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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 3 (July 24, 1926)

Production Engineering — Part III.: Planning Work

page 30

Production Engineering
Part III.: Planning Work

This time I want to explain the function of planning and scheduling as applied in our shops; why we set dates for detail work and why we ask the questions we do.

During the past year we have established at each of our main workshops, production officers whose duties include the making of plans for doing work, the cheeking of work in progress daily with the plans, the tracing up of all material required in order to ensure it being on hand when required, and the tracing of all factors causing, or likely to cause, delays to work in progress.

The idea is to cut the time between jobs. A shop plan or schedule says “Start stripping engine 761,” day one, and it gives the date. Finish day so and so. Deliver motion engine 761 day so and so. Finish so and so. All the work to be done is assigned a date, and all the twenty odd departments concerned are each given their part of the plan or schedule that is agreed to, or set by the Workshop Manager, before starting at all.

The whole process is much the same as running trains. You start at a definite time, you arrive at the different stations at a definite time, and you arrive finally at your destination at a definite time. What a ridiculous state of affairs it would be if trains were not planned or scheduled. It is equally ridiculous not to plan shop work so that all the different departments “arrive” with their part at a definite time. It only takes one delay to hold up the whole progress of an engine repair, and delays cost money every time.

Every day the production officer checks over all items on the shop floor, whether work due to be done is completed or not. If not, he has to find out why and record the reason on his delay sheets.

Right here I want to impress the necessity of correctly answering the production checker's questions as to why. The object of the question is for the purpose of reducing or stopping delays. By having an accurate knowledge of the reason for all delays, right when they happen, the Works Manager very often can do something to prevent it delaying the whole plan, and, at the very least, he can take steps to reduce the possibility of similar delays in future. The Production Department also has a special “Material Tracer” at each shop, whose duties are to get any material required delivered when it is wanted. He has facilities at the Stores and through the Head Office for expediting material from other shops or from other Stores, that it would be impossible to give to every Foreman, so the right thing is to “put it up to him” to get it. You can readily appreciate that if ten Foremen all approach the Storekeeper for ten items, all wanted, that they would get far less results than our specialist Material Tracer who is working to a definite plan and who really does know when each item must be on hand.

Delays, “or the time lost between jobs,” cost so much real money that H. L. Gantt reduced the checking of Workshops to a standardised number of headings. He used the system to analyse the conditions obtaining in Workshops, even prior to instituting planning departments. The list of standard delays was like this:-


Man absent.


Lack of help, means work ready, but no men available.


Lack of, or defective material.


Lack of shop power.


Lack of tools, or machine troubles.


Lack of instructions, drawings, etc.


Lack of work.


Reason not clear.

I may tell you that I have personally checked up for better equipped shops than ours by this “delay record system” and found 25 per cent. and even 45 per cent. of the time being lost to production through preventable delays, and this is the reason why we have started scheduling in our existing Shops, even with our poor equipment. It is obvious that we can only go so far at the present time, but if everybody helps we should be getting better all the time.

If by way of definite information we find that we have lost 150 hours production in one week due to “power troubles,” we can do something about it. If we find that delays through “lack of material” cost us 350 production hours per week, we can do something about it, and so on. Not all in a minute perhaps, but we can, and what is more, we page 31 are doing. For that reason I ask everyone's co-operation to tell us why they are not “on time.” and the real reason every time a production man asks it. I'll tell you he is sincere in his “ask.” The sooner everyone properly understands our purpose the easier our task will become. The human side of this work is our most difficult problem, because organisations of our size contain one of every sort and the one “can't be done” pessimist acts like a dragging anchor to the whole ship.

I have explained the method of planning and the reasons therefore as being applied in our Workshops. Let me ask all other “it doesn't apply to us” departments: “Do you honestly think your department has any more medals than the Locomotive Branch Shops. Is your work done at the right time at the right cost? Is there lost time between jobs.' Do you know the reasons for your delays?”

What I am suggesting is that there is the need in every department for a periodical analysis of the work being done. To find the best method and to have definite plans.

If you have “got” what I have endeavoured to convey to you, you will realise that the system is constructive and that it has a bigger purpose than to find faults. Old time
Portion of Workshops Production Schedule for Ab. Locomotive Overhaul

Portion of Workshops Production Schedule for Ab. Locomotive Overhaul

methods of speeding up Shops-we all know them-consisted of a rush endeavour to speed up machine belts. Modern methods of analysis have shown us that the losses due to lack of planning, etc., as listed, are infinitely greater than machine speed losses, and that it is only by better management that they can be reduced. To all supervisors I recommend that you keep a record of your delays yourself. Ascertain the reasons and endeavour to look ahead, more, to prevent a recurrence of the same kind of delay. Don't do it mentally. Write them down. The real cold facts look different and you won't fool yourself, and after all that is the main thing.

Some years ago (says the “Dominion”) the Health Department, as the result of persistent and effective propaganda in the press, created a strong public opinion against the habit of expectorating on the footpath. Now-a-days an offender in this respect is regarded as a menace to the health of the community and a fit subject for public odium. If the reckless motorists could be surrounded with a similar atmosphere of public dislike less would be heard of his kind.