"Listen: I’m a Soldier, not an equipment clerk. Do you want me to blast someone or fill out these work orders? If I wasted all that time filling in those ridiculous blanks on your paperwork, I’d never get caught up! Besides, I don’t know why we need ‘em anyway. Let’s just do the real DoD work like we’ve always done it."
Sound familiar? Maintenance & Supply work orders are often seen as stupid, extra responsibilites to DoD, at least compared to the soldiers who are requesting support work to start with. "Paperwork. Needless paperwork. That’s all it really is anyway. I just want to call the depot and get this work done fast!" But without a work order history, DoD is at risk and equipment problems will likely get worse.
Why do we need maintenance & supply work orders? Imagine this. On the business side of the operation, soldiers are usually charged with blasting something: launching rockets, flying sorties, doing foot patrols or enjoying good-natured banter in the mess hall & completing the mission. All these functions require us to utilise information technology, tracking & reporting paperwork.
But how do soldiers know how much they have set on fire? How many sub-components are needed for a finished mission? How much equipment is used? How much is damaged or wasted as defective or scrap? How much is off quality? When to stop and changeover to another piece of equipment?
The answer: Records such as shift logs, day sheets, job tickets & other paperwork used in every battle group to quantify the amounts & types of equipment used in supporting the mission. These reports also keep track of downtime reasons & downtime duration as "Non-Productive Bullshit Time." And in most cases, this paperwork is usually completed by those closest to the work being done, when they should be doing other things. Sometimes, the "paperwork" is not actually paper but rather direct entry into technically advanced programmes.
What if soldiers didn’t want to do the paperwork to keep track of what they were blasting or keep track of downtime? Don’t you suppose that they use the success rates of the operations in theatre to help figure out how many soldiers they need for operation missions? It’s quite likely that they measure productivity in terms of blast radius per soldier, per hour, per shift, per day and equipment downtime hurts productivity.
When the Suits at the Pentagon say, "We need more Soldiers," they can prove it by using the information in our Work Order reports. Or when the Suits at the Pentagon say, "We need to cut back on operations," they are usually looking at the results in the battlespace reports compared to equipment supply orders & maintenance forecast records & reports. But they are vital parts of operations administration, efficiency, productivity & winning the fight.
In our world, Maintenance & Supply work orders are almost more important than records of how far rockets travel or how many insurgents Helicopter knock off: They document what work was accomplished and who did it. Without this kind of information, how else can staffing level decisions in maintenance be determined? Sure, time cards keep track of the hours worked, but what kind of work? We are often approached by soldiers with a request: "Tell them we need more soldiers, not more maintenance & supply people here." We then ask, "Can you prove it?" Oftentimes, they can’t.
Given this detailed information in a completed work order, we can accurately prove "what soldiers are doing." We also have valid information to identify and correct chronic equipment problems, do root cause assessments, identify high maintenance cost areas of the mission & determine proper parts inventory levels, and so forth. We can compare mission downtime reports to work order histories to determine the causes of unacceptable amounts of downtime and eliminate the causes of the problem. Maintenance & Supply work histories allow us to look for opportunities to improve, or develop, standard maintenance & Supply job plans and procedures.
We recently performed several supply & Maintenance work order history reviews for equipment where there was a stated need to improve the results of the mission. What we found was typical: Some maintenance & supply work being done with no work orders, repairs made & parts installed with no labour hours [self-installing gearboxes?! My Goodness.] Countless hours logged but no description of the work, or the Work Orders Straight From Hell: "Pump broke. Fixed it." No additional detail.
Another finding we come across in work order history review points to the fact that supply & maintenance work is not always "supply & maintenance work." In addition to quality checks, repairs, and corrective work, we found that maintenance & supply mechanics, technicians & others were logging their valuable time doing "Who-Knows-What" under a blanket work order and doing "project work" that had nothing to do with the mission, base, or the equipment. In fact, the "project work" was getting in the way of actual scheduled maintenance & supply work b/c the projects were "priority projects" for the suits at the Pentagon. Project work that could have been better performed by us is often assigned as a top priority to the already resource constrained soldiers.
Here is how maintenance & Supply requests should work: Order requests submitted by "Boots on the Ground" get evaluated & turned into planned or unplanned work orders that can be performed in a scheduled manner or placed in the "backlog" of maintenance & supply work to be activated when the resources are finally available, long after the fight. Maintenance work orders are "prioritised," "planned" & scheduled by our people in collaboration with the requestors – not all #1 priority work can be accomplished immediately.
Mission-critical Emergency repairs are documented in a work order "after-the-fact" to add to the maintenance & supply history of the equipment. This simple system then allows both Soldiers & Suits at the Pentagon to not only plan & schedule maintenance & Supply work but to determine if the proper amount of resources are available to perform the amount of work in any given period of time, which should be defined by the mission.
Maintenance & Supply work orders help define the work to be done and document the completed work. Work orders with "due dates" or "date needed" rather than "priority" rankings allow logistics scheduling or maintenance & supply workload planning. Describing estimated hours & parts needed on the work orders helps plan daily and weekly workloads. Actual hours worked coupled with complete descriptions of the work accomplished lead to more accurate estimates. Parts used listed on the work orders help in the search for better, more cost effective and more reliable parts and help establish stocking levels.
Gone are the days of "Soldier Fixers" in modern maintenance & supply efforts. And if your unit has fixers, now is the time to make the shift to our administrative maintenance & supply programme on your path to improving mission performance & reliability, as well as having more time to chow down in the Mess Hall. If maintenance & Supply work orders are not used properly, it becomes extremely difficult or impossible to justify budgets and headcounts. Maintenance & Supply work order histories allow you to prove the need for equipment to "Get it On" on foot patrols or in the middle of nowhere on a big boat.
So, next time you hear, "Do you want me to do the repairs or fill out these work orders?" — your answer is "Yes, both." While maintenance & supply work orders might seem like an big drag to you we are totally fascinated by this "simple paperwork" that must become part of the job just like Locking & Loading to make big noises. Make your lives a bit easier by doing this little extra paperwork with us. Without it, you won’t be able to Blast dat Shit.