November 07, 2022
Work Orders and BPOs
Last weekend, I visited my friend, Bob, to assist in several small projects around the house. He had drawn up a list and while the jobs weren't major, the number of them would see us occupied most of the day.
Unfortunately, we spent more time than anticipated because while in the midst of several of the planned jobs, we found other needed repairs. Of course, Bob wanted a record of everything we'd done so he could keep track of the supplies we used.
A second problem presented itself throughout the day. After some of the regular and extra jobs, he'd call in an order to the local hardware store or general merchandise store for pick up. Later, he'd call the same places for additional items.
After we'd completed everything, we sat on his front porch drinking sodas. I mentioned these extra jobs and the multiple orders to the same stores.
"What's funny, Steve, is that we have the same two problems at work," he said.
"You're in the maintenance department at the plant west of town," I said.
"What's going on?"
"For the last couple of years, everything has been fine. The company has grown recently, and we've added more equipment and increased inventory and supplies.
"What are you using to keep track of everything?"
"Spreadsheets, he answered.
I winced. "Okay, go on. Let me know the issues."
"The workers are great," he said. "They've kept everything running although because of the growth, we're having scheduling issues with preventive maintenance. Many times, they're doing extra jobs they discover need to be done. Like we did here today. We start on something, and another repair is needed. The problem at the plant is either the workers are delaying letting the supervisor know the additional jobs were completed or forgetting to inform him altogether."
"That's not good," I said. "Especially when they're using tools and parts."
"Right." Bob sipped his soda. "And this is where the other issue comes in. We're ordering supplies from a vendor one day, then the same or more items from the same vendor a day or two later."
"That's not cost-efficient," I said. "You have those pesky shipping and handling charges along with the intermittent receiving of supplies."
"I know," Bob said. "The supervisor and I aren't sure what to do."
I contemplated for a minute before finishing my drink. "I can offer a couple of suggestions for here at home and a solution for work."
"I'll take them," Bob said.
"One suggestion is to inspect all the jobs you want to do before you start. This might show you the extra work needed. Granted, you find many of the other repairs needed only after you got into a particular job, but a pre-check would catch some of them."
"The other suggestion is that you don't call in a supply order until you're done and have everything listed and separated by store or vendor. Then you make one call to each supplier and order everything at once."
"That would save time," he said.
"And money. Who knows how fast they are for ordering what's needed to be shipped? You're going to pay for each delivery."
"Yeah, I don't like doing that," he said. "Want another soda?"
"Sure. Thanks." After he returned with fresh drinks, I continued. "As for your workplace, what you need is a computerized maintenance management system. A CMMS."
"You know, the supervisor and I have been talking about one of those."
"Since your plant has grown, those spreadsheets aren't keeping up with the work. A CMMS will solve the issues you mentioned plus a lot more."
"How?" he asked.
"Well, you mentioned those PMs. With a CMMS, you can create a list of your regular PMs, then schedule them?"
"What do you mean?"
"With a quality system, you can put those jobs right onto a calendar. You can schedule the system to generate work orders days in advance. And regularly."
"That would be helpful."
"As to those extra jobs that pop up, your workers can record an after-the-fact work order in the system, recording time needed and parts/tools used. That way, your inventory, which you also can track with the CMMS, is updated. It's still the responsibility of the employee to input the information, but if the method is right there, it'll be easier to do so at that moment."
"You mean he can do that on his phone?" Bob asked.
"Sure, or any mobile device the app is on."
Bob inhaled long and deep. "That is a wonderful idea."
"Now, as to your purchasing problem, this will take a little time to develop but once it's in place, it will save you time and money."
"What is it?"
"It's called a blanket purchase order," I said.
"Tell me more."
"Like here at home, you create lists of parts and supplies you regularly purchase from each vendor. Then, when you initiate your purchase order, you'll pull what's needed from that specific list. You're saving time by not creating a PO for each item. Saves on S&H since it's one order, not half a dozen.
"That is great. And a CMMS can do all that."
I nodded. "You'll be able to keep equipment, inventory, and purchases organized and track costs for each."
"Wow," he said. "That does sound like the answer. Where do we start?"
"You and your supervisor need to take time and figure out what you need from a CMMS. What features and functions do you want." I withdrew a business card from my wallet. "Then call this number."
"Mapcon Technologies," he read from the card. "800-922-4336."
"You explain to them what you've planned out. They'll help you determine what modules you'll need. Afterward, they'll help you implement the information and train you to use the system."
"I'll bet it's complicated," he said.
"No, it's comprehensive," I countered. "Like any other software, you'll get used to it the more you use it. And, if you have any questions, call the support number. 800-223-4791."
"Mapcon." Bob looked at the card and nodded. "I'll talk to the boss first thing Monday morning. Thanks, Steve."
"Glad I could help."
"I appreciate your help today around the house. "He held up the card. "And for telling me about MAPCON."