Friday, March 28, 2008

Increasing Productivity through Preventive Maintenance: How to Avoid Falling into a “Funk”

Have you hit that slump yet? Maybe it’s the winter blues. Maybe it’s spring fever. Maybe it’s just a case of the Monday’s! Whatever “it” is, you just can’t seem to be productive. You’re working hard, but your productivity is down. Boy oh boy…What to do?

We all hit that stage at some point don’t we? I know I’ve had those days, weeks (hopefully not months or years!). It’s what I call “in a funk!” What should we do? Well, the best approach is to be proactive and not reactive. Reaction is a needed skill to help put out fires, but proaction is much more crucial. Proaction is a critical skill needed to prevent the fires from happening. Proaction helps forecast those “funks” and helps us do what it takes to prevent those funks.

Let’s take a look at a manufacturing floor. Machinery will inevitably fall into a “funk:" that downtime caused by malfunction, breakdown, broken parts, etc. In the manufacturing business we try to forecast and prevent (that’s the keyword today) that funk. We call it preventive maintenance. It’s where we “schedule” downtime in order to work on the machinery to help avoid future breakdowns! Preventive maintenance is essential to keeping machinery running and avoiding those “funks.”

So, how does this relate to humans/managers/workers. Well, I think it is essential for us as humans to master the art of “preventive maintenance.” That is, how do we take a proactive approach to preventing those “funks” or “ruts” that we all seem to fall into at times? What steps can we take to ensure our productivity stays at a maximum level?

1) Master the art of scheduled downtime – That is, make sure you schedule breaks for yourself. If you’re feeling overworked, then take a break. Maybe you like to sit in front of the t.v., maybe you prefer to read a book. Whatever “it” is that brings you into a state of relaxation, you must schedule “it” into your days and weeks.

2) Master the art of a new approach - Break up your days. Try something new. Take a different approach to those monotonous tasks. Andrew Clark gives us a nice list to try:
"Try writing left-handed. Walk around your office with your shoes off (with the approval of your co-workers)… Try something out of the norm to get the “out of the norm” out of your head."

3) Master the art of balance – How do you find balance? What gives you balance? For me, it’s spending time with my wife and daughters, and also participating in adult league sports. I make sure and find time to take an active part in these two “pleasure” centers, as well as my career. Don’t exhaust all your energy on one aspect of life (for many, this would be career), but make sure and save some of that energy for other areas. (Note: On the flip side, make sure you don’t get overextended and pulled into too many directions)!

4) Master the art of ESP – You know….that 6th sense? Really, this just means that you need to be able to foresee when your “rut” or “funk” may be starting to form, and head it off. Look for those familiar early warning signs so that you can be proactive in stopping the funk from ever starting!

Those are four tips that I’m sure will help you fight off those winter blues and lost productivity. What are some tips you have? What else can our readers add to their list?


Anonymous said...

I like the idea about ESP, and recognizing the "funk." I think the more you express the funk the more it infects those around you; creating your own personal black hole of funkiness.

A HUGE congrats on helping usher us into the next age of conversation!


Andrew B. Clark said...

Thanks for the hat tip, Eric. And very timely post... I really struggle with the FUNK (or the BLEWPHUNK as I call it)... and your post title immediatly hit a nerve.

Take a deep breath... step away... try to look at the bigger picture and focus less on what's irritating you at the time...

Then get back to it.

Thanks again!

Keep Cooking!

Stacey said...

Your preventive maintenance strategy is a practice we all need and most of us eventually forget to do. I'm trying to figure out how we can be better at remembering what really matters most and figuring out how to be accountable for proactive life balance behaviors.

Eric Peterson said...

Bob - You are right on! The "funk" is very contagious. In fact, I think it's airborne! As others display theirs and as you and I display ours, we begin to spread the funk!! We have to be able to head it off!

Thanks Bob! I always love your insight!

Eric Peterson said...

Andrew - I like your term...blewphunk! It's got a nice ring. I think many of us struggle with it (especially during winter months when we are holed up inside so much)!

Very good additions! Take a deep breath, and put it into context! Is it really that important? Or, like you suggest, do we need to remember the bigger picture!

Eric Peterson said...

Stacey - I appreciate your comments! I think you're right in that many of us do just forget to practice the art of preventive maintenance. It almost needs to be scheduled, just like it would in a company! We have to create a "maintenance schedule", set reminders, and make sure we follow through.

I really like your site. Thank you for stopping by, so I could have a chance to "find your site".

Brenda said...

I have to admit that I feel guilty if every moment isn't taken up with work. Well ... first I wonder what to do with myself, then I feel guilty. Still I know I need to learn what you call "the art of scheduled downtime."

Eric Peterson said...

I really do think that "scheduled downtime" is a must, even for the workaholics out there!!

If a person truly LOVES their work and WANTS to spend ALL their time working, then maybe the downtime doesn't need to be scheduled as often, but it still needs to be scheduled!

The "guilty" feeling is something I think many of us struggle with, and it's something that we really need to fight! I think scheduling our downtime helps here too, because we know in advance when we will be taking a break!

Dan said...

I'm often asked to define productivity and its algorithm. Also, I often hear productivity, production, and capacity used interchangeable. For some reason this drives me nuts because they all have different meanings.
I hope my write up below helps you understand what productivity means.

What is productivity?
Productivity is the ratio of outputs (goods and services) divided by one or more inputs (labor hours, FTEs, capital, expenses).

Productivity = Outputs/Inputs

Improvements in productivity can be achieved by either increasing output without increasing the inputs, decreasing inputs without decreasing output, or increasing output and decreasing inputs.

Output implies production (quantity) of goods and services while input means land, labor, capital, management etc. Productivity measures the efficiency of the production system. Higher productivity means producing more from a given amount of input or producing a given amount with minimum level of inputs.
In other words, the more the output from one worker, one machine, or a piece of equipment per day per shift, the higher is the productivity (producing more output with the same resources).

Dan Feliciano Lean Six Sigma Rock Star

Eric Peterson said...

I appreciate you stopping by and clarifying some of the concepts I touched upon.

Although my main focus of the post was to help people realize they need to take a proactive approach in heading off (what I call) the "funk" (whether it's lost production, apathy, name it), pertaining to their everyday lives, I do appreciate that you were able to clarify the differences between Productivity, production, and capacity.

These differences are very usefull knowledge, especially for someone like myself, in a manufacturing setting.