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Poor communication between asset management and maintenance teams, between maintenance staff and just poor communication in general can lead to a variety of operational and customer service problems. If communications issues are not addressed, operating margins decline and the organization is likely to see an increase in employee turnover.

The Effect of Poor Maintenance Communication

Communication is something that must be worked on and improved whenever possible. We all know this from our personal lives where each of us has learned that most problems are caused by a lack of communication.

“What we got here is… failure to communicate.”

Source: Paul Newman and Strother Martin in the 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke”

It is a failure to communicate instructions, goals and objectives that leads to unnecessary anguish for customers, staff and management. Communications problems occur in all industries and at all levels. The cause is simple the effect can be devastating. The solution is effort.

Examples of Organization Communications Problems and Their Consequences

  • Inspection checklists for extreme weather are not disseminated properly. A sudden snowstorm arrives and unprepared assets are exposed to the elements. This may cause assets to not function correctly or even fail, increasing repair and capital expenditure costs.
  • The training date for a new asset was not posted or sent to everyone who would help install, maintain or use it. The asset sits unused until training is finally completed.
  • A system wide defect or change on an asset has been discovered. The new standard operating procedure is not communicated effectively throughout the organization. Maintenance teams waste time trying to fix the problem by recreating the knowledge already available.
  • The contract renewal date is up for boilers or other high value assets. Administrative or maintenance management is supposed to contact vendors to implement new terms of engagement by a specified date. The deadline passes because the information was caught in an administrative bottleneck.
  • Work requests and work orders are lost. External customers such as hotel guests, or any other type of client waiting for action become frustrated and take their business elsewhere. Internal customers develop workarounds that endanger health and safety.

The list is almost endless. The point is that without good communication, if anything can go wrong it will (also known as Murphy’s Law). To improve communication it makes sense to understand how communication is and can be done.

Facility and Plant Communication Methods

From office facilities to industrial plants, communication generally falls into 3 categories:

  • Verbal: Meetings, training, telephone calls etc.
  • Written: Emails, text, post-it notes, memos etc.
  • Computerized: Computerized training programs, software programs such as CRM software or EAM CMMS programs, computerized alerts, instant messages and so on.

In the course of a normal work week we may use all of the above communication vehicles. The problem is that none of the methods are perfect and that each person in an organization communicates differently.

The result is incomplete, lost, misunderstood and often ineffective information flow. To complicate matters, two people can see or hear the same information and walk away with different interpretations. This makes the opportunity for improved communications a problem that requires constant attention and effort.

Better Organizational Communication with an EAM System

Communications skills are learned. At the same time there are tools available to help facilitate the learning process in asset and maintenance management. One such tool is an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system.

An EAM system combines the core functionality of CMMS programs (maintenance management) with tools for asset, document, contract and administration management. Quality EAM software such as Transcendent® facilitate communications through user friendly dashboards where messages can be placed.

In the photo below you can see that messages such as a reminder to perform inspections on specified assets that can be sent to all locations or staff. Within the message you can attach any document that has been uploaded to your EAM system including photos, pdf files, blueprints or an example of the actual inspection checklist to be used.

Transcendent Home Page Message Center-post

Other communication tools include the ability to produce management reports and to receive work requests, work orders etc. without the use of paper. This reduces the amount of lost documents as well as the amount of time spent searching for them.

In addition, because everything is computerized, there is always a record of what information was distributed, when and who should be receiving it. EAM doesn’t fix management and staff that have trouble communicating but it does increase the amount of clarity.