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a blog by Chris Barrow

A storm at sea and Facility Utilisation

Having listened (last week) to the 6-part minis-series on "The Titanic" presented so well by Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook on "the Rest is History" podcast, it was somewhat disconcerting to find myself staggering to left and right as I made my way through the 40,500 tonne Stena Edda ferry yesterday, en route from Liverpool to Belfast.

Although the worst (thankfully) of Storm Kathleen was behind us, it was a pretty hairy crossing and, at the halfway point, and with the vessel crashing through a big swell, I wasn't the only passenger feeling a wee bit green about the gills.

Credit to the team in The Stena Plus Lounge (basically a business-class lounge at sea), who could not have done more to assist, be helpful, sympathetic and friendly.

The poor lady sat behind me was on her first significant ferry journey, prior to a month-long driving holiday around Ireland and was in dire straits within an hour of leaving Birkenhead.

A couple of team members kept on checking in with her, brought her "the bag" - but also arrived unannounced with ginger tea and some stem ginger biscuits, with advice to slowly sip and chew.

My own constitution mainly stood up to the test (although I would hardly claim that Caribbean and Croatian catamarans were a huge qualification for sea legs) and I did manage my pea and ham soup with a cheese and ham bloomer, before grabbing a 90-minute nap between working at my desk on emails and financial accounts analysis for most of the journey.

Thankfully, we glided into Belfast harbour last night to enjoy sunshine, a spectacular rainbow over Holywood and calm waters - mission accomplished.

As I said to my new passenger friend - no matter how bad the weather, it was still better than Manchester Airport.

Which is me rambling on about my seafaring adventure - so what's the point of this post?

Just reporting on a quick chat with the ever-helpful Tina, one of the team attending to us all day, about her shift work.

Tina lives in Liverpool and works as a steward on the ferry - same route every time - Liverpool - Belfast - Liverpool.

She lives on the boat, 7 days a week, for two weeks - back and forth - one 8-hour daytime crossing on full alert and one 8-hour crossing overnight on standby.

Two weeks solid - then two weeks off work at home.

Rinse and repeat.

Clearly a member of two crews who maintain a constant service.

Which had me thinking about facility utilisation.

It's a big boat - very expensive to maintain and run, and so it is important to sweat the asset.

In order to do that, Stena dispense with the "9 to 5" mentality and have created a methodology that allows them to maximise their potential for income, whilst avoiding crew burn out.

Across The Extreme Business 100 community, I'm seeing more clients moving to a 7-day a week opening, with split teams, none of whom work more than a 4-day week.

The teams like it, the patients love it and the Operating Cost Per Surgery Per Day comes down, ensuring a consequent increase in profit per fee-earner.

Win:win:win (referring to yesterday's post).

Question - how well are you sweating your asset?

It pays to keep the ship sailing, no matter how choppy the waters.

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In my past seafaring life, the 3 deck and engineer officers worked 4 hours on, 8 hours off with an AB to keep the ship running 24 hours a day. We would do this for 2 months straight then have a month off. Once a year she would dry dock in Falmouth for a was 24 hours a day, 358 days a year. If something big went wrong that we didn't have a spare part for we would limp along and order one by Air Freight to the next port, then dock and 'turn to' for 24 hours to fit it and get her back to sea. This happened about once a year. 90% of the guys at …

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