Management & Operations

The case for policy manuals

Posted on March 1, 2006 by Halsey King

One of the most important documents an organization can keep handy in the shop is a policy and procedures manual (PPM). Indeed, this is the very document that management uses to communicate its desires to the workforce. You don’t need to revisit “Sloan’s Management 101” in today’s business world to find the real necessity for and benefits of this manual within your operation. In transportation fleets, especially large ones, the move to develop a maintenance-specific PPM started a long time ago. It became obvious to large fleet administrators that it was difficult to communicate with all levels of management and employees without a PPM. Smaller fleet managers, particularly those with 100 to 350 buses, found the same need and designed and implemented their own styles of PPMs. However, many small, mom-and-pop fleet businesses have only developed shabby, in-house PPMs or, in some cases, none whatsoever. Still others have borrowed someone else’s and developed their own through updates, revision and customization. This is exactly what needs to be done if you follow this method, because with PPMs, one size does not fit all. Content is the key
A PPM should attempt to provide procedures and expectations. Typically, a maintenance PPM should contain such sections as a maintenance philosophy, mission statement, work rules, emergency plans, preventive maintenance plans, shift schedules, copies of forms, required tools, shop safety plans and materials safety data. Some organizations have large and very detailed maintenance PPMs that develop over time, demonstrating that new entries are made when new lessons are learned. Because of the close inter-working relationship between operations and maintenance departments, a PPM needs to address issues that support a fleet’s objectives overall. For example, procedures, such as how buses are parked at night, when shop gates are open and what information drivers should report to maintenance when breakdowns occur would be fairly typical here. In my discussions with other industry professionals, it seems that there is about a two- to three-year shelf life between revision cycles of PPMs for maintenance. While this is not a hard and fast rule, most administrators want to keep this valuable document “alive” with current information. Changes with labor laws, environmental regulations, bus technology, union contracts and management philosophies will always play a role in a PPM’s content and revision cycles. Pros and cons
A clear, well written PPM has many positive benefits. Here are a few:

  • It sets forth goals and objectives

  • It provides the operation’s basis for communication

  • It sets the standard operating procedures However, there are some problems that occur often with PPMs. One of these is outdated and incomplete manuals. This problem typically goes hand in hand with a hectic department. At times, the process of maintenance outlined in the manual is at complete odds with what’s truly going on. This is how a PPM can become a liability. When your organization finds itself in a legal matter, an outdated PPM can come back to haunt you. Garage fires, environmental catastrophes and bus accidents with injuries or deaths are a few examples of such cases. Whatever the cause of the incident before the court, at some point along the way, the PPM will be reviewed. Too often, it is at this point that a maintenance manager realizes that he wanted to revise his PPM but didn’t get around to it. One of the greatest benefits of a PPM is the peace of mind it offers. A fleet director can give his or her keys to the next in command and go on vacation, knowing that the operation is in good hands as long as it has an up-to-date PPM. Halsey King is president of King & Associates in Carlsbad, Calif. He can be reached at (760) 434-2400.
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