Four ways to take advantage of service interruptions

Quality improvement guru Genichi Taguchi says, “Cost is more important than quality. But quality is the best way to reduce cost.”

That’s especially true in airport screening operations, where continued industry consolidation is keeping budgets tight, and operations and security teams are constantly challenged to drive more value from their explosive detection systems (EDS) and other passenger safety equipment.

While there’s no good time for unexpected downtime, there are plenty of things you can do to turn service interruptions into proactive maintenance opportunities.

Here are 4 ways you can take advantage of system downtime to create a high-quality, proactive maintenance approach to your screening operations and cut down on fire drills in the process.

1. Check your list

Identify critical parameters for system health. This may include line items such as:

  • Is the ambient temperature or x-ray tube coolant within an appropriate range?
  • Are bags moving at proper speed and distance?
  • Are vibration levels low?
  • Is the machine too noisy?

Establish a checklist and ensure technicians review these items every time they service the machine. If any items on the checklist are out of tolerance, the machine needs additional attention. An expanded version of this list may also provide the foundation of your preventive maintenance guidebook.

2. Look to the logs and tickets

Gather and review the log files associated with the machine, and identify any faults that are occurring. Then create a plan to identify the root cause of the issue and address these faults during nonoperational or low-traffic hours.

Another way to boost the proactive maintenance mindset? Train technicians to routinely review open preventive maintenance tickets. That way, if a system happens to go down due to a different issue, they can tackle both the critical issue and the small one at the same time.

3. Put a task (force) on it

Pair two technicians together with the goal of streamlining the break/fix approach to equipment maintenance. (Ideally, pair a seasoned technician with a less experienced one to maximize learning opportunities.)

Have them walk through a defined set of repair and maintenance tasks together, charting each step in the current process, how long it takes, how far they must walk to get there, and any variations in approach.

With this information, the team can work together to identify opportunities to improve processes. This could include adding more tooling cabinets, moving compressors closer to the work space, consolidating or combining individual tasks, or improving the supply of parts.

4. Get buy-in from your customers

We all know unplanned downtime creates a stressful environment for technicians and the customers they serve, which can lead to dissatisfied travelers. In the desire to provide good customer service, technicians are usually in the habit of getting the machine back in service as quickly as possible.

Taking a few additional moments to review other potential points of failure—including running through the checklist to review critical system parameters—may mean the next trouble ticket for that machine doesn’t happen for a long time.  If any concerns are noted, the technician can fix it right then or open a preventive maintenance ticket so work can be performed later, during off-peak hours at the airport.

Working with customers to help them understand the value of this effort is critical to a successful proactive maintenance program. Documenting preventive maintenance efforts and verifying that they result in fewer critical issues will help you show the value of this important step.

Bottom line: The best way to gain control over a break/fix environment is to reduce the call volume and number of high-priority tickets, so you improve quality while simultaneously lowering costs.