Our customer operates a manufacturing facility in Tennessee. The facility employs approximately 420 people and is over 225,000 square feet in size. The key products include various types of standard laboratory glass, in addition to custom specialty glass products. This case study focuses on the service request process at this facility, but the system is also used for all their preventive maintenance needs.
In 2008 the maintenance department was accepting work requests informally, via paper, and verbally. The level of response to incoming requests depended greatly upon the manner in which the request was made, who received the request, and who was the customer making the request.
In an effort to be accommodating to internal customers, the maintenance department accepted work order requests via many different informal channels, including casual face-to-face discussions, telephone calls, voicemail messages, e-mails, and hand-written forms. This kind of process often leads to work orders being readily accepted without adequate information. The level of the response to each request depended upon who was making the request and who was receiving the request. Most of us know all too well about the scrawled-on-a-napkin or a pleaded verbal request passed to a maintenance technician on the run, often without proper explanation.
Without a formal work order communication process to offer to the clients, the manager did not have full clarity as to the needs of his clients and the workload of each of his employees. Often, rather than following the proper direction of an informed manager and informed fellow workers, submitted work orders were being performed in a reactive manner in order to appease the sense of urgency of the client rather than in a proactive manner where work requests could be properly assessed and prioritized according to what was best for the corporation.
By not centralizing the demands of the department in one work order database, people were not aware of the demands placed on each worker and of all the tasks a worker needed to perform. Such a thing can quickly lead to frustration by workers who feel misunderstood and under-appreciated by their fellow workers and also by the managers. This increased the sense of urgency and lack of full clarity added to the stress for both the service department and the customers. In addition, management lacked the tools necessary to utilize metrics to help fine-tune the efficiency of the department because they were not aware of all the work being performed and were not able to track the life cycle of each work request.
Implementation of eWorkOrders
In order to meet the new ISO 9001 Quality Management System requirements, the Engineering/Maintenance department implemented a formalized and centralized work order process for their customers. The service department was able to offer multiple different services electronically to their customers. Each service offered by the service department had its own easily designable form that could be easily changed by the service department without any need for custom software programming. Each service request form had the essential fields required so that work orders would not be able to be submitted with missing essential information.
By directing all employees to communicate their work orders to the maintenance department via the eWorkOrders request interface, the work orders were centralized and could now be properly managed and tracked. Because eWorkOrders is a web-based software, work orders could be easily entered from any device with Internet access, such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Management and support staff could easily review and assign work orders to employees and see the current workload of each employee. Because the work orders can be associated with specific pieces of equipment, it is easy to see which workers are already familiar with any piece of equipment. This made assigning workers to work orders more easily and made the department more efficient.
One of the largest benefits of the implementation and use of the eWorkOrders system is the easily obtainable maintenance labor allocation data. The maintenance department represents the single largest departmental component of indirect manufacturing overhead. Proper allocation of these overhead costs among products, or departments, permits the customers’ business managers to better understand their company’s production costs. It also allows the managers to determine how much each product or department is contributing to overall profitability. Overhead cost allocation allows the manager to calculate the profitability of a product line, determine the economic impacts of alternative business plans, and to value inventory.
Prior to the implementation of eWorkOrders, these allocations were based upon the percentage of total production space each product line required. Now with eWorkOrders, the proper maintenance overhead allocations are just a few mouse clicks away. The differences in the data were significant enough to affect product pricing and the products on the largest parts of the production were able to have their market prices reduced, which of course, increased sales. Some products had to have their prices increased. This helped to prevent selling the product at a loss. One unexpected result was that the overall maintenance costs were reduced when eWorkOrders helped to identify the need for training improvements for operators on some of the production lines and to better help coordinate the workload of the entire service department amongst the workers. This also increased the morale of the entire department.
From start to finish, the implementation of eWorkOrders CMMS into the customers’ maintenance operations exceeded all expectations.
The initial intent of the project was to simplify processes and address the many forms of waste, both obvious and hidden, inherent in an old-fashioned, verbal, and paper-based work request system. But the more the employees and their managers used the system, the more that they liked it. The more they liked it, the more they used it. The more they used it, the more data became available for analysis. The more analysis they performed, the more obvious it became that the data and the flexibility of the system would lead to more and more reports that gave the company and departmental managers new tools to make educated decisions on work request prioritization and effectiveness.
Some of the biggest advantages they identified were:
- Affordable system and training costs
- Little to no capital investment necessary: Utilize existing computers and mobile devices
- Little to no IT labor needed: eWorkOrders is hosted & supported off-site by the vendor