By Tim Hebert
A&W Electric, Inc.
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in the “5+1 S Series” of articles written by EASA’s Management Services Committee to provide “lean service” resources to members. The traditional “5S” program covers these goals: sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain. We’ve added safety to make it the “5+1 S Series.”
Standardize refers to identifying specifically what products, inventory, equipment and procedures we use to guarantee a consistently successful outcome for our customers. With proper standardization, we can ensure better product quality and workmanship, more effective training and onboarding programs for new associates, more consistent communications back to our customers and ultimately greater profitability.
But there are challenges, aren’t there? Don’t we feel like our customers are unique? And doesn’t it seem that every piece of their equipment is just a bit different? All those things generally are true. Part of our customer promise is the ability to customize and tailor solutions to meet their needs. However, there is much to be gained by standardizing as much of our processes as possible. And that doesn’t just apply to the repair shop!
Following are some key areas to standardize:
Inventory – By standardizing with a specific brand or just a few, your sales staff can better familiarize themselves about the benefits to your customers. Thus, they are more familiar with the product line, inventory levels, stocking positions, etc. They will even become very familiar with finding their way through catalogs (yes, I’m a dinosaur and sometimes use catalogs). You can also minimize stocking requirements by standardizing on a single grade of hardware. For example, you can stock a specific type of pump cable or even standardized paint color/s. Standardizing inventory not only helps manage carrying costs, but can also help ensure product quality through the specifications you develop for magnet wire, bearings, etc.
Tooling – While we don’t often think of standardization around tooling, we have found several benefits around standardizing of multi-meters for field personnel. In addition to more efficient training and learning, we set standards around max voltage and amp ratings, true root mean square (RMS) and other features. For larger facilities, the ability to standardize around surge protectors (if you have many of them) can offer the same benefits. And, if all is calibrated, this can lead to increased confidence in the testing results since all measurements are taken with the same type of equipment.
Scope – Many of us have struggled with the question of how far we go into a repair before it doesn’t make sense to go any further. Establishing a standard by power rating and/or equipment type can be a helpful way to minimize confusion among your mechanics. We have also seen some benefit from standardizing our repair scope by hp (kW) range on AC motors as a way to clarify scope of work. Once standards are effectively established and communicated, confusion is eliminated about what is included in a standard recondition. This streamlines communication moving forward.
Procedures – Most of us have heard that there is more than one way to solve a problem. While that is true, there is usually one “best way.” Once this best way is discovered, it makes sense to pass this along to everyone at the facility. Identifying standards for bearing removal and installation, rotor removal, seating brushes, or prepping seal housings has helped many of us learn from the hard lessons of those who came before us. At the same time, it helps to provide for consistently strong quality and workmanship and timely turnaround of repair work for our customers. And after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?