Active supervision can improve productivity by 15%. The question is what is active supervision? Active supervision occurs when the supervisor spends substantial time on the shop floor helping workers solve problems. As strange as it might sound, on the psychological level, the supervisor might have to be both mother (nurturing and supportive) and father (strict and tough) to members of the crew.

The supervisor is seen by some as the key player in removing the obstacles that get in the way of the mechanic having a productive day. In the section on work sampling, we discussed how the level of productivity of workers can be a function of having everything they need to get their work done. The supervisor is the tool who can provide this. They are one step ahead of the jobs on the floor making sure everything is ready for the next job on the line.

Active supervision is broken into several dimensions:

Ongoing Performance Monitoring - The supervisor knows how long each job should take and checks it periodically throughout the day. A 4-hour job should be half done by break. When the jobs fall behind, the experienced supervisor provides the best intervention. In some cases it might be logistical help, tool help, or information about how to proceed. In some cases, it might be a kick in the pants! In other cases, the supervisor will hang back if wrestling with the job is important for training.

Paperwork Compliance Goon - The accuracy of all analysis is derived from the work order. If the work order is complete and accurate then decision making is dramatically easier. The supervisor is always auditing paperwork and returning it when it is deficient. He or she should always look at work orders on the floor and insure entries are being made contemporaneously (at the same time) as the activity.

Teacher and Mentor - The supervisor should be either training him/herself or directing the training of members of the crew. Everyone has areas that they are better at and areas that they are worse at. The easiest crew to schedule is one where everyone can do everything. The effective supervisor should be reviewing the schedule every day and look for training opportunities. These can be formal training sessions or letting the trainee help an experienced hand.

Quality Control Officer - The supervisor is responsible for the overall quality of all work performed in his or her shop. Where there are quality issues the supervisor determines the cause of the problem whether it be lack of knowledge or skill, lack of aptitude, lack of adequate physical strength, dexterity, bad attitude, lack of the right tool, lack of the right part, some inadequacy in working conditions, inadequate time, preoccupation brought about by a problem outside of work or other reason. The supervisor works with the worker to solve the quality problem. If the problem is with the company or system (bad conditions, lack of tools or parts) he/she should tackle that also. If the worker has a problem with external issues, the supervisor should mentor them or find them help in the organization.

Safety Officer - The supervisor should intervene any time an employee or visitor performs an unsafe act or is in the shop without personal protective equipment. The supervisor is the champion for safety and makes sure the shop is safe.

Tidiness Cheerleader - The shop must be kept clean for safety, efficiency and morale reasons. All clean-up for individual jobs should be part of and charged to the individual job. The supervisor should arrange for periodic clean projects to keep the whole area and the yard tidy.

Psychic - The supervisor must see the problems in the future and fix them in the present.

Tip by Joel Levitt and excerpted from Basics Of Fleet Maintenance. Click here to order you copy of Basics Of Fleet Maintenance

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