Some say a quick way to know what is going on is to read a report. Not sure I agree. When the costs hit the reports, it is too late. Data is good, but maybe too late!
There are some quick ways to understand what is going on in your shops, especially if you or your supervisors have nights and weekend staffs working. Here are a couple of methods that I have been practicing and never will give up.
Trash Cans: Tour your shop every day and look in all of the trash cans. Look for valve cores, flaps cut too short, expensive fittings still remaining in the foot valve, or maybe plastic lines that were cut instead of removed properly. Do you see more air filters then there should be if you’re changing them by restriction as you should? You may just find out that some of your employees have their own replacement program.
Steel Dumpster: Tour your yard and take a look in the steel dumpster. Climb ( safely) up the side of the bin to see what has been discarded. You’ll probably see drums, old brake shoes, valve cores, alternators, bent flap brackets, caged brake chambers, even damaged fuel tank steps. Try measuring some of the brake drums to see if mechanics are removing them too early, or too late. You may see some drums cracked and way beyond reasonable life, which of course is why they cracked. You may see a drum, or what’s left of it. There may be a good reason, or maybe it’s related to your recent request of an inventory reduction and return of slow moving parts to vendors. Broken springs are OK, but if they are broken between the U-bolt areas, they were loose. There’s an opportunity to reduce cost by adding a re-torque during PM. A set a king pins and brake camshafts there as well? Oh, they’re all dry, no grease. What does that tell you?
Benches: Turn your eyes to the shop benches. Do you see drill bits, half full cans of spray something, tools slewn on the bench or maybe an expensive battery electronic load tester that the tech on the other side of the shop that has been looking for for 20 minutes at $1.00 a minute. See if you find that on the monthly P&L.
Corners of the shop: Look here, cores, grease guns, shoe cores, broken tools, old drop light cords, creepers with 3 wheels, and a radio that is broken. Junk of all kinds stuffed on the ledges of the shop walls. If it fits, something will be there even with a trash can within an arms reach.
Changing Room/Locker Area: This one is simple. There are 22 pairs of boots all over the place and only 12 mechanics. Inappropriate material dangling from the walls or from of the lockers. Extra pairs of pants or coveralls that someone had to have even though they no longer work for the company.
Bathroom: No supplies, dirty floor, cloth towels draped to the floor, three dispensers for hand cleaner. Two old and a new one from a new vendor. Dirty mirror, a dripping faucet and no hot water to wash with. This area screams help.
Lunch room: Dirty picnic table for lunch, E.coli everywhere. Ash trays in a no smoking building and a coffee make and refrigerator that looks like it’s breeding pets and a freezer that the door won’t shut tight.
Yard: Tour the yard, look at your equipment. Check PM status. Take an employee with you to train on the fly based on what you see or what your gut tells you is going on.
Parts room: Plenty of stuff here. Some50% of your costs goes thought this department. Do you see overstuffed, dirty bins, dirty, too many air filters, brass galore, three types of silicone or the wrong rollup door lube as well as only one door cable when your policy is to replace both at the same time when one fails. Brake shoes, but no drums and three different brands of seals under three different part numbers. One auto slack adjuster and 7 manuals slacks. Shoe cores will tell you the effectiveness of your brake maintenance program in a split second.
Tire Area: Tires will talk to us if we listen.
All of these suggestions may already be part of your arsenal, but does your staff understand the importance observation and seeing what’s in front of them. Sometimes we create our own bureaucracy and overload our supervisors with corporate busy work. I see it every day. I think Ill send a memo.