Love that Labor Lost

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief | September 28, 2010

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief
Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief

Some equipment managers have determined that the technician problem may not be as much related to head counts as it is to efficiencies.

Several we've spoken with lately have determined that they had too many technicians rather than not enough. They're not firing people, but through attrition or reassignment these managers are reducing their labor costs, hence their overall equipment costs, and increasing maintenance efficiency.

Of course, if a manager's not tracking equipment costs or if he doesn't know what a machine's rate is, then chances are good that he's not tracking labor costs either, other than hourly rate. A technician costs more than his hourly rate. There's insurance, including workman's comp and health care. There's vacation and sick days, and other benefits. And, of course, there's the administrative cost of payroll.

In addition to finding out what a technician costs to employ, managers must take a hard look at what their technicians are actually doing. Is he greasing equipment when the operator could be doing it as part of a morning checklist? Are PMs scheduled and completed 100 percent, even 90 percent or 80 percent, on time? Are repairs outsourced to more efficient, cost-effective sources such as an equipment dealer?

In one shop, the manager reviewed his outside vendors and found the unexpected: a simple repair that was outsourced could be done more cheaply with in-house staff. He paid his techs overtime, but his analysis determined that in-house labor was still more efficient and cost-beneficial.

Skilled technicians are a valuable asset. Instead of continually searching for more, consider ways to maximize the talent you already have. Give them challenging work. You'll be surprised what highly motivated, satisfied technicians can accomplish. Maybe attrition and reassignment will turn your shop into a lean, cost-efficient operation, too.