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How to measure wrench time & when to apply it

Logging, studying, and analyzing wrench time is a sensitive subject in the world of maintenance. Some industry experts reject the idea of performing wrench time studies while others support the idea of performing them. In this article, we’ll explore reasons to track — and not track wrench time — and show you different ways to track it effectively.

Reasons to track wrench time

Typical wrench time is 35% and world class wrench time is 55% in a manufacturing plant. But simply tracking wrench time will not improve wrench time. The best way to improve wrench time is to improve maintenance planning and scheduling, according to Doc Palmer, a professional maintenance planner. In other words, less reactive maintenance and more preventive or predictive maintenance. Hiring a maintenance planner and using PM scheduling software can help you do this.

If you’re not tracking wrench time to improve wrench time, why should you track it?

There are a few reasons:

  1. To track improvements in productivity. A more productive maintenance team has a higher wrench time percentage. Technicians do more hands-on maintenance work rather than wait for parts and work requests to come in. However, you can also track increases in completed work orders to measure improvements in productivity. For instance, Palmer says that, by implementing a preventive maintenance program,“ a plant completing 1,000 work orders per month can complete 1,570 work orders per month with the same workforce.”
  2. To identify time-intensive tasks. Seeing how long it takes for technicians to complete work orders is insightful for improving reliability and scheduling. For instance, if you notice that a non-critical piece of machinery requires time-intensive PMs and repairs — more so than a critical asset — you can consider replacing the asset or rolling back PMs. Maybe you schedule PMs less frequently or only perform maintenance when the asset breaks down.
  3. For accounting purposes. Tracking wrench time and other time dedicated to completing a project on a specific asset can improve the accuracy of bookkeeping. For instance, some capital assets require large repairs that can be depreciated. When technicians track time, this time can be assigned a monetary value and be depreciated along with parts, contracted labor, and other resources needed to make the repair.

One reason you should definitely not track wrench time is to check whether technicians are doing their job. This creates distrust and a stressful work environment. So, if you decide to track wrench time, it’s important to articulate to technicians why the organization tracks wrench time: Not to micromanage, but for one or more of the aforementioned reasons.

How to track wrench time

There are a few different ways to track wrench time and perform wrench time studies.

  1. Work sampling. According to Ron Moore, the author of many maintenance management books, this is when “an analyst with a clipboard and a chart broken into 10 to 15 minute intervals observes technicians and determines whether or not they are working on the job. Not working typically has to do with traveling to and from the job site; waiting for parts, permits, access and tools; waiting for start-up checks; and taking part in other activities.” Work sampling is typically used to determine whether productivity has increased.
  2. Day In the Life Of (DILO). This is when a reliability consultant follows the activities of a single technician in a single day. DILO is beneficial for discovering specific details about barriers to productivity because the consultant has the ability to ask the technician questions about their likes and dislikes. DILO is more targeted and qualitative while work sampling is more broad and quantitative.
  3. Within the work order. Many organizations have technicians track wrench time for every work order with a mobile CMMS. With this software, technicians can easily start and stop tracking wrench time within a work order. If you can educate your technicians on why you track wrench time — and get them to accurately track it — you’ll have a wealth of additional data for improving maintenance operations.

Regardless of how you track wrench time, in every case, it’s important to articulate to technicians that wrench time is tracked or studied to remove annoying barriers for them — not to see whether they’re working.