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Benefits of Labor Activity Analysis for Improving Maintenance Productivity

 

OVERVIEW

 

 Labor Activity Analysis (LAA), also known as Work Sampling, is a work measurement methodology that estimates the proportion of time an employee utilizes in performing assigned job tasks. The methodology uses random observations of actual worker activity and is dependent on the laws of probability.

LAA techniques can be effectively used in a variety of work environments, including office or administrative functions, material handling/line servicing tasks, equipment utilization or resource demand loading, as well as practical application in determining the effectiveness of maintenance and construction activities. When applied to of maintenance or construction craft activities, LAA can accurately assess work processes to determine how craft utilize their time. The key points to a successful Labor Activity Analysis are:

1. Use of a sampling method that looks at many people in different areas for short periods of time at different times on different days.

2. Use of structured classifications to consistently quantify the activities observed, These classifications are typically defined within three major categories, which include:

  • Direct Activity: Performance of those elements of a task that directly advance its completion.
  • Support Activity: Performing those elements of a task that indirectly advance its completion.
  • Delays: Periods of lost time that prevent Direct or Support work.

 

3. Gathering observations in sufficient quantity to provide a sample that represents normal activities for the general population. Mathematical formulas have been developed to determine the exact number of observations needed to achieve desired results, but typically around 1,000 observations will achieve statistical probabilities of at least or greater than a90% confidence interval with +/- 2.5% accuracy.

4. Allowance of sufficient time to conduct the observations and analyze the results. The size of the workforce, the frequency of observations, the number of LAA observers, and the desired confidence and accuracy objectives determines how long the sampling observations will take, with one to two weeks being a typical timeframe to conduct an LAA.

 

 OBJECTIVES

 

LAA is a flexible analysis tool that can be used to achieve several objectives:.


1. Measure the current effectiveness of the maintenance work processes to analyze how craft utilize their time.
2. Perform general observations of the maintenance or construction process throughout a work site to identify productivity barriers. To this end, interaction with the workforce is common and workers are encouraged to ask questions and provide feedback.
3. Generate a report summarizing the LAA Findings and recommendations for improvements, and it must be emphasized that the analysis and its report is a tool and should not be used negatively.
4. When periodically utilized on a repetitive basis, the LAA can be a highly effective benchmarking and continuous improvement tool.

 

CASE STUDY

 

QNFS currently is contracted as a Supplemental Maintenance provider at two projects in Ras Laffan Industrial City located in northeastern Qatar. One of these projects is Shell’s Pearl GTL plant. QSGTL is a new facility that has come off commissioning within the past year and a half.

 

An initial LAA was conducted at QSGTL in November – December 2011 to baseline productivity levels, identify barriers, as well as generate recommendations for improvement, with a follow up LAA conducted in November 2012.

1. Summary of the preliminary (Cycle One) QSGTL LAA findings:  

• Permitting delays were a major constraint to QNFS productivity.

• The planning and scheduling structure in place at the site was not effective (the process was not true planning and scheduling, more of a delegation of daily work tasks).

• Communication with/to work crews in the field was poor (very limited due to no electronic communication to/from the field).

• Transportation inefficiencies affected movement of maintenance techs to and from the field throughout the work shift.

• The established lunch break structure was not conducive to productivity (lunch cycle too long, facility too small to effectively handle the volume of people using it).

• Logistics challenges due to “Outside the Fence” location of ancillary facilities on site as well as centralized administration of purchasing at the Doha office fragmented effective execution of maintenance function.

• Due to these typical barriers, direct activity of the QNFS workforce at client premises was lower than desired.


 

2. Summary of the follow-up (Cycle Two - 2012) LAA findings:

 

• Permits are being issued more rapidly at start of shift.

 

• Communication with/to work crews in the field has improved due to use of intrinsically safe cell phones by our supervisory personnel.

 

 • Supervisory response and heavy equipment logistics have improved due to acquisition of additional rolling stock (i.e. pickups, cranes, and boom trucks; also, an “inside the fence” staging yard for cranes, etc. has been set up which has improved dispatch of equipment.)

 

• Changes to dining facilities (location and size) have substantially reduced queues.

 

• Overall, implementation of several recommendations from the Cycle 1 (baseline) LAA yielded positive results, with the site experiencing a substantial improvement (could well be around 50-60 percent) in the overall maintenance process and labor utilization of the QNFS maintenance technicians.

 

• Issues with inconsistent utilization of resources remain due gaps in the planning and scheduling process (examples):
o Area 2 Work Requests often do not contain sufficient detail to accurately scope work.
o PPM Job Plans do not include accurate estimates for resource hours.
o Current practice is to hold crews on “stand-by” after initial PTWs are completed if additional work packages are not available to deal with emergent work.

 

• Also, “Outside the Fence” location of COB (Contractor Office Building) and dining facility still fragments execution of the maintenance function, and transportation issues remain (examples):
o Excessive waiting time at bus stops
o Bus routes don’t always align well with work locations
o Badging procedures into and out of Gate 6 are cumbersome

• These barriers were identified, along with recommendations to address them in the Cycle Two LAA Report so the site is optimistic that additional productivity gains will be achieved going forward. 

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Labor Activity Analysis is a powerful tool with the ability to identify high impact opportunity areas and create a basis for chronological comparison over an extended period of time. This basis of comparison provides a mechanism for evaluating the effectiveness of the performance improvement initiatives that have been implemented.

Through the structured methodology of Fluor’s LAA process, projects are able to analyze specific areas, quantify and present the degree of improvement potential in those areas to the client. When tracked concurrently and reported accurately, the information obtained concerning the improvement of these areas provides the client with an understanding of Fluor’s depth of capability and their overarching goal of attaining the most efficient work process possible.



By: Rex Weinbender