Summit team tackles winter maintenance equipment availability
They say a craftsman is only as good as his tools. That is especially true when you are totally dependent on those tools to do the job you're being paid for, and asked to meet a standard level of service to the public every day.
The availability of that equipment is more than helpful — it is essential.
Recognizing that importance, and the fact that winter maintenance equipment is not always there for our crews to use when it needs to be available, a team at the recent ITD Leadership Summit tackled that challenge.
With that shortcoming serving as a backdrop, the 12-member team convened in October to identify causes and establish Best Practices to improve the availability of critical equipment during a winter-storm response. Their goal also was to develop statewide mitigation plans, with visible metrics around equipment availability.
The team sought to improve work outputs because of reduced equipment downtime, while also reducing the time-drain for employees stuck doing tasks that added no value to their day, such as towing equipment to shops for repair, waiting for tows, or the backlog of work that inevitably occurred because of the time spent on towing. They also worked toward reducing accident risk for employees generated by equipment failures or their repair.
The team first created a method of tracking equipment downtime using the computerized spreader controller already installed in each truck. Presently, operators are required to enter their employee identification number into the controller, and the ID is then downloaded and ITD's Winter Automated Reporting System (WARS) assigns the data from the truck to the actual employee.
To better track equipment availability, the team created unique ID codes for when the equipment is down for repair or available for work. A four-digit code, 1111, is used to show that the truck is out of service. Once back in service, either the operator or mechanic enters 4444 into the spreader controller indicating the truck is once again available. A report tracks the time difference between the two entries to calculate the total downtime.
"Since the spreader controller is already connected to a GPS unit, we also have the exact date and time when these events occur," explained ITD Fleet Manager Steve Spoor, who was also the subject-matter expert on the team. "Now, we can correlate equipment downtime to snow storms, which better helps explain the degree to which equipment downtime during the storm impacts achievement of mobility standards."
"Should we not reach our mobility metric for a particular storm — currently 74% — correlating truck/resource downtime during such a storm helps tell the story on our success or failure fighting that storm," Spoor explained. "It helps us understand the impacts of downtime on how well we did during the storm and also, how the impact of possibly older trucks with more downtime affects our ability to do our job effectively."
Spoor said the team is initially focused on achieving baseline metrics related to understanding the true amount of downtime, and developing lag metrics in an effort to improve equipment availability.
Three of the group's "next steps" have already been completed, including re-programming the machines to accept the new codes, developing and distributing stickers to affix to equipment and cards for Shop personnel showing the new coding, and in early November, training operators and mechanics on use of the new coding system.
Two items still remain — developing a report to document equipment downtime, and automating a notification to the shop of that downtime. The team hopes to have those done by January 2018.
Watch the Winter Equipment Availability Team video.
Pictured, left to right: Dave Kuisti, David Nichols, Kirk Anderson, Bryan Young, Toni Walker, Steve Spoor (at lectern), Dana Bailey, Ryan Burgin, Dawson Sigman, and Don Day. Dustin Chase and Scott Conrad are not pictured.