3D Printing / Planning and Scheduling / Operational Excellence

Better (holiday) planning

Thomas Wilk explains how a 3D printing strategy can also ease your busy schedule.

By Thomas Wilk, editor in chief

Have you ever wondered what the stress of managing the holidays is doing to your brain?

One of the most cited pieces of research in this area was published in 2006 by the American Psychological Association in a research report simply titled “Holiday Stress.” In this survey, respondents cited one factor – time – as the most challenging to navigate. Specifically, 85% claimed that a lack of time added to their stress levels, and 67% reported that time management was their most significant holiday stressor overall.

In 2016, Harvard Medical School’s neurobiology department weighed in on holiday-related stress, noting that the brain’s prefrontal cortex goes into overdrive during the holidays because of the greater number of activities to track. “Over time, a high level of demand can decrease memory, halt production of new brain cells, and cause existing brain cells to die.”

So, why bring this topic up in a maintenance and reliability publication? Two articles from this month’s issue help answer this question: our cover story on 3D printing by managing editor Christine LaFave Grace, and Doc Palmer’s latest column on planning and scheduling.

Doc has led the way this year in our coverage of this topic, starting in January with his argument that proactive maintenance via proper planning and scheduling helps plant teams unlock untapped reserves of extra labor. In this month’s column, Doc makes a point that made me think of the holidays: To complete more work than normal, “have the scheduler fully load the weekly maintenance schedule with 100% of the available labor hours.”

What? Isn’t life stressful enough without going out of your way to fully load your schedule? As Doc explains, though, the goal isn’t to stick to the schedule; it’s to complete more work, and “a crew started with a 100% fully loaded schedule usually completes more work even if it frequently breaks the schedule to take care of operations’ urgent concerns.”

This point is balanced in our cover story by a strategic recommendation from Mike Vasquez, founder of 3Degrees, for anyone exploring the role of 3D printing in their facility. Be sure that the application of the technology is tied to a specific business goal, he says, such as saving time to production, reducing inventory, or expanding an on-demand supply chain. “Just because you can 3D-print something doesn’t mean you should,” he says. “If you’re telling me that you want to recreate these screws and just use 3D printing for no justification, then that’s a challenge.”

In other words, try not to stress out too much if your holiday schedule is 100% booked, as you’ll ultimately see more people and do more things than if you had deliberately dialed back your schedule. And, do your best to make sure that each thing on that schedule is tied to your bigger personal holiday picture.