How to improve wrench efficiency

Measure time and motion to assess productivity.

By Phil Beelendorf, Roquette America

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In brief:

  • And the first step down the road to improved wrench efficiency is a thorough understanding of how one’s time is currently spent.
  • If you currently do not know where you are at, how can you possibly get to where you want to go?
  • Reliability professionals who master the art of managing their time efficiently stand a greater chance of producing the asset improvement and cost reduction results that transform an organization into an industry leader.

Reliability professionals who master the art of managing their time efficiently stand a greater chance of producing the asset improvement and cost reduction results that transform an organization into an industry leader. Stephen Covey in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” discussed the importance of living in Quadrant II, focusing on what is important and not urgent, rather than what is unimportant and urgent. But how are you supposed to do this, when the phone never stops ringing, the emails just keep coming, and there’s an endless line of people knocking on the door who just need five minutes of your time? While most companies with reliability programs measure craft “wrench” efficiency, how many reliability professionals measure their own wrench efficiency? Recognizing my own desire to improve both efficiency and effectiveness, I developed and used a time management tool to identify how I might improve my productivity. Identifying and eliminating Quadrant III (urgent and unimportant) activities allowed me to focus time and energy on Quadrant II activities; the structured and disciplined approached helped to increase my efficiency. As a byproduct, I was able to reduce my work hours and gain control of my personal and professional life, bringing it back into balance.

SMRP Conference

Phil Beelendorf, CMRP, methods program coordinator at Roquette America, will present “Reliability Professionals — Improve Your Wrench Efficiency!” at the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals Annual Conference in Indianapolis on Oct. 15 at 4 PM. The presentation will explain how to use this powerful tool to discover where you waste time. This knowledge and disciplined approach can help you to increase efficiency, keep commitments, and stay focused on the important tasks. Increasing productivity may also help to gain the healthy work/life balance we all strive for. Learn more about the SMRP Conference.

A journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step. And the first step down the road to improved wrench efficiency is a thorough understanding of how one’s time is currently spent. This understanding cannot be gained without first measuring the amount of time spent on the various activities which comprise the work week. To accomplish this task, I developed an Excel spreadsheet in calendar form, listing the various objectives I was responsible for completing, along with the other activities I was involved in. The list included core activities such as the programs I managed, non-core activities such as mandatory training, answering emails, and other administrative tasks, and the key objectives listed on my performance management plan. The objectives on the performance management plan were treated as projects, whether they were strategic, managerial, or developmental in nature. During the initial three-month time-motion study, estimates on the amount of time spent on core and non-core activities were experiential guesses. The remaining hours were allocated to the various tasks that needed to be completed that month to meet the due dates listed on my performance management plan objectives. The desired goal of the initial time-motion study was twofold: to gain a better understanding of where my time was currently being spent and to develop the discipline necessary to work in a planned environment the majority of my time. I was embarking on a journey; I was heading down the road in search of the answer to the following question: “Was I in control of my time and work activities, or were they in control of me?”

It’s often beneficial to list an action plan for any activity or project, so clear improvement goals can be set from the observations made. The following action plan was developed for the three-month time-motion study.

  • Estimate the amount of time spent on daily core and non-core activities. Record actual time spent on these activities to improve the accuracy of future estimates.
  • Establish an hours-worked goal for the typical work week. For this study 50 hours/week was used. Determine number of work days available in the month. After subtracting the estimated hours spent on core and non-core activities, develop a list of planned task objectives you commit to working on, based on completion date and priority. Estimate tasks associated with each objective and provide a time estimate to complete all of the tasks planned for each objective that month. If there are too many hours scheduled, push low-priority tasks into the future; if you are under-scheduled, add additional tasks. For this study, the submitted plans started out 125-130% loaded. IE core, non-core, and planned activities equaled 125-130% of available hours. A target of 110% loading was established.
  • Submit a plan to senior management at the beginning of each month outlining the planned objectives scheduled for the month in question. Record the time spent on each planned objective. Measure planned activity efficiency and wrench efficiency.
  • Gain an understanding of the habits and practices that may limit efficiency. Develop the ability to work the majority of the day on planned activities. Know exactly which planned activities are scheduled each day before the work day starts.
  • Identify hours spent on Quadrant III activities and record observations of ways to improve overall efficiency.
  • Based on the observation made, develop an improvement plan to increase planned activity and wrench efficiencies.

For the purpose of this paper, planned activity efficiency is defined as “number of executed (actual) hours spent on project (planned) activities divided by total planned project hours.”

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