What Must Be Done To Make It Happen?

The May 2013 edition of the U.S. Airways inflight magazine has a really interesting article in a monthly “Making it Happen” feature called “One Job At A Time.” (Click the link to follow along at home. The article is on page 12 of the magazine, page 14 of the pdf.)

The piece follows a machinist through his shift in their maintenance facility.

What is interesting is what he has to do to get the job done.

I’m not going to detail it all out here, but suffice it to say that his shift starts at 2:30 pm, and between then and 7:00 pm he only spends about an hour and 10 minutes to pull the old bearings and install the new ones – actually doing the job he set out to get done on the airplane.

The rest of the time is spent interacting with the job tracking computer, gathering the required tools, supplies, waiting for the inspector, and making a part because the one in the kit didn’t fit.

This team member is working within the system, and what is described here is so routine that it is a featured article in the inflight magazine.

Now – before you get really critical, you might want to follow one of your primary team members around for a shift and see if your organization does any better.

For example a ward nurse in a local hospital spent exactly 10 minutes over a 4 hour period actually providing care to patients and charting – the things I would call “nursing.”

These are dedicated team members, but the system gets in their way.

2 thoughts to “What Must Be Done To Make It Happen?”

  1. The description seems to be very slow but the repair involves an airframe related repair and related FAA level inspection which add to the time required. And all airplane parts have to be tracked by serial number and lot code from cradle until grave. You cannot speed up the repair here by not fully reattaching a panel or bracket, or just tightening a bolt up “until tight” (versus correct torque settings) like automobile repair mechanics often can.

    1. Econobiker-

      Your response captures the very essence of what continuous improvement is about.

      You talk about trying to do the repair faster – improving the 70 minutes the mechanic was able to spend actually working on the plane.

      Rather, though, what are the activities that he has to do that stop him from doing that work?

      What interrupts him?
      Does he have all of the things – information, tools, supplies, parts and support he needs, where he needs, when he needs?

      I’ve worked in and out of aerospace, including mods and repairs, for 20 years, so I certainly know the momentum this process is up against… but just “What if..”.. say the process overhead could be cut by 20 or more % without impacting regulatory compliance, safety or quality?

      How much does the overhead distract from paying attention to the critical parts of the job?

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