System Slip-Ups

Joel Levitt has trained over 6,000 maintenance leaders from over 3,000 organizations. Since 1980, he has been the president of Springfield Resources, a management consulting firm that services a variety of clients on a wide range of maintenance issues.

All firms want the benefits from effective scheduling but few are willing to pay the price to get them. If scheduling is not effective in your shop there are interpretations that can be made, and actions that logically follow.

One interpretation is that the leader is the problem and has to go. Replace the maintenance manager or shop foreman, then hire one who will do what is needed. Many companies decide on this course of action because they do not want to face the facts of their inadequate business systems.

Scheduling requires several subsidiary systems to be in place, operational and effective. If any are missing scheduling will suffer.
One symptom of an inadequate business system is that several people have been through the position and have not been successful. In some cases the successful manager muscled through changes to the system to make shop scheduling work as advertised.

If your shop operations and scheduling leave something to be desired perhaps there is a missing system or control. How many of the systems and controls listed below are missing in your shop?

  • Effective storeroom and stock system; no jobs are started and stopped waiting for parts.
    Where to look if missing: Investment, Culture
  • Thorough PM inspections leading to an effective PM program so work is identified before failure.
    Where to look if missing: Culture, Training
  • Someone has the time and training to look into jobs before they are put on the schedule to insure resources are available.
    Where to look if missing: Investment, Culture
  • An up-to-date Maintenance Technical Library includes an extensive collection of vehicle manuals (showing parts needed), flat rate books (to assign times to jobs). Access via Internet is ok if it is easy and reliable.
    Where to look if missing: Investment
  • Timely reporting of potential problems by drivers (to provide lead time for planning). Drivers feel as if their concerns about the equipment are listened to. Open dialogue with drivers and dispatchers on troublesome equipment.
    Where to look if missing: Investment
  • Good use of a CMMS or good manual system.
    Where to look if missing: Training, Culture, Investment
  • Meaningful written feedback on completed jobs by supervisors and technicians.
    Where to look if missing: Culture
  • Complete equipment repair history from date-in-service (usually in the CMMS).
    Where to look if missing: Investment, Will
  • Good communications with dispatch so that unit delivery and usage schedules are incorporated into the daily schedule.
    Where to look if missing: Training, Culture
  • Thorough failure analysis when breakdowns do occur.
    Where to look if missing: Training, Culture
  • Good relationships with vendors.
    Where to look if missing: Culture
  • Understanding of who can do what work. Ongoing program to cross-train mechanics so that everyone can do everything reasonably well.
    Where to look if missing: Culture
  • Existence of overhaul and rebuild capabilities (either in-house or identified ‘good’ vendors).
    Where to look if missing: Investment
  • Good workmanship by craft personnel and an attitude toward solving all quality problems.
    Where to look if missing: Training
  • Good use of repair technology (ongoing training relationship with both OEMs and local tech schools).
    Where to look if missing: Training
  • Proper tools and proper use of tools.
    Where to look if missing Investment: Training

Another way to look at this is to ask the mechanics where they are bottlenecked by the business system. In some cases there is a gap in the business system that can be addressed in the above chart. In other cases the business system is just plain bad and should be looked at. In some fleets the business system takes up an unusually high percentage of people’s time. Make sure yours is not one of them.