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Truck Maintenance Manager – Is Your Shop Lean? Part I

Gone are the days when the maintenance shop was an inefficient backwater section of the office, forever relegated to the dustbin of productivity. The maintenance shops of today can now be designed according to advanced manufacturing techniques, this increasing productivity and cutting waste.

The fact is, the last thing you want is a shop bloated with cost overruns and delays. You need a shop that’s a lean, mean, truck fixin’ machine. You need to be asking yourself: Is my shop lean?

Today we are going to dive into Part I of our two-Part series on what the maintenance manager of today needs to know about running a smooth operation. Techniques range from ways to cut waste to ways to cut wasted time.

What You Can Do

When the bean counters think about how to make the shop more efficient, they automatically start thinking about expensive productivity tools or other costly endeavors. But there are other, free ways of getting the most out of your shop, with one such way being one your shop technicians will thank you for.

One such method may be moving the shop stock – the nuts and bolts and other various items that almost all technicians need at one time or another – from the shop floor to the parts room. Although it may seem a small decision, this simple change might remove a ton of walking distance for the technicians, thus cutting down on unnecessary time.

Instead of having frequently-used gaskets and filters over 70 feet away, while seldom-used engine mounts rested practically within arm’s length. Try swapping positions in situations like that and see how much time you can shave off.

Simply by redesigning the workspace around the simple concept of saving time, effort and frustration, it is amazing how lean you can make your operation. Another option is to try moving the most-requested parts nearest to the receiving desk. Cut down on the amount of walking time, but also on the wait time your technicians need in order to get the job done.

The Meaning of Lean

Across the country, shops are moving further in the direction of cutting waste and improving efficiency. Lean systems, such as those taught under Six Sigma and its hybrid counterpart Lean Six Sigma, can seem intimidating at first. There is a lot of terminology and a lot of buzzwords to wade through. But once discerned, these methods are valuable tools in the fight to make the shop leaner.

The core idea behind the idea of “lean” is to maximize what you are providing while you minimize waste. It’s all about getting more for your value while still using less resources. The term was originally coined by Toyota in the late 1980s, as they streamlined their operations to eliminate waste in all their processes. Six Sigma was developed by Motorola in the 1980s as well, and puts a stress on quality improvement.

Both of these processes and tools are set up to find ways to create the best product or process in the most efficient way possible, while minimizing waste and controlling costs. And while these programs got their start in manufacturing, they are now used throughout all types of businesses.

One such example is UPS, who spent several months completely overhauling their preventative maintenance on all 70,000 of its delivery vehicles. They had a team evaluate everything from oil changes to warranties. After intensive time and effort, they were able to optimize each step a technician takes while going through the daily process of his or her job.

But is being lean in the shop all about where you put your tools or the process by which you undertake your oil changes? Of course not, which is why we are going to cover that topic the final Part of our two-Part series. Join us beck here next time!

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