Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Managing Maintenance In The Weeds (part 3)

Repairs are always successful, no matter how often or how long they take.

Guidance for status reports from Support Department
  • Manager usually handles official communication. This minimizes distractions to repair team.
  • Maintain long-term personal credibility. This problem is temporary, not solitary.
  • Stay on point. Explain symptom and current plans, including names & timetable. Avoid nonessential, transitory details.
  • Report your ongoing score. Accurately summarize the measurable impact. For example, “downtime of 5 days”, “Bismarck product delayed 6-shifts”. Alternatively, expect to read it somewhere else.
  • How long until the machine is fixed? Nobody knows. That’s right; nobody knows. Why do they ask? Your friends need ongoing reassurance that priorities are appropriate and that resources are adequate. Your answers need to be consistent & true. They will be compared.
How long until the machine is fixed? Response option examples:
- Honest: We don't know if this repair will be effective. If we’re not running within 2 hours, we'll try our next option.
- Political: Soon. Maybe tomorrow. We've got our two best folks working on it.
- Constructive: Come to our next meeting in 30 minutes. You'll get the latest & greatest info.
- Unhelpful: I don't know. Stop asking. I'll call when it's fixed, just like last time.
Overtime (OT)
  • Unscheduled overtime happens. Often, your best people don't want overtime. They will move to a better job if OT is too much for too long. Everybody is replaceable; that’s written in a book somewhere.
  • Why is OT needed? Because special skills are needed for a few more hours on a critical task.
  • Is the task critical? “Yes!” You’ll hear that a lot. Most people want all problems fixed immediately (even on idle equipment). Others say their problem is critical because only critical problems get repaired. Lastly, some repairs are critical priorities because the planned repair might fail.
  • Employees generally prefer OT rather than compensatory time later in the week.
Managers must provide & prioritize appropriate resources. The Boss will repeat a favorite question: are the right people assigned fulltime (plus OT)? These are discussion questions. Be prepared to justify your responses with sharp, short-term reasoning. Reassess your perspective every day; the Boss will. Stay focused. Save your inspired long-term solutions for later.

Troubleshooting guidance (very briefly)
  • Every lengthy problem solving effort requires a qualified team leader, maybe not the manager.
  • Like an addicted gambler, it's tempting to bet everything on the next discovery or repair attempt; and then, after each loss, make another all or nothing bet. Eventually, you’ll win! However, you’ll seem smarter if you predict a high failure rate. Why? Only the last, final repair succeeds.
  • Coordinate investigations to answer more than one question. Optimize repair efforts to replace or calibrate several related components at once.
  • Don’t allow unauthorized changes, but don't let efforts stall while waiting for blessed inspiration.
  • Every tough problem will eventually yield to division (is versus is not).
  • Ask the essential what-if questions and make some alternate plans: skill/knowledge limits, fresh expert/ideas, permanent machine failure, borrow parts from other machines, share capacity, etc.
  • Prioritize clearly. If speedy repair is the highest priority, finding the root cause is not. Nevertheless, when time allows, encourage the habit of searching one level deeper.
“The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.” - H. G. Wells

Rest well.

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