Let’s for a moment envision perfection: how things would be in an ideal world where I had everything and everyone supporting me and the plant doing what it should be doing. What would that look like? Here’s what it would look like for me, based on current events in my perfect world and past glimpses into a reactive, all-hands-on-deck world.
In this two-part article, I contrast my current (i.e., more perfect) world with reflections on what things were like at my journey’s beginning. Along the way, I will recap the tactics (Go Ahead, Number One) that enabled our facility to move away from being Not So Perfect and more toward the vision depicted in a Perfect World.
Overnight phone calls are all but a faint memory because through the passage of time, documentation, skills, stocked parts and proper planning, we have all but avoided reactive work.
My day would start off about 0600 with me walking through the door looking toward another fairly stress-free day, since my methodologies were proven and financial results were paid out on an hourly basis and on a quarterly basis of 20%/annual base salary. This usually meant that the hourly guys could look forward to up to $1,200 extra per week in their paycheck based on 40 hours of “overtime wages” paid, which increased our throughput, maximized our quality, minimized our downtime, and maximized our uptime.
We had in-stock parts based on the strategy of “repair plus 1 spare” and, of most importance, thorough written/verbal communication. Simply put, everyone from executives to Day 1 hires was on the same page, and the “bad actors” were trained, brought up to speed, or removed from service for the betterment of the organization.
First thing in the morning, in my private, quiet office, over coffee, I reviewed work orders and new requests in the system. I looked forward to reviewing my finished work orders from the day before knowing that I would get additional written and verbal commentary from the techs regarding skills training, tools, spares, engineering support or any other way of making the work flow more smoothly which would spike our wrench time to world class standards.
I would then RIME-number them – Reactive Index Maintenance Expenditure number – them from 100 IMMEDIATE to 1 lowest possible concern, place them on the Planner Pad and head off to morning meeting.
On the way to the morning meeting, I reflected on my new requests and how they had been relayed, from verbal, text, and/or radio call to the infamous page because of an immediate “REACTIVE/SAFETY” notification. This last level of emergency usually also meant that my maintenance supervisor/manager/director/plant manager was looking for me, as well.
I was issued two cell phones, one desk phone, and a computer for email, and even then I still was difficult to get a hold of. I answered messages and responded to in order of RIME number. That method kept everyone, including myself, running around and never getting anything done in a proactive sense.
Morale was low, with six work days of 10 hours/day required as well as mandatory overtime, including holidays. My good friend the Downtime Dragon also was shredding me at least three times per day. (Please note that the Dragon had a well organized army of ne’er-do-wells determined to set me up for failure on an hourly basis all day long, and more often than not on a quarterly-hour basis.)
Morning meetings were informative and extremely polite, and almost-perfect manners were the norm. Concerns were noted; I had the latest work orders from the night before for commentary as needed. I also had the newest requests from the operations and facilities teams, which were addressed as requested at that time. Everyone also knew the requests were going to be walked down personally by myself after the meeting.
Operations and facilities had matured enough that they knew they were not going to be ignored and that all of the work was going to be planned, scheduled, and kitted (P/S/K) around the greatest needs of production. Simply put, who wants to warrant $10,000/minute of downtime for main production reasons and place an executive washroom light bulb change request in the 100 RIME notification first?
Staff finally understood that light bulbs are important, but they also valued the 20% quarterly bonuses even more and were willing, over time, to use the alternate washrooms until I could P/S/K into the schedule of hours available for a tradesperson, such as a utility/electrician staff member, to complete the work. Simply put, I won’t P/S/K a master electrician with more than 10 years of seniority for a light-bulb change when I know I have a utility man available at the end of the day or the beginning of the next.
During this time, I smiled to myself, remembering the days where the Prince of Production and the Downtime Dragon ran my staff. (This dynamic was probably the biggest and hardest one to change, but was well worth it in the end.) Light bulbs, non-production-affecting water leaks, janitorial issues, and landscaping projects were the norm, as was finger-pointing in a hostile environment. Planned and scheduled work was unheard of, due to either not having the parts, not having enough parts, or only having cannibalized part kits for an off-shift repair that I found more often than not the next day. These repairs would require another P/S/K change with operations, which basically started the process from scratch all over again, but with more questions aimed my way on why the job was not being done as promised. These always led to another meeting.
Go Ahead, Number One. I implemented a methodology of “repair plus one spare” – if I did not have parts for this repair in stock and verified by hands-on/eyes-on, then the work did not get released, period, and was rescheduled for another time.
Sure, in the beginning of reactive work, I was known as the Expedite King, or even The Miracle Worker. My faithful 2010 Chevrolet Silverado Long Bed 4×4, the Planner Express, made up to five trips per day offsite to jobbers to deliver my personal verbal purchase orders for breakdown repairs. However, I had no data in the beginning, and not until I made the time to enter the min/max level myself, locking out the controls at an administrative position, and bringing maintenance/purchasing/jobber together, did I realize I was not going anywhere quickly. (Please note that I also was handling a lot of extra data-entry/buyer/expediter/storeroom duties at this time, along with all necessary executive-level meetings to iron out the details.)
Go Ahead, Number One. Resolving this process took some fine executive-level negotiations with purchasing, and they stonewalled me at first. It took a long time for culture change to take hold (i.e., not to buy price-first based on inferior quality, rotating stock, and updating records). However, when OEM products were bought first, everyone started noticing that the parts cost less over time.
I required two hours max downtime from point of notification before a part could be couriered/expedited on-site through the provider/jobber at no additional cost incurred. Suppliers also provided free technical on-site assistance and walkdowns for quotes as needed, and the time-honored principle of “verbal p/o by myself” got the ball rolling to minimize downtime.
Technical sales also delivered more often than not during those early times, and they offered at no additional charge “breakfast-and-learn” or “lunch-and-learn” training sessions. These sessions included diagnosis/troubleshooting as well as on the floor/rebuilding from start to finish, and they bought lunch/dinner on those extended days. Also, let it be noted, only once in two years did I incur same-day expedite fees for parts, because my third-shift techs used the last supply up and the storeroom “missed a computer entry,” which meant I had to answer for the parts.
Things were heading in the right direction. However, right around the corner were further morale challenges, as well as the need to convince operations that more planned downtime was a good idea.
I would like to dedicate this article to my mentor, Doc Palmer, who over the last 13+ years has introduced me to professional organizations and helped me meet members and fellow practitioners that I could not have done on my own, along with countless phone calls for advice. I also thank my editor, Thomas Wilk, who has given me the distinct honor and pleasure of writing for you, the reader.