How network automation helps fiber technicians work smarter
1st June, 2022
In a world increasingly reliant on a fast, safe and secure telecommunications network, fiber optic technology is in huge demand. Fiber optic internet
11th November, 2021
Faced paced business environments and changing customer expectations mean that utility engineers, technicians and linesmen are under increasing pressure to perform. Equipment failure often means unplanned downtime, unhappy customers and lost revenue; so being able to troubleshoot and fix problems quickly is something customers really value.
One of the most common metrics used to measure the performance of maintenance and repair teams is the ability to complete jobs within a ‘mean time to repair’ (MTTR) window. MTTR is shorthand for the average time it takes to detect, diagnose and repair a fault. It can often be a contractual requirement, with financial as well as reputational consequences for organizations that fail to adhere to their promised timescales.
How and why is MTTR measured?
MTTR is measured from the moment that a system failure occurs until the point where equipment is fully-tested and available for use. Monitoring MTTR is important for two reasons: firstly, it provides a clear performance indicator and enables utility businesses to improve their service, and secondly, it is a quick way to highlight problems with systems or processes. An MTTR that increases over time usually means that customer service levels are slipping and that customer losses are likely.
Reducing your MTTR
If rising MTTR is a concern for your organization, or you simply want to gain an edge over the competition, there are several things you can do to reduce your mean time to repair without compromising on the quality of your workmanship or staff safety levels:
How much you can find out about the work site before work begins will vary from job to job and depend on your specialism, but the general rule applies: more information is always better. Whether it’s by making a preliminary telephone call or insisting on a site visit, being able to record any challenges or obstacles teams are likely to encounter will help you to properly prepare them for the task and keep repair times down. Things to look out for include access issues, hazards in the work area, the age of buildings or infrastructure and the spaces that cabling runs through.
When you’re trying to reduce MTTR, technology can assist you at every step. Monitoring systems can help make sure you’re alerted to issues promptly and can avoid wider systems failure, scheduling tools can help you assign the right personnel to jobs, diagnostic tools can help you get to the root of the problem faster, and technology that connects your people in the field can help you ensure everyone has the information they need and can work efficiently. If your teams have to waste valuable time hunting out customer details or trying to reach remote colleagues, it can be just as damaging to your MTTR as not having access to the right equipment. The technology you choose will depend on your unique business needs, but investment in this area will help you build a reputation for efficiency and create leaner operating processes; saving you time and money in the long run.
There’s nothing quite as crucial to your MTTR as having the right people on the job. If skills gaps are lowering performance levels, it might be time for an organization-wide audit and new training regime. Perhaps you’ve grown your team but don’t have the right processes in place to make sure everyone is up to speed, or perhaps you’ve upgraded technology and equipment without upskilling your technicians or linesmen. Either way, it’s likely to impact your MTTR and lead to lowered customer satisfaction levels. If time is short or budgets don’t allow for formal training programmes, consider pairing employees with different skill sets together, to facilitate on-the-job learning. Whatever approach you decide to take, be sure to monitor progress and maintain good health and safety levels; employees should never be put at risk by a lack of appropriate training.
Good planning is always central to keeping response and resolution times down, and where system faults can lead to large scale outages, a properly documented action plan can be invaluable; ensuring everyone understands their role and feels empowered to act quickly. Technology undoubtedly has an important role to play in incident management; enabling organizations to automate alerts to the right people at the right time. But no matter what technology you have in place to monitor systems or diagnose faults, the human element of incident response will determine how good your MTTR is. Use your incident management action plan to let teams know what is expected of them, who to report to and what steps they should follow. Where possible, aim to create a pragmatic, agile process that can also be shared with your customers; to reassure them that you will fix their problems quickly and let them know who to contact in case of an emergency.
When it comes to reducing MTTR, equipping your teams with the right tools is absolutely essential. And as utility cabling and equipment changes, the chamfering, cutting, stripping, scoring, shaving, connecting and crimping tools that your team needs in their kit are changing. Anything that is heavy, hard to grip, prone to breakage or exposes employees to the risk of hand and arm injuries should be replaced with a lightweight, ergonomic and robust alternative. If possible, look for versatile tools that can adapt to different cable sizes or that have multiple functions, to reduce the amount of weight your teams need to carry but mean they are well equipped for every eventuality.
At Ripley® our engineers are focused on inventing the tools that will take us to a better connected future. We work hand-in-hand with field technicians and engineers to develop some of the most widely-used, high quality tools on the market, many of which are patented. You can view the full UtilityTool® range here.