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Attack is the best form of Defence - Guerrilla Warfare (Part II)

September 1, 2017

 The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) or the American War of Independence (depending on which George you support) was won by, amongst other factors, the guerrilla tactics often employed by the Patriot militia when confronting the British regulars.


The English probably hadn't learned their lesson from Bannockburn (I couldn't resist a dig) and generally employed conventional battlefield manoeuvres whereas the Colonials (particularly George Washington) were well aware of the ambush tactics the Natives adopted when they engaged them in the earlier French & Indian War (Seven Years' War). The Indians exploited their experience of the landscape to ensure they were well protected and found it relatively easy to pick off the officers who were (like their men) dressed in red and often mounted on horseback.

The Continental Army (like the Indians before them) had limited resources but extensive local knowledge and therefore had to make every shot count by focussing on the high-value targets in the belief that, by removing them from the battle, the troops would lose both leadership & morale and would disperse or retreat.


In retaliation, the British could have attempted to overwhelm the locals by shear weight of numbers, but that approach had nearly bankrupted the country after the conflict with the French and the attempts to recoup the debt from the Americans was a major (if not the) cause of the subsequent Revolutionary War.


What's the point of this Patriotic Post and where's the significance to Modern Manufacturing?

Like King George, businesses do not have unlimited funds and throwing money at problems is an inefficient exercise.


Like General George, resources are finite and therefore focussing on the key targets is the most effective approach. I use the word 'key' very deliberately here as I'm absolutely scunnered (Google it !) about the misuse of the term KPI - there are Performance Indicators and KEY Performance Indicators i.e. the most important ones.


Unlike His Majesty's army officers (often arrogant aristocrats), hazards do not always sit aloft their steed for all to see (and snipe) and are often subtly disguised so that they are indistinguishable from the masses.


We therefore use proven methods to flush them out so that they can be properly "eliminated" and for over 40 years, systematic and rigorous Hazard Analysis Studies have been deployed to (generally) good effect.

Arguably the multi-stage Hazard Study process developed by ICI (kids - ask your grandparents about this ancient institution) and documented in the IChemE publication "HAZOP: Guide to Best Practice" is the "choice of champions".

The core process has 6 stages, however a further 2 are also recognised which provides a complete lifecycle approach from Conception to Cessation. I've added another stage (6.5 for simplicity) to reflect the need to conduct periodic reviews throughout the operating life of a facility, particularly as a result of:

  • Regulatory obligations

  • Major incidents

  • Significant modifications

  • Inadequacies in the original studies

  • Revealed design deficiencies

  • Poor plant performance


Although this approach has been in use for over 20 years, it is not always adopted (lack of time, money or awareness) and many projects simply jump straight into HAZOP (Hazard Study 3) - very often as an afterthought rather than a planned activity.


A UK chemical company recently experienced an explosion which injured 2 workers and, as well as receiving a substantial fine (https://www.ioshmagazine.com/article/update-chemical-firms-hazop-oversight-triggers-ps12m-explosion-penalty), they were heavy criticised for failing to undertake critical hazard studies. Like so many well-intended duty holders, Hazard Studies 1 & 2 were not conducted and therefore hazards were missed & not addressed.


The military comparisons are now clear:

  • Know your enemy (hazards)

  • Conduct proper reconnaissance (research)

  • Understand your environment

  • Exploit whatever protection you can

  • Use your ammunition (resources) wisely

  • Ensure your weapons (barriers) are operable

  • Plan your campaign

  • Have an alternative strategy if things don't go to plan


We must be sharper in our scope to avoid catastrophes that litter the pages of history - do not blunder into the Valley of Death like so many who have gone before.


Part I of this article is available here (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/gorilla-welfare-guerrilla-warfare-part-i-david-hatch)

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