Active Supervision

Sometimes the simplest cures to big maintenance shop problems create the biggest results. Active supervision, for example, can improve shop productivity by 15 percent. It is essential that the direct supervisor of mechanics have a significant amount of their time available to cruise the shop floor.

The question is, what is active supervision?

Active supervision takes place when the supervisor spends substantial time on the shop floor helping workers solve problems. As strange as it might sound, on the psychological level, the supervisor might have to be both mother (nurturing and supportive) and father (strict and tough) to members of the crew.

Active supervision is broken into several dimensions:

Ongoing performance monitoring.
The supervisor knows how long each job should take and checks it periodically throughout the day. A four-hour job should be half done by break. When the jobs fall behind the experienced supervisor thinks about the best intervention. In some cases it might be logistical help, tool help, information about how to precede, in some cases a kick in the pants! In other cases the supervisor will hang back if wrestling with the job is important for training.

Personnel booster and ombudsman.
The supervisor is the representative of the company to the shop personnel and frequently represents the workers to management. He or she should be a ceaseless booster of the mechanics' interests. The supervisor should be the one to go to bat with Human Resources on behalf of one or his or her people.

Paperwork compliance goon.
The accuracy of all analysis is derived from the work order. If the work order is complete and accurate then decision making is dramatically easier. The supervisor is always auditing paperwork and returning it when it is deficient. He or she should always look at work orders on the floor and ensure that entries are being made contemporaneously (at the same time) as the activity. The supervisor should also ensure that closing comments are complete enough so that a year from now they will be meaningful for further analysis.

Scheduling czar.
Shop time has to be scheduled to optimize the use of scarce resources while serving the customers. While there might be a separate person scheduling a large shop the supervisor should have significant input.

Teacher and mentor.
The supervisor should be training, or directing the training, of members of the crew. Everyone has areas that they are better at and areas that they are worse at. The easiest crew to schedule is one where everyone can do everything. The effective supervisor should be reviewing the schedule every day and looking for training opportunities. These can be formal training sessions or letting the trainee'help' an experienced hand.

Quality control officer.
The supervisor is responsible for the overall quality of all work performed in his or her shop. Where there are quality issues the supervisor determines the cause of the problem (which could be in several areas: lack of knowledge or skill; lack of aptitude; lack of adequate physical strength or dexterity; bad attitude; lack of the right tool; lack of the right part; some inadequacy in working conditions; inadequate time; preoccupation brought about by a problem outside of work). The supervisor works with the worker to solve the quality problem. If the problem is with the company or system (such as bad working conditions, or a lack of tools or parts) he or she should attack that, too. If the worker has a problem with external issues the supervisor should mentor that person or find help for him or her within the organization.

Safety officer.
The supervisor should intervene any time an employee or visitor performs an unsafe act or is in the shop without personal protective equipment. The supervisor is the champion for safety and makes sure the shop is safe.

Tidiness cheerleader.
The shop must be kept clean for safety, efficiency and morale reasons. All clean-up for individual jobs should be part of and charged to the individual job. The supervisor should arrange for periodic clean projects to keep the whole area and the yard tidy.

Of course, there are scores of other essential roles. These include Psychiatrist, mother, father, friend, and confessor (at least). Is there any better job?