Time on Tools®: Achieving Efficiencies in Facilities Management

Daniel Leng
Building maintenance costs are rising and budgets are shrinking, forcing facility managers to do more with less.

The first rescue strategy often suggested to cash-strapped facility managers is downsizing the maintenance operation. However, downsizing typically reduces service quality, producing unwanted business consequences such as increased employee turnover and more sick days.

Greater efficiency is the next typical suggestion for a leaner and fitter organization, and it is certainly a step in the right direction. The challenge for many organizations is that the level of detail required for informed decisions to increase efficiency is simply not available. Without a detailed understanding of what is happening on the ground for the facilities maintenance operation, the wrong conclusions may be drawn.

Time on Tools® allows facility managers to quantify and understand exactly what maintenance crews are doing – and should be doing. Firstly, the tool determines the nature and extent of barriers that reduce efficiency. Aided by the Time on Tools® findings, analysis and conclusions, a plan to mitigate those barriers can be formulated. Best of all, as average costs can be applied to the data, an informed estimate of potential savings can be determined.

Time on Tools® allows facility managers to quantify and understand exactly what maintenance crews are doing – and should be doing.

Any process improvement initiative needs a way to measure its success. Time on Tools® provides a yardstick to measure current status against historical industry data. Benchmarking comparisons allow the effectiveness of mitigation initiatives to be measured against industry best practices.

Our experience has shown that facilities maintenance crews have historically averaged a working time of only 44 percent of a shift, or three and a half hours out of an eight-hour shift. That’s four and a half hours per day on work authorization and distribution, travel, waiting on tools and materials, and on breaks.

Travel time is usually a significant factor in this equation – and, of course, this can be affected by the location or layout of the facility. Inefficient work distribution can exacerbate travel issues by crews running around in circles rather than considering work locations when planning the day's activities.

Benchmarking comparisons allow the effectiveness of mitigation initiatives to be measured against industry best practices.

The majority of logistics delays tend to be related to materials distribution, tools being generally carried with the crews. Planning materials requirements well in advance, as well as optimizing the location and stock volume of lay-down / storage areas, is a vital part of the overall process but one that is often ignored.

Time on Tools® highlights the magnitude of these and other areas of inefficiency for individual businesses and allows owners to make informed decisions that can help increase working time by 20-25 percent. A collaborative environment is the key to success for this exercise. The maintenance crew’s opinions are actively sought and valued. These are reported anonymously and non-confrontationally to the owner, eliciting constructive feedback and alleviating any union objections. We identify barriers to efficiency without making judgments about which party, owner or crew, is responsible. This sets the scene for objective exploration and improvement.

Faithful+Gould originally developed Time on Tools® as part of our productivity analysis and benchmarking services for refineries and chemical facilities. We have successfully utilized this service for major owners in this sector, including BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Tesoro and Valero.

On a replacement value of $1 billion, even a 10 percent increase in Time on Tools® Working Time would equate to savings of $3 million.

Building on this industrial heritage, as these best practice methodologies and strategies have matured, we are taking them into other sectors. The biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, high-tech manufacturing, real estate and retail industries are now seeing the benefit of Time on Tools®. To date, we have completed over 850 full-shift Time on Tools® studies, equivalent to nearly 20 years of man-hours observed, for owners across the U.S.

The National Research Council (NRC) recommends that annual maintenance funding should total two to four percent of the physical plant replacement value. On a replacement value of $1 billion, even a 10 percent increase in Time on Tools® Working Time would equate to savings of $3 million. This is a realistic prospect for clients using our service.

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Daniel Leng Senior Vice President Contact me View my profile >