Should I measure wrench time at our facility?

It all depends on your motives. There are two reasons why companies measure wrench time:

  1. They want to make sure their maintenance technicians are working hard enough.
  2. They want to make sure their technicians are able to work as much as they should.

If your motive is the first one, you’re probably not going to get very far. If you’re only interested in making sure your personnel are working hard (not slacking), they’ll get suspicious or offended and will likely not be very cooperative.

In fact, in most cases, your maintenance workers want to work. Standing around doing nothing isn’t very fulfilling. However, the case may be that they might not have much of a choice in the matter.

This is where the second motive comes in. If there are obstacles in the way of your technicians actually working with their tools and completing tasks (and if average wrench time is low, there usually are), tracking wrench time can help you find them.

One of the methods used to track wrench time, called “day in the life of” or DILO, can give you a great deal of insight into what those obstacles might be. Essentially, you follow a given technician around and track time spent doing different tasks. These tasks often include:

  • Waiting for work orders
  • Getting replacement parts
  • Traveling to work sites
  • Shutting down equipment
  • Consulting manuals
  • Retrieving manuals
  • Restarting equipment
  • Closing out work orders
  • Receiving training
  • Taking breaks
  • Attending meetings
  • Actually completing assigned tasks (i.e. wrench time)

The average amount of wrench time plants will see is about 25% to 35%, and those numbers typically aren’t your technicians’ fault. Chances are, it’s because your technicians are spending too much time dealing with inefficiencies in your maintenance processes to be able to perform their assigned work.

Tracking wrench time can be a good thing, but only if you use it to find inefficiencies in your processes and not to try to heap extra accountability onto your employees.

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