Scheduling Savvy

Every shop should have a technique to schedule each bay and other areas where work is performed. In addition, other work should be reviewed before a truck is started (such as PMs that will come due in the very near future).

Shop scheduling tips:

1. The first items scheduled are the units still in bays in process. Use substantial effort to solve what ever problem is keeping them from being finished. You can put a unit back on the street unfinished if the defect will not interfere with safe operation (such as a broken heater in the summer).

2. Control your vacations with annual sign-up sheets. In one facility people signed up for vacation at the beginning of the year and then again a quarter at a time. The order was rotated so that everyone had a first choice. The number and skill sets of the people on vacation at any one time were regulated.

3. Never start a job you can't finish (due to parts, tools or outside services). Identify, where possible, all parts and resources needed.

4. Reserve parts by pulling them from stock and putting them in a staging area. One shop puts parts in plastic totes in an unused locker, along with the key and the work order. The job is started when everything is there.

5. Most of the schedule will come from PMs that are scheduled. They will constitute 10 to 15 percent of your work load and create an additional 45 to 55 percent from corrective items.

6. Is there a day-of-week effect? If so, then some of your demand is known by the day of the week. This is common where there is some activity over the weekend: on Monday morning several trucks are parked outside the maintenance shop doors.

7. Overtime should be the result of a short term inequality between the demand for services and the resources available. It should be known about well ahead of time. If there is an emergency requiring overtime, mechanics can do routine work to fill in time, finish the shift or while waiting for the unit.

8. Look outside: the weather will immediately influence the schedule for that day.

9. Don't assign more than one person to any job unless absolutely necessary. Two or more people on a job slow the job down, and studies have shown that having two people on the job might increase the likelihood of a safety incident. Of course, safety sometimes dictates when two people must be used. Also you should never have only one person in the shop.

10. The supervisor should show up randomly if he or she is responsible for off shift work.

11. If possible vehicles that are started are worked on until they are completed.

12. Keep overlay between shifts to a minimum. The supervisors should be overlapping and finding out where each job is and passing that on to the crew member. You can observe this: if you overlay do the mechanics actively go over the jobs or is it an extra break?

13. Run as few shifts as possible. Three shifts is tough to crew and to get productivity out of. Keep in mind the advantage of doing maintenance when the units are NOT in demand.

Demand hours are the hours that the vehicle is in use. For police cars, fire trucks, over the road trucks the demand hours approaches 24. For a building inspector vehicle motor pool the hours might be 7 am to 4 pm. A school bus fleet might have split demand working from 6:30 to 9:30 am and again from 2:30 to 4:30 pm, with a few units out until 6:30 pm. All fleets have characteristic demand hours.

This is important. The bulk of your maintenance activity should be scheduled when your vehicles are not in demand. If you are forced to perform repairs entirely during demand hours then (according the Ron Turley, a fleet consultant and trainer) your spare vehicle ratio might have to rise from three to six percent to a whopping 12 percent.

Ideally the day shift would concentrate on multi-day jobs and emergency work. The evening would focus on PM and corrective jobs. In shops where the demand is during daytime and they are constrained to daytime shop hours, some mechanics could come in early to get the quicker jobs out of the way before the drivers arrive.

What are your choices if demand is 24 hours? If you have a large fleet you staff whenever there is demand. Since it is easier to get parts and outside services during the day the day shift might be heaviest. This is tough situation for a small fleet with 24 hour demand. In this case you might resort to an outside service, 24 hour garage, or a call-out list or make a deal with another local fleet needing coverage and share the responsibility.