Inspectioneering Journal

Common Sense Maintenance Front Line Supervisor Development and Utilization – Part 2

By Mike Johnston, Senior Consultant at T. A. Cook Consultants, Inc. This article appears in the July/August 2016 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


In Part I of this two-part series, previously published in the January/February 2016 issue of Inspectioneering Journal, we discussed some of the challenges and solutions associated with promoting an hourly craftsman to a supervisory position. In Part II, we will examine what can occur during the course of a Front Line Supervisor’s (FLS) day that may hinder the execution of their expected duties, and what can be put in place to overcome those obstacles. 

It is widely agreed that an FLS’s primary function is to supervise; to direct the craftsmen, clear barriers to their efficient execution of the work, and ensure the craftsmen are working at their greatest productivity. However, in some instances, the “lean” pendulum has swung too far and after reductions in personnel, duties have been reassigned to the FLS that preclude them from performing their primary function. The examples of improperly utilized resources highlighted in this article have been witnessed first-hand while conducting FLS day-in-the-life (DILO) studies at numerous facilities.

The Ideal FLS

The ideal FLS strives to spend more time in the field than behind a desk. After the day’s work has been assigned, they need to check on their crews before morning break to ensure work has begun as planned. Then they check in the field again between morning break and lunch, and again between lunch and afternoon break, and afternoon break and quitting time. 

Their interaction with the crew(s) during these rounds should be geared towards ensuring the work has started as planned, permits are in-hand, and parts/materials are on-site. The FLS should clear barriers and obstacles, and ensure the crew is actually working as they should be. During these rounds, the FLS also needs to check to see if the work is progressing according to the expectations set by the FLS (e.g., a four hour job is not taking six or eight hours, the crew is not wasting time, etc.). If the crew is aware the FLS will be stopping at the job four or more times a day, they will tend to progress the job as planned, and contact the FLS immediately if they encounter any difficulties. 

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