing.

Anonymous said...

"...Same thing everyone does, or should do, about IG "findings": Nothing..."

A sure path to a repeat "WIPP" type episode, more LANS reputation erosion, funding reductions, and job loss. What a naive and reckless response.

Anonymous said...

What a naive and reckless response.

February 18, 2015 at 2:04 PM

Only if you believe that the DOE IG hires competent investigators who have intimate, professional-level knowledge of the issues they investigate, and that they aren't easily sidetracked into fruitless activity or irrelevant side-issues, and that they don't have their own agendas. Now THAT'S naive.

Anonymous said...

"...Only if you believe that the DOE IG hires competent investigators who have intimate, professional-level knowledge of the issues they investigate, and that they aren't easily sidetracked into fruitless activity or irrelevant side-issues, and that they don't have their own agendas. Now THAT'S naive...."

You may have valid reservations about the DOE IG track record, but if you want to blankety discard the so far unchallenged DOE IG findings thus far on the WIPP disaster, LANS is in for more of the same micromanagement on its downward spiral to non-existence or extreme baby watching oversight. Choose your destiny carefully. Naive deluxe.

Anonymous said...

if you want to blankety discard the so far unchallenged DOE IG findings thus far on the WIPP disaster,

February 18, 2015 at 3:04 PM

Yes, I do challenge them, because nobody else has the guts to do it. And, It is NOT a "disaster." The IG goes away between "findings" and does not follow up or come back. Just their "hair on fire" way of doing business. Ho Hum.

Anonymous said...

I think ~500 million dollars in estimated damages at the WIPP plus ~50 to 100 million dollars in NMED fines in reference to the size of LANS annual budgets, qualifies it as a "disaster".

The Inspector General's task is to investigate and report on DOE programs and operations. I don't think you are going to want IG staff camped out more than required at LANL.

It is up to LANS senior management and the next LLC in charge to make the necessary and measurable changes to its tracking, procedures, adherence to DOE guidelines, and to its overall safety culture.

Think of these changes not as a burden to LANL operations, but rather as an insurance policy against the repercussions of a future "WIPP 2.0" level external investigation.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you are going to want IG staff camped out more than required at LANL.

February 19, 2015 at 7:47 AM

I guess you are unaware that the DOE/IG has a permanent office at LANL.

Anonymous said...

Read carefully:

"...I don't think you are going to want IG staff camped out more than required at LANL..." (more than required)

Anonymous said...

Nice try, but you need more weasel practice.

Anonymous said...

and people wonder why LANS is going bye-bye

Anonymous said...

and people wonder why LANS is going bye-bye

February 19, 2015 at 12:09 PM

No, no one at all wonders about that. Everyone knows the answer quite well.

Anonymous said...

"...No, no one at all wonders about that. Everyone knows the answer quite well..."

And yet year after year LANS has to be examined by DOE for subpar activities...sad

Anonymous said...

I don't see anything sad about it at all. I just wish DOE/NNSA would hurry up and get it over with. LANS is in such a deep hole at this point that nothing can fix the situation. Under "normal" circumstances (i.e., 10 or so years ago) Congressional oversight would by now have been exercised, with heads at DOE and NNSA rolling, and the LANS contract terminated. Unfortunately Congress currently has MUCH more important business to attend to. Sigh...now that's sad.

Anonymous said...

"...I don't see anything sad about it at all. I just wish " c DOE/NNSA would hurry up and get it over with. LANS is in such a deep hole at this point that nothing can fix the situation. Under "normal" circumstances (i.e., 10 or so years ago) Congressional oversight would by now have been exercised, with heads at DOE and NNSA rolling, and the LANS contract terminated. Unfortunately Congress currently has MUCH more important business to attend to. Sigh...now that's sad..."

I understand. Given your experience, what will materially change when LANL is eventually managed by a different LLC?

Anonymous said...

It is eminently clear that the denizens of this blog don't get it.

Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia employ the ONLY people in the world that can ensure that the nuclear weapons in the US arsenal will work when needed, and not work when not needed!

Everything else is a minor distraction, amplified by the press on slow news days.

Anonymous said...

February 19, 2015 at 8:02 PM

Except that there is a substantial minority, if not a majority, of employees at all three labs that believe the labs' only reason to exist is for WFO programs,

Anonymous said...

8:02 Nobody has cared about the demonstrated performance of the stockpile since about 1990. You are living (probably very well) in the past.

Anonymous said...

8:02 Nobody has cared about the demonstrated performance of the stockpile since about 1990. You are living (probably very well) in the past.

February 21, 2015 at 3:14 PM

You think it is news to anyone that no one has "demonstrated" performance since testing stopped? Duh. That hasn't been what reliability assessment has been about since then. I think your attitude is "living in the past." And your snide ending comment indicates you resent those who paved the way for the current way of doing business, and even the fact that nuclear weapons still matter and take attention from your little WFO program.

Anonymous said...

The so-called "current way of doing business" is a farce by any measure.

Anonymous said...

The so-called "current way of doing business" is a farce by any measure.

February 22, 2015 at 4:25 AM

Really? So what would you do instead, given that actual nuclear testing is not allowed??

Anonymous said...

The only important thing the labs do is stockpile stewardship and verification, which includes keeping a smart team of people in place who can jump on new designs and tests if need be. The global security smallfry projects should be done elsewhere, where it is more cost-effective to do the work and where that kind of culture is valued. There would be some value to WFO if it brought in new stockpile scientists and engineers, but it does not do much (any?) of that.

Anonymous said...

Nuclear forensics. It's going to be necessary in the US very soon.

Anonymous said...

12:45. I'd pretend that a leaking barrel 1200ft underground in a salt cavern is a $500million dollar problem and thereby keep the corporate welfare checks flowing. I'd pretend that we are aaaallllmost there with laser fusion and just a few more billion ought to cover it and thereby keep the corporate welfare flowing. I'd pretend that the earthquake hazard at TA-55 justified a multi-billion dollar block of concrete and a hundred million dollar fence and thereby keep the corporate welfare flowing....get the picture yet? It's a farce by any measure.

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