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 job card booklet
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Directorate of Telecommunications
OTHER; JOB CARD SYSTEM



Introduction (by Steven R. Cole)
During the 1970’s the Directorate took the decision to introduce a Job Card System to track maintenance, installation and other related work carried out within the organisation. This topic includes the JCS booklet to accompany the CB201 tracking form and is contained in the download file.

I am grateful to Derek Theobald for writing the article to this topic and describing how the system came about, together with some personal conclusions about it’s ultimate demise.

THE JOB CARD SYSTEM

Factors leading to the Introduction of the JCS

In the early 1970s, DTels was asked by the Police National Computer Unit (PNCU) to take on the responsibility of installing and maintaining the Visual Display Units associated with the computer. These units were located in police premises throughout the United Kingdom. At that time, DTels had very few technicians with the skills to carry out the maintenance aspects of this task.

In addition to this, maintenance in general was carried out using mainly local procedures and methods supported by individual equipment handbooks.  A handbook of the time, in the main, explained how an equipment worked and not how to fix it when it went wrong. In this way, the times taken to repair common equipment’s varied from depot to depot.

At the request of the Deputy Director (Field Services), Andy Holdstock, then SWE in charge of the Field Services HQ technical support team, produced a discussion document which set out to examine the problems and offered answers to many of them.

As a result of the ensuing discussions the Maintenance Planning Group (MPG) was formed, located at 60, Rochester Row, London SW1, with a move to Weyhill shortly afterwards.

One of the tasks set MPG was to establish the reliability of operational equipment and the time taken to carry out repairs and modifications, VDUs in particular as these items were owned by a third party and were subject to separate financial arrangements which had to be justified.

Cue the Job Card System!

Weyhill Cartoon

Implementation
note: I had some difficulty in attempting to match events with dates as the development and use of this system took place around thirty years ago. So I have abandoned that approach and concentrated on what I can remember of this system in terms of general statements.

From my previous note, I stated that one of the factors leading to the introduction of the job card system was to establish a basis for charging P.N.C.U. for the work done on their behalf.

Although the Directorate H.Q. canvassed the depots with respect to technicians with ’digital’ experience in the early 1970s (I was an S.W.T. at Hannington at the time), the job card system was developed and brought into use during the time I was a C.W.T. in Field Services H.Q. , most likely during the middle of the decade. I’m sure its demise happened during the time I was i/c Maintenance Planning Group, about 1979.

Field Services H.Q. (Ray Stoodley and others) required what became to be known as the Management Information System (M.I.S.). The Job Card System was one (major) element of this.

The Central Communications Establishment is divided into two sections. The Development Section is concerned with the evaluation and modification of commercially produced equipment, together with preparation of technical information and specifications. This section is also charged with the task of testing equipment on delivery from the manufacturers.

The Installation Section is responsible for planning, assembling and in some cases manufacturing equipment before final test. This section is jointly responsible with the Regional Wireless Engineer concerned for commissioning the final handing over of a scheme to the customer.

The main stock of radio equipment is held at CCE, Harrow, at Weedon in Northamptonshire and at Bishops Cleeve.

The regional wireless organisation consists of three Areas with headquarters at Harrow, Birmingham and Manchester. Each Area co-ordinates the activities of its Depots, liaises with Customer Services and acts as the advisory contact between them and Headquarters for requirements. The Area also overseas Depot installation and maintenance activities. There are ten Depots and two sub Depots in various locations throughout England and Wales. An additional Depot, covering the London area, is about to be set up:

Each Depot has technicians detached to workshops at the headquarters of various police forces. At the present time there are 60 of these outstations at which a total of about 200 technical and industrial staff are employed.

The Maintenance Unit at Bishops Cleeve was set up to maintain police pocketfones, fireman's alert receivers and associated base stations.

The Maintenance Unit at Andover is responsible for the maintenance and engineering support facilities for CCTV; the evaluation, repair and calibration of test equipment; and the design and construction of special test equipment and facilities.

Staff Structure

The existing complement of the Directorate is 920 broken down as follows:

From this latter system it was planned that the following information could be ascertained:

  1. Equipment Reliability - Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF); derived from the frequency of repairs against equipment population. This information was helpful in determining the need for referrals back to the manufacturer, plus the correct level of spare equipment’s to held and which were paid for (via the rental scheme) by individual police forces and fire brigades.
     
  2. Equipment Maintainability; time taken to repair. Useful for determining the need for modifications, changes to maintenance policy and procedures, re-equipment programmes and future purchasing requirements.

Establishing the ratio between actual productive time (repairs or installations) and other time (travelling, paperwork, training courses, depot duties etc.) could be ascertained, but was only required as an input for assessing charges made, centrally, to third parties (e.g. P.N.C.U.).

I believe at the development stage, which was mainly carried out by Andy Holdstock in consultation with other senior DTels staff and outside bodies, many time measurement techniques were considered. Those which involved the recording of activities by a dedicated member of staff (as in time & motion studies) were eliminated. This left the recording to be done by the operatives themselves. Traditional time/work sheets were seen to be too labour intensive and so the use of the ‘marked up’ sheet, which could be ‘optically’ read was adopted.

