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Trimming Travel Time

Trimming Travel Time

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    Malfunctions are down an average of 29% since 2005.

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    The county is specifying LED lamps for new signals and, with financial help from the state, upgrading to the energy-efficient technology on major arterials and state routes. Photo: DeKalb County Traffic Engineering Department

Technicians were required to complete a pre-printed standardized report regarding the cause of a malfunction and the actions taken to make the repair. An analysis of this data showed we were responding quickly to emergencies while generating crucial historical data on the frequency and type of repairs eating into our overall productivity.

Preventive maintenance. With no clear set of objectives or finite set of activities to be performed as part of the preventive maintenance routine, technicians were free to determine which items would be a part of their maintenance checklist. With 15 technicians, we had 15 different maintenance objectives.

Some assets received regular preventive maintenance; others received none. Technicians tended to perform preventive activities only after responding to, and restoring operation at, a malfunctioning signal. But because malfunctions usually occur at the least opportune times — bad weather, rush hour — for such activities, signals didn't receive thorough analyses.

That's why we decided preventive maintenance would be performed as an independent primary activity instead of a rushed, haphazard afterthought.

Bench maintenance. Malfunctioning components were always returned to the shop for testing and repair.

We suspected that formal preventive maintenance would likely increase the number of components needing diagnostics and repair, thus increasing the workload for our bench repair technician; and we were right.

After the first year, repairs had increased by 30%. A second field technician was reassigned to help, and now we're saving money because more equipment is being reused instead of replaced.

PUTTING EXISTING DATA TO WORK

After taking all of the above into account, we developed a checklist of preventive activities by reviewing maintenance reports to determine which major and minor signal components failed most often. While the list is comprehensive, technicians can fill it out quickly. (See “Web Extra” below to access a copy of the form.)

The next step was to rearrange the responsibilities of the two technicians whose primary assignment had been responding to emergencies as well as those of construction crews whose primary responsibility had been major signal construction and upgrades.

The third and final step was to implement the plan.

Now, almost four years into our program, the benefits have far outweighed the start-up costs of maintaining a larger inventory of equipment and traffic signal components.

Even better, the traveling public has noticed — and commented positively on — a more efficient signal system.

— Allen (404-294-2041, pvallen@co.dekalb.ga.us) is deputy director of traffic and safety engineering for DeKalb County, Ga.