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How Often is the Repair Stopped?
Next time you are in the shop, look around and ask around. How many jobs are interrupted due to the lack of something? The “something” could be a replacement part (the most common reason), a special tool, a piece of equipment, a manual with critical settings. Then ask: Is this a common sort of occurrence?
All of these things essential for the maintenance job are resources. There are other resources, too. These include labor with certain skills, bays (places to work), certain capacity and size lifts, tire machines (in a fleet/mobile equipment garage), and even space out in the yard. Anything needed to do a job is a resource. Missing any resource means that either the job has to be abandoned, the job is delayed, productivity is trashed or the mechanic will have to improvise to get the job done.
Regarding the last choice, improvisation is wonderful in a comedy club or the theater, but it is potentially deadly at 115 mph down the interstate. Of course, many improvisations work out quite well, and we are rightly proud of our abilities in that vein.
If your shop is on top of things and you have responsive vendors, you interrupt (due to lack of a resource) jobs occasionally. Most interruptions occur when you are surprised by the extent of the damage found after you started the job. Most jobs are scoped by the mechanic, service writer or planner, and the materials are either determined to be in stock or they will be delivered in time. It is essential to get this right, or you will be spending most of your time spinning your wheels, working very hard and not getting a lot done.
Scheduling is the Key
One solution is to put the job and its resources into a timeline. A schedule is the most basic tool of any shop manager to manage resources. The schedule displays the status of all the resources and moves the resources toward a particular time and place. Of course, you have to have a list of all the resources required for each job.
The place for this is the repair or work order. Of course, it is not just creating a schedule that makes the big difference. It is using the schedule as a “reminder system on steroids.” The schedule reminds people that if the job needs a man lift or a special ladder/platform, and you only have one, to be sure not to schedule it at the same time.
The schedule also alerts management that the unit to be serviced had better be available at the scheduled time. This reminder system extends to each of the resources mentioned previously. A great supervisor (or planner, scheduler, service writer—almost anyone) looks at the schedule and at the resource requirements and makes sure the resources converge on the job in time.
People think that planning (identifying the resources), coordination (making sure operations are in alignment about what jobs will be done when) and scheduling (putting everything in time) require a huge bureaucracy. Actually, they add about 5 percent of the job duration and save as much as 50 percent in execution time.
Odd as it may seem, as a percentage, planning and scheduling save more time on shorter jobs. If you spend 30 minutes waiting for a tool on an 8-hour job, that’s one thing, but the same 30 minutes on a 30-minute job is a very large loss.
The focus is on the basics. You can get 80 percent of the benefit from effective planning and scheduling by spending just 25 percent of the money. Focus on those elements that are causing you the most pain. Are you weak on getting the unit when you are scheduled to fix it? Is the problem written on the work order causing wasted steps? Are parts an ongoing problem? Do you have frequent shop floor conflict over specialized tools or specialized skills?
When you focus your solutions on your areas of pain while keeping the big picture in mind (of trying to identify resources and then making sure everything happens in time), your maintenance operation will run smoother. I promise.
Joel Levitt is a leading trainer of maintenance professionals. Since 1980, he has been the president of Springfield Resources, a management consulting firm that services clients on a wide range of maintenance issues. He is a frequent speaker at maintenance and engineering conferences and has written 10 popular maintenance management texts.
Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2011
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