Numbers, Number, Numbers: Nero Continues to Fiddle While Rome Burns

The bean counters are always trying to control maintenance managers, and in some cases they need to.

There is no question on the value of measuring cash in and cash out, the tracking of income and expenses, drilling down.

We have VMRS, vehicle maintenance reporting standards to guide us. Oh sure, if properly utilized and you capture 100% of your labor and 100% of your parts, you will get the total cost of the vehicle maintenance in dollars. Then you have to find the common denominator you want to measure too.

Be it miles, hours, tons, cases, pounds, months, weeks, gallons, whatever, the establishment wants. Miles does not work in trash, miles does not work in soda, so on and so forth.

But at the management highest level, costs are measured by GL (General Ledger) accounting, established by how finance wants to code expenses for payment. The higher forces want to see the numbers in a much simpler, non-diluted form.

However a new trend is coming (or is already here) that is attempting to identify and control costs that are rising. And it’s being driven by those who do not understand and those who do not accept that costs are going thru the roof for things like tires, emission control, labor and parts and that the maintenance manager no longer can find magical methods to reduce or maintain those costs. They have gotten to a point of almost no control.

For the last 30 years managers of iron have found ways to reduce cost because they had to to keep their jobs, to be creative and to cut to stay alive. But we have cut to the bone. Trucks are trucks. But now maintenance managers have a new force to contend with -- the new generation of email /texting/tweeting middle managers.

Their preferred methods of assigning value is by measuring with charts, graphs, Prado’s, predictions, benchmarking and so. They believe they have found a new way to fix iron, enforced by emailing intimidating or testing notes of fear, and designed to reduce costs or fix the perceived problem on a short-term basis. And all too often the person sending the charts is now the cousin of the person receiving the charts from the same generation X, Y or Z! They measure, but have no clue how to fix.

A short story. A new 30,000-foot manager is hired into a company. He is saddled with the maintenance department, which is not his forte. His expertize is organization from behind the desk, charts on the wall. He was hired by a similar (the owner) guy who’s thought process is also driven by numbers, who has been unhappy for years with the condition of the fleet, maintenance facility costs and customer disruptions as well as other operational opportunities.

So the new guy’s style and approach is to measure, chart, graph. His boss is happy because now they can both look at the same reports and both conclude that the costs are too high and not meeting the budget, which was assemble at 40,000 feet. They will try to drive cost out without seeing in real life where the money is been spent (a very aging fleet with an injection of some 2015 vehicles).

In summary, we have gotten to the point where no one cares or knows about how to fix it, what it’s going to take or how are we going to do it. Instead we are only trying to force what’s left of true iron men into a world of micromeasuring, trying to force measuring as a method to correct the issues even though we’re not sure that works.

What does work are basic methods where good maintenance practices and elbow grease fix the problems. Then micro measuring can help to understand it, not control it. If you fix the basics issues, then the numbers fall inline.

Those who do not understand how to fix trucks are using the only method they know – DATA.  It is a never-ending challenge -- make the repairs fit the numbers. Don’t worry about understanding the iron. There is no more room at the top for iron guys who know how to fix trucks but not how to measure.

Both groups have their mission, but we iron guys need to understand numbers and data people need to understand iron. I would also admit that without the push of measurement, bread would be $8.00 a loaf.

I also want to thank those who have measured, understood and worked jointly for the common goal of being the low cost provider, those who value and understand the iron guys. They’re the ones who have to drive the cost out, not waste time defending themselves every minute in lieu of cost reduction efforts.

Next time, the next shortage of “IRON” leaders.

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