A few months ago, a representative of a large shipping company in the Near East asked if I thought that it was appropriate for him to propose that his alma mater solicit “dissertations on a product-work-breakdown-structure approach for dry docking a vessel from a ship-operator’s prospective.”
I replied as follows: “Yes, of course. I’ll give you an example. About twelve-years ago I was retained, about every six weeks, to teach at a school for naval officers. The school was located near a naval dockyard.
”One day, I was asked by a friend to visit the naval dockyard in order to determine why the dockyard lost interest in purchasing an all-weather escalator. You may have seen them because in some shipyards that build and/or overhaul large tankers, such as your company operates, escalators are employed to lift workers on board. As I recall, the escalator considered was designed to accommodate 1-1/2 of the weight of a typical worker so as to provide for tools and/or material.
”I spoke with the dockyard’s industrial engineer who had made the inquiry. He advised that, per his estimate, usage of the escalator would save 4% of the man-hours required for work that necessitated access to the dry-dock floor. He added that all of the traditionally organized shop managers desired it, but none trusted the dockyard’s public-works department, already responsible for such facilities as yard cranes, for the escalator’s timely installation and removal per docking and for its maintenance. Furthermore he advised, no one of them wanted to accept those responsibilities if the others also benefited. For those two reasons, the escalator was not purchased.
”Now consider if the work was addressed per a product work breakdown and the product was converting an undocked ship into a docked ship. Then the docking would be addressed as a single cost center and one product manager would be in charge of all of the various required workers regardless of what shops they came from. A product manager in charge of a dry-dock shop would readily absorb the costs for installation, removal and maintenance of an escalator in order to achieve the estimated 4% man-hour reduction.
“As a practical matter, the dry-dock shop could have a few permanent workers and would be assigned temporary workers from other shops as needed per docking. Also, as you seem to be already thinking, that same product manager would be responsible for work packages that could be classified by problem category per group-technology logic and that would be implemented zone/stage. Such measures facilitate virtual-work flows, minimize different trades interfering with each other, and so ensure very-accurate cost returns.”