The layout of the form CB201 was established in consultation with the printers and other companies who were to be involved in:

  1. ‘optically’ reading the forms
  2. converting this information into a statistical form which would provide the raw input to the M.I.S.

The forms (CB201) were completed by individual technicians (deliberately not identified) at depots and sub depots and forwarded to M.P.G. Weyhill. From here they were sent, in bulk, to a contractor where they were ‘read’ and the resulting data transferred to tape. The next stage in the process was for the tape to be ‘read’ and converted into statistical data. Who actually did this escapes me, I don’t think it was done at Weyhill. Although at this time there was a D.E.C. PDP11 computer at Weyhill, it was used as a tool for remotely carrying out test procedures on VDUs in for repair at the various depots (i.e. a test rig). Its main i/p device was a paper tape reader and hard copy o/p was achieved with a teleprinter.

The day to day operation of the system was under the control of an SWT, originally a chap by the name of Martin Thomson-Neil, he was an enthusiastic sailor in his spare time and later worked at Tavistock. He was succeeded by David Greenwood.

Line management was in the hands of the M.P.G. C.W.T. (myself for a time) and later, Dave Cahill.

Depot Cartoon

Criticisms

  1. DTels HQ; the system was slow to produce usable data because the system could only produce an output from the information that was put in (i.e. data from the depots) see 2 and 3.
     
  2. Field Service Staff/Technicians;
    • Stated; the System was too complicated and CB201 forms took too much time to fill in.
    • Not Stated; smacks of Big Brother.  Although individuals were not identified, it was seen as a system by which H.Q. could assess the performance of work groups
  3. Field Service Staff/Management; only one R.W.E., to my knowledge, completely supported the aims of the system.
    • Not Stated; effectiveness of each individual depot/sub depot  could be determined (league tables!). Local managers preferred the Area Office/Depot method of oversight and supervision.
  4. Field Service M.P.G; was ‘piggy in the middle’ To meet the requirements of Dtels H.Q., better and more accurate information had to be supplied by the depots. Depots were reluctant to supply for reasons given in 2 (my own assessment - not official). David Greenwood’s request, in the introduction to the Form CB201 guide book*, was an attempt to encourage the depot staff to get more involved in the reduction of poor input information.

    * the booklet published on Page 4 is a revision of an earlier edition of this book

After a period (I can’t remember how long the system was in operation) of mixed performance things came to a head when the Civil Service Union got involved. They complained that the system had been introduced without sufficient consultation and approval by them or their members.

Whatever the merits of this case, (my own personal view was that it was seen, by its opponents, to be the only effective way of challenging the system) the directing staff at the time saw the system as a way of letting the managers, manage.

I recall the subject being on the agenda at the regular meeting between the DTels directing staff and the C.S.U. However, an agreement on the future course of the system was not achieved. In the end, it was decided that instead of bringing up the subject of the job card system at the regular meetings, an extra meeting would be held with just this item on the agenda.

The Director, at the time, was John Cubberley. Unfortunately he suffered from ill health and died quite suddenly. His temporary replacement was Jack Hallett, like John Cubberley an ex-Army senior officer, and it fell to him to chair the crucial meeting to discuss the job card system.

At this meeting, the Union put their case and after one or two queries were cleared up, Mr. Hallett announced to the meeting that the job card system would be terminated once matters relating to contracts had been dealt with.

Mr. Hallett obviously had his own reasons for making this decision but I don’t think I was alone in being completely taken by surprise. My guess was that it was a bargaining chip in other ongoing negotiations with the C.S.U.

Conclusion
Although the job card system was flawed in its execution, the principle of gathering and analysing data in this way is a cornerstone of efficient business practice. As in all walks of life, people respond badly to change, particularly if it attacks a traditional way of doing things.

The analysis of information from depots, if so desired by senior management, could have illustrated the productivity of individual work groups, the ability of local managers to run their depots in an effective manner and provide data to support  increasing/decreasing staffing levels.

However, this was not its purpose. It was a tool to gain information on operational equipment and related matters.

Finally
I admit to being the originator of the cartoon on the inside back cover and the provider of the caption for that on the inside front cover. I can now reveal (after 30+ years) that ‘Wilf’ refers to Wilf Bridger, a friend and colleague at Hannington and ‘Jim’ to Jim Woodmansey, one time Deputy Director (Field Services).

All opinions, guesses, surmises and accusations, real or implied, are mine and mine only!

ADDENDUM by Steven R. Cole
Are you old enough to remember completing the CB201 job sheet? I seem to recall them being printed on high quality paper, I think to help prevent bending and improve image quality when scanned by the optical reader.

A corresponding booklet was produced by Maintenance Planning Group to describe how the CB201 Job Cards were to be completed and provide other important detail.

Both are contained in the download file listed in the menu on this page.


Derek joined DTels in October 1963 and assigned to Hannington Depot. After holding posts at Hannington, Southampton Outstation and Weyhill Maintenance Unit, transferred to Field Service HQ (Technical Support) then located in Rochester Row, London. Due to accommodation difficulties, the Technical Support element was relocated to Weyhill. Over time this organisation expanded and later became known as Maintenance Planning Group (MPG).

Acknowledgement: Derek Theobald for the article and two cartoons that appeared in a booklet produced by Maintenance Planning Group

page updated: 09/05/16

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