When the Rubber Hits the Road—Pilot Study

Thus far, we had completed the easy part of the exercise. Selling the idea to operators was a different ballgame. In our training sessions, we identified one section where the manager and supervisor were both very supportive. We decided to pilot it in this section.

I had the advantage of having the maintenance supervisors in the plant and in the workshop as direct reports. I explained to them the need to provide a high level of service to the pilot group. As far as the pilot group was concerned, shouting loud was no longer an option, so additional safeguards were required.

My colleague kept a close watch on the performance of both operations and maintenance. Whenever we felt that priority setting was incorrect, we brought it to the attention of the operations supervisor. From the maintenance side, if there were any delays, one of us intervened, so we retained a high service level.

The first two weeks were chaotic, and we thought that the experiment was a failure. By the third week, however, things started to improve. Operations started noticing that work was being completed on time and to better quality standards than they had seen before. This was mainly because maintenance craftsmen were able to complete jobs they had started without interruption. The positive comments from the operators helped raise the motivation among maintenance craftsmen. It took a further six weeks or so before we could see an improvement in the reliability of the pilot section processing units. At the same time, the overtime level dropped to less than 5 percent in the pilot area, thanks to the fewer breakdowns. The distribution of priorities in this area changed quite significantly. We now had only 5-10 percent Priority A, 20-25 percent Priority B, and about 70 percent Priority C jobs in the system. Scheduling of work became a lot easier. This was in line with the theory we had learned earlier. The before-and-after situations were similar to that of poor and best-in-class performers illustrated in Figure 25.1.

Comparison of Priority Distributions

Figure 25.1 Comparison of Priority Distributions

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