By: John W. Rushton, MS Industrial Engineering, BS Mechanical Engineering and John Ballantyne, BS Mining Engineering

Management as a group tends to believe they get five to six hours of work from their maintenance people during an eight hour shift. In reality, the industry average is less than two hours of work per shift. Real productivity levels of less than one hour are not unusual. Implementing a Daily Work Schedule (DWS) will increase productivity at your property by 50-100%. In preparation for a DWS installation, management needs to understand two productivity principals: the “Productivity Spread” and the “Real Maintenance Work Day”.



10% of your people are highly motivated-

They are loyal to the company, and can do almost any job efficiently and correctly with little or no supervision.


20% of your people are motivated - They are not quite as loyal to the company, but can still do almost any job efficiently and correctly with some supervision.


40% of your people are average- They are the largest group. You must plan and schedule carefully to get satisfactory performance from this group. Your success or failure as a supervisor will depend on how well this group performs.


20% of your people are not motivated - They will accomplish little. They need constant supervision.  Encourage them to work for someone else.


10% of your people are not motivated and have few if any skills - They will accomplish nothing and make it more difficult for the rest of your crew to perform.  Encourage and, if necessary, force them to work for someone else.

Rushton International has used the “Productivity Spread” to categorize and rate people for over 20 years. It works for any random group of people, from mechanics to vice presidents. The basic principal is that if a random group of ten employees are rated according to work skills the following will be the results:

·        one employee will be highly motivated and talented

·        two will be motivated and talented

·        four will accept motivation if it is presented properly and have average talents

·        two have little motivation and mediocre talents

·        one will be useless and a liability to your program

It is important for managers to identify the performance levels of their subordinates, and use the results wisely. For example, it would not be a good management decision to send two slugs and a chicken to repair a vital piece of operating equipment that is down and holding up production. Super hawks and hawks like to work—they thrive on a productive environment. It is hard to get productivity out of slugs. It is better to transfer them to a less demanding work environment.

Every maintenance department has a “Productivity Spread.” Decide who are the super hawks, hawks, turkeys, chickens and slugs. Then plan jobs with the appropriate people.


We advocate scheduling 100% of your work force every day. What is a 100% work load? If productivity is less than two hours, then two hours actual work should be on the schedule for every employee. As productivity improves, increase this to two and one-half, etc. The “Real Maintenance Work Day” outlined in Fig.1 shows the average time for maintenance worker events as estimated by a sample of several hundred maintenance supervisors.

7:00 AM

Start of shift

7:20 AM

Arrive at work place

7:40 AM

Locate parts and tools, and begin work

8:50 AM

Stop for break

9:20 AM

End break

10:45 AM

Stop for lunch

11:45 AM

End lunch

1:50 PM

Stop for break

2:20 PM

End break

3:00 PM

Stop work

3:30 PM

End of shift

Figure 1

Whether your operation offers breaks or not is irrelevant—breaks will be taken during the shift. Additionally, the craftsmen are not going to walk to the shop and immediately begin pulling wrenches, welding or performing a repair. They are going to look at the work orders, gather parts, bring equipment into the shop, gather tools, inspect the equipment and talk about the job, hunting or fishing. All of this happens before the first wrench is pulled.

Near the end of the shift, it is difficult to rely on any real work between the last break and shift change. Maintenance people frequently do not start a new job with one hour or less remaining in the shift. Usually they spend 15-45 minutes waiting for the shift to end.

End of shift clean-up further decreases productivity, and increases the time lost at the end of the shift. (An important tip: Clean-up should always be completed before the beginning of the shift, and maintained during the shift.)

By analyzing the work day, it can be seen that an employee spends more or less five hours at his work place. These same supervisors estimated that a maintenance employee works 50% of the time while he is at his work place. Based on many work samples, the real number is closer to 30%. If you accept either number, the actual productive work day is between one and one-half and two and one-half hours long.

Some managers are quick to take exception to these estimates. They do not want to believe that the productive work day at their mine or plant is less than five hours.  In Fig.2, a mechanic is definitely working and doing the job he is paid to do. What if he removes the drain plug and watches the oil drain into the oil cart? This can take 15 to 30 minutes on big equipment. Is he working? Not really. If the PM is well organized, and he takes the filters shown on the cart and changes the filters, he is working. But even that is unlikely to 100% work load him during a PM period. A PM is a very productive environment, and it is still difficult to get more than 50%. In a less-productive position, like a mine or plant shift mechanic, 30% productivity is rarely reached.


 Figure 2                                                       Figure 3

A simple way to determine the overall productivity of your crew is to work sample. To perform a single work sample, you need to take a visual snapshot of an individual or crew. A visual snapshot like the one in Fig.3 is typical. How many of the workers are working? The two walking definitely are not. The mechanic on the super structure probably is not. The other two appear to be. The author’s judgment would give this visual snapshot a 40% productivity rating.

Few samples are absolutely clear, and judgment is required by the one taking the sample. As long as you are consistent, this is not that important. The idea is to establish a bench mark to measure improvement with. According to most texts written on the subject, several thousand observations are needed to confirm a sample. The author has never seen the numbers change significantly after the first 50 samples. After 20 samples, you should know whether a problem exists or not. Keep the numbers low, but make some observations. Know what you are starting with before you get into productivity improvement programs.


©Rushton International: Provider of maintenance consulting and maintenance management software.