Once upon a time, I was a planner during a particularly large outage. Some of the major jobs included an air preheater basket change out, nose tube replacement, burner corner replacement (a CE tangentially fired unit with 64 burners) including brining gas lines to each of the corners, and a re-insulation of the entire boiler after an abatement. During this especially hectic time, management decided to perform a wrench time analysis.
The results of the analysis came back with impressive results. Our job site had almost double the wrench time (68%) vs. the other job sites (in the 30% range). This large percentage differential raised questions and suspicion from the “Suits.”
Naturally, the first thing the Suites focused on was that these numbers were fake. We were soon accused of tricking the auditors. After much conversation and investigation it was determined that our 68% was in fact real. Imagine that.
After it was agreed on by all that my job site had a superior wrench time then the others, we started to delve into the reasons behind it.
As it turned out, the primary reason that we had a much better wrench time than everyone else was because we set the job up differently than everyone else.
Our traditional tool control during an outage was to have one central tool room where all the tools were checked in and out of every day. We changed that. Instead each Forman was given both a set of jobs and the time to lay out a written list of the tools that they needed to perform those jobs. Once the Forman generated their lists, they were given job boxes with the tools they listed. The tools were then signed out to the Forman and he or she was responsible for their own tools from there on end.
When upper management found out what we were doing they were incensed. They felt that there would be a free for all with the tools. They declared that any tool lost would be taken directly out of any bonuses or raises of the project manager (my direct boss) or me.
When it was all over (upwards of 170,000 man hours) my team was well under our tool budget, much to the surprise of upper management.
Not only did the team have a significantly higher wrench time than other jobs, we also had better tool control. More importantly, we came in under budget and under time for the entire outage. This feat had not happened in my division for many, many years.
Moral of the Story
A dear friend of mind once related to me a speech he heard by Bruno Bic (the pen guy) to his company. His opening line was “When you see a snake kill it, don’t write a memo, don’t send an email, don’t make a policy, just kill it”. The way we did tool control, prior to this, was horrible. It took too long and controlled too little. So in the fashion of Bruno Bic, we tried something different and that yielded huge results.
Rule of Thumb
If you have a management process that looks cumbersome and time consuming, guess what? It is. Find a better way and there are huge performance gains in store for you.