Image by Midjourney
A while ago I spoke to Ben, a maintenance manager at a site that is running our Viewport solution. He had a lot on his mind: earlier that week, an engineer had accidentally turned on equipment that a colleague was working on, resulting in an injury to the colleague’s arm. Fortunately, the injury was not permanent.
The HSE department quickly took over the situation, leading to many meetings and additional paperwork for Ben, who was already overwhelmed with his workload. The root cause was identified as: too much work, too little time, too many shortcuts, and not enough attention during work.
Ben expressed concern about the situation and asked for our company’s help in finding a solution. He explained that he is already working 60+ hours a week and cannot take on any more work, nor can he ask his personnel to do the same without risking more mistakes.
This is not an unusual situation. Many people I talk to in the industry have similar stories: there is too much work to do, good workers are leaving, and new workers are inexperienced. We’re doing what we can to manage the workload. Looking outside the industry, we see the same situation in health care and education here in the Netherlands: professionals who are trained to do the work they love but are burdened with administrative tasks that keep them from doing their work.
Is it okay to take shortcuts in these circumstances? Of course not, the health and safety department will tell you. And they are right. Instead of focusing only on the maintenance activities at hand, why not look at other areas where you could improve the situation?
The “hands-on tool time” or HOTT metric measures the percentage of time that a maintenance engineer spends actively performing maintenance activities. To optimize HOTT and ensure that engineers have adequate time and focus to perform their tasks safely, it may be necessary to eliminate or simplify other tasks and responsibilities. For example, reducing administrative burdens, streamlining communication and reporting processes, and implementing automation or other technology solutions can all help to free up time and attention for critical maintenance activities. By focusing on optimizing HOTT, companies can improve safety and efficiency in their maintenance operations.
At Viewport.ai, we believe that finding and accessing the right information should be as effortless as turning on a tap or plugging in a cable. With our approach, people can quickly and easily access the information they need to make informed decisions and share knowledge with others. This can help to save time, increasing HOTT and improving efficiency.
IT managers may argue that a search function in a document management system is sufficient for engineers to find the information they need. However, based on my experience talking to engineers over the past decade, I have found that most built-in search systems are not very effective. Engineers often have to use complex search queries to find the right files, and the search system may not understand their specific needs. For example, an engineer searching for “A4 manual” may be looking for the manual for a “F30.A04” diesel generator. Not for generic manuals with an A4 paper size!
Even if an engineer is able to find the right file using a search function, the search results may not provide all the relevant information. For example, the file may be a 15,000-page document with the relevant information buried somewhere in the middle, or it may be an A1-sized factory floor layout with the equipment represented as a small symbol somewhere. Additionally, many well-meant digitalization projects have turned useful manuals into scanned, anonymous PDFs that are difficult to search and access. These are real-world examples of the challenges that engineers face when trying to access the information they need.
Could the accident that Ben told me about have been prevented with faster and more relevant searching capabilities?
Maybe, if “safety bulletins” with information about similar accidents at other plants were proactively presented to engineers.
Maybe, if engineers had more time to prepare and review the situation on site, they may have been able to identify potential hazards and take appropriate precautions.
Maybe, if they are handed the latest version of a schematic or job instruction.
Overall, the key to preventing accidents and optimizing maintenance processes is to support engineers in doing the work they love and giving them the time and attention they need. With the right tools and processes in place, maintenance professionals can keep their HOTT metric sizzling and avoid burning themselves out.
Supercharge your Workforce!