Our award-winning columnist, Jeff Dearduff, advises maintenance managers to form an on-demand plan so that they aren’t the only one who’s always on call.

On Demand

A few weeks ago, I came home, headed for my favorite spot on the end of the sofa and reached for my simple little trusty remote. Low and behold, the device I grabbed wasn’t the one I had put down the night before. I learned from my wife, Wendy, that the cable provider upgraded us to a digital system, which required us to have new gadgets connected to the TV. Now we have this big bulky remote with lots of buttons.

It was pretty neat that this technological advancement all happened without my involvement. Wendy made all of the arrangements and even learned how to operate the system with the new remote - all without me.

For me, though, I don’t need training or an instructional cheat sheet. I can figure this out all on my own. Surely, I have figured out bigger and more important things in my life….right?

Channel up, volume down, on, off….simple.

Yes, it was simple until I came across the “On Demand” button. I looked around, made sure no one was looking and pressed it. A whole new world of news, sports, entertainment and even yesterday’s sitcoms appeared before my eyes at lightening fast speed.

How have I been watching TV for this long without “On Demand?”

Ironically, our pastor owns the same remote control and incorporated it into one of his sermons. Aside from the fact that this fancy remote allows viewers to access almost any channel, it also relates to how we live our lives. Nearly all of us are “on demand,” and everyone around us has their own remote control with a button that has your name on it.

This got me to thinking about my work life.

As I look back over my maintenance and engineering management careers, boy was I important. The bakery couldn’t function without my input. People didn’t know when to come to work, parts didn’t get ordered and breakdowns couldn’t get fixed without my presence at the scene. At least, that is what the “on demand” work life led me to believe. It’s also what those around me led me to believe. Anytime there was a hiccup, I got a call.

Look around at your own plant. Who else is likely to receive the phone call at 2:30 a.m. and be expected to jump in the truck and head on in? Does the sanitation manager get called in when there is a flour spill in the middle of the night? Does the QA manager get called in to run a Total Titration Analysis on a sponge during their off-hours?

The bottom line is that the maintenance and engineering manager has created an environment and a set of expectations that others take advantage of.

How many remote controls are pointed your way right now? This is probably a question that does not have a clear answer. In the end, only you can choose to turn them away in order to get some time to yourself.

This leads us right back to something we have all talked about before. We’re talking the big “D” word - delegation. The act of delegating is a tough one for most self-starting and self-driven individuals. We have a hard time letting others participate in those tasks that we feel extremely responsible for. With this problem in hand, how do we catch a break?

It’s a personal choice. If you’re not willing to give up some grasp, stop reading and go check the phone to see if you missed a call.

On the other hand, if you are willing to share some of your responsibilities, then the following tips are here to help you.

When it comes to those late night calls, identify a person or two with whom you can trust and pull them into a conversation that discusses the sharing of call-in duties. Decide who might cover on given nights so that you can plan some quiet time with family and friends. These individuals need to have a similar focus and, of course, similar problem-solving skill sets. If these options are not available, determine how you can develop them within a current employee, or hire someone who can deliver these tasks.

When it comes to helping out around the plant, select some individuals who can work closely with your other department heads and supervisors and who can resolve concerns that typically end up in your lap. When you spread the workload, you will find yourself becoming more efficient and ending your day with a clear head.

You also can defend against the “on demand” situation by fighting fire with fire. Get your own remote with somebody else’s name on that special button. Okay, that may not work, but think about how you can share some of your workload with others and make your own breaks.

If we lived in the movie world, we could all run down to the “Way Beyond” store and get us one of those Adam Sandler remotes and “click” others off when they start coming our way.

With today’s technology, this fantasy might soon be reality. Cool!