When Maintenance is Not Maintenance

Apr 20, 2011

Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith

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As a prolific reader, I see countless posts and articles touting one maintenance methodology over another and viewpoints criticizing if not condemning each other. Don’t misunderstand me, it is nice to have a strong ego and confidence in what you believe in. However, there comes a time when asset and maintenance professionals need to open their eyes to see the greater world around them to make better decisions.

The Nature of Organizations

In the last twenty years I have only run across a handful of organizations that are able to consistently improve their operations through trial and error, technology, applied learning and good positive leadership. Some of these organizations survive today and others have fallen down because they forgot the core of what made them successful as they grew.

Any student of management will tell you this is not limited to facilities or plant management but applies to virtually all industries. What goes wrong? Growing organizations always reach a point where there is a need for professionalization. This means that layers of management are installed to help communicate and facilitate organizational objectives.

As management is added, each new individual brings their own expertise, technology and experience to the table. However, without great leadership at the top this is also the point where companies start to unravel. The reasons for this are very simple:

Top 5 Reasons Maintenance Operations Breaks Down

  1. Maintenance management gets stuck in acronyms.
  2. Over reliance on prior success (forget to continue improvements). Companies in this situation are adverse to technological changes such as implementing an EAM system or making use of predictive technologies.
  3. Loss of maintenance knowledge, key staff and ideas go ignored or are undervalued. Former leaders withdraw or leave the company. The team spirit disappears.
  4. Politics, people are afraid to lose their jobs instead of stepping outside their safe zone to take action. Act first and ask for forgiveness is replaced by layers of committee decisions