Thursday, November 18, 2021

Twilight Zone material

I need to work my way around to the story at hand so you can see the story from my perspective.

I used to work for a large manufacturer of transportation equipment. We used MAXIMO as a planning and scheduling tool for maintenance. One module of MAXIMO had "job-plans" which outlined step-by-step each sub-task required to execute a certain type of maintenance on a tool. Each step had a time assigned to it.

Another module scheduled the execution of those job-plans on every tool in the shop.

Think of it the way you think of changing oil in your vehicles. You can spread it out or you can knock them all out in a day, but you will be changing the oil on each vehicle twice a year.

With me so far?

Iain, a manager with a razor-like intellect and deeply hidden social skills*, was getting tired of the down-time in the shop. On a hunch, he had his MAXIMO wizard sum up the number of manhours that MAXIMO "pulled" in the course of a year. Was it 5% of the Electrician, Millwright, Pipefitter hours available? 10%? 25%?

Point being that the skilled trades were also used for tool installations, emergency break-downs and the like. Further, doing the job-plans during production nearly always required that the tool be taken out of production and running tools pay the bills, not ones sidelined for maintenance.

The MAXIMO wizard reported that if every MAXIMO scheduled was done according to the official job-plan, the time required was well north of 100% of the Electrician/Millwright/Toolmaker/Pipefitter hours available.

Which meant that the vast majority of the job-plan documentation were pencil whipped.

Tell me you are surprised. I dare you.

After ripping his staff new assholes (a necessary event given that they were falsifying documents) Iain told his staff to come back with what REALLY happened.

In fact, most equipment got a Light-Light-Heavy-Light inspection. Most inspections were drive-by or phone-in (via infranet data) inspections. One-in-four were hands-on, MAXIMO compliant job-plans.

Critical equipment got more "Heavy" inspections. Equipment that was fragile got more inspections. Equipment and processes that were bullet-proof got fewer.

AFTER honesty had been driven back into the system, it was possible to make improvements. That was totally impossible when the actual and documented system were only casually acquainted in the most random kind of ways.

Resources that had been dedicated to tools/processes that were materially improved could be throttled back and reallocated to tools that were more fragile.

The Twilight Zone story...

I just got back from a "Patient Care" meeting at the nursing home where my mom is a resident.

I was there. The every-lovely and talented Mrs ERJ was there. My sister (a nurse) was there.

Twenty minutes after the scheduled start of the meeting we had not seen hide-nor-hair of any staff. My sister lassoed a staff member walking down the hall. The staff member investigated and came back with this story...

"They already had your meeting" she said.


"Beg pardon?"

"It was by phone" she said.

Good, Bad, Ugly looks pass between the three of us.

"They called Michelle and cranked through the meeting" the name-not-released-to-protect-the-innocent.

There are no people in my family named "Michelle".

The number the Social Worker called to speak with "Michelle" had been disconnected in early October (verified).

Second Act

When the two most obvious conclusions were presented as a binary decision tree to the Social Worker, she blew a gasket.

For the record, the other branch in the decision tree is that she had failed to verify (via a list) that the person (name) on the other end of the phone was approved to discuss sensitive, medical information regarding my mom. Furthermore, she had proven that she was not competent to dial a phone number...and that was the more savory of the two options.

Things went south from there....

Tin-foil hats

I must admit that when people first started suggesting that our leaders were designing policies designed to make people fail, I thought they were wearing tin-foil hats.

I need to reconsider that position.

The manpower situation in the nursing home is dire. They are GUTTED for people. Toilets are backed up and not being fixed. And this is one of the three most highly rated nursing homes in a metro-area of 400k.

They are likely to lose another 30% of staff over the BS that fully vaccinated will soon mean three shots or four shots.

The Federal agencies are "remedying" the situation by adding levels of documentation and administrative overhead.

They are either engineering systems to implode or are pathologically stupid. Maybe both.

If it were within my power, I would make Iain head of the CDC.

*Full disclosure: I own Iain for a great kindness he once showed me.

I was failing in a job. Not just failing, but failing with a "Monday GIF" flair.

Iain was the first person to see that I was about to belly-smack the water from the high-board and got me transferred to a job where I could be successful.

I doubt that he had my best interests at heart, but sometimes the needs of the Firm align with the needs of the pawn/cog. That was one of those times.

Bonus factoid

My sister-the-nurse shared that her corporation determined that shared fingernail and toenail polish is a potential vector for pathogens like C. diff and Noro.

Fingers go everywhere, especially body-parts that are itchy or tender. The brush can pick up pathogens and then convey them to other patients. They put their fingers into their mouth, perhaps to bite a nail....

Sis said that her corporate master mandates that bottles of nail polish cannot be shared between patients.

So, if you have a loved-one in a facility then buy them their own bottles of polish. And if you can spare a few bucks, buy their roommate bottles of the shades they prefer.

They will think you are a great guy. They don't need to know that sometimes the needs of the NPC align with the needs of the important people in our lives.


  1. I remember MAXIMO. One of its selling points was that it would eliminate unplanned outages. That was enough to sell upper management, but us folks in the trenches remained skeptical...

  2. Oh damn, the nursing home... gah!!!

  3. Nail polish? I wonder if that's how my mil got c-diff.

  4. Over the past 10 years I have been involved in several very serious medical issues regarding my in-laws, my self, and a few others. The level of incompetency is downright scary. Piss poor communication and scheduling, gross mismanagement of conflicting medicine prescriptions, etc. If you are in the position of watching out for the medical processes of others you really have to be attentive and do research. 5 years ago when the VA determined I had contracted Hep C 40 years prior through the massive amounts of air-shots I had received over seas and that they were going to cure me, I had to almost become a virologist to understand what they were going to put me through. 5 years later I am still alive.

  5. When your loved ones enter the medical system, you must take on the role of protector/defender if they can't do it themselves. Make sure you have Medical Powers of Attorney, make sure their directives are in place. We maintain a complete medical file on my mom and walk with it. I do the same for myself. Hard experience has proven (more than a handful of times, for me) that records do not get faxed or couriered reliably and that doctors do not talk with each other. Count on it being a shambles and come prepared. YOU have to be the Ringmaster of the Circus.

  6. Maximo 7, I use it daily. That thing is a complex data hog, but you get out what you put in, and it can set you up for failure if not well thought out.

    Sorry to hear the situation at the facility, a close relative of mine is an OT, and is seeing this all over.

    1. The thing I found ironic is that huge amounts of resources were poured into populating the database and almost no effort into USING that data to solve problems.

      It is like paying the money but not picking up the package of steaks off the counter and walking out the door with them.

      I saw the same issue with "weld spills". There was one area that chronically generated discrepant welds at about 20X the shop base-rate. I might as well have been speaking Swahili when trying to point out that current practice was not sufficient for that area.

  7. I used Primavera, MS project, ATC Smart Plan, and others. It's only as good as the data input. Bear in mind there will come a point when the Management will decide to try something else due to the bad news, bad productivity, bad management of resources etc. The last project (I quit) it was determined the construction plan was stupid, so they ash canned it and wanted another schedule in 12 hrs.???. It took months of work to develop our first construction plan based of timed delivery of the units to site and safe, good, standard work practices
    They build these programs to be living documents so you can trend and forecast.
    No one likes to be told their productivity sucks but with good records you can show the forensic judge, "See here in April we had a foot of rain."
    Time really is money!
    "Run to fail is not management."


Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.