Working 40 Minutes a Day?

    2 09/03/2007 A closer look at four survey participants:

    There was a feature in the local paper a few weeks back about what different types of employees get paid, here is an example from UPS:

    “TIM DIXON, $125,000 Tim Dixon's job used to be a lot more demanding when he started fixing airplanes. But in the 23 years since he became an aircraft mechanic, computer technology has transformed the cockpit so dramatically that he now spends much of his shift puttering around the airport. Dixon, of Ponder, works four days a week at UPS' facility at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. The company schedules most routine maintenance on weekends. So on weekdays, Dixon gets busy only if there's an unexpected breakdown on a plane. Some days, he said he puts in as little as 40 minutes of real labor during a 10-hour shift. ‘During the week, you're pretty much like insurance for the company in case something happens,' he said.”

    This isn't Tim's fault, the employee. How can management afford to have someone work only 40 minutes a day? “Puttering around?” Isn't there an opportunity for training, or cross-training to make productive use of his time? Does Tim enjoy doing nothing, I wonder? Is this an example of restrictive union contracts that are in place? Such muda, such waste.

    I can understand that need to have somebody there, “just in case.” But, my goodness, make good use of his time. That's good for the company and, I think, it's a form of showing “respect for people” to not let Tim just “putter around” all day.

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. About 5 years ago I visited a rather unique molded parts company that paid their maintenance folks when they DIDN’T work. This incentivized them to implement TPM, train operators on how to keep machines running, etc. Uptime and quality output shot up. The company happily paid their mechanics more and more for this.

      What is the value of the skill to the customer?

    2. That’s an interesting point, Kevin. It sounds like that company had their maintenance people doing more than just “puttering around.” They were being productive in ways other than fixing machines.


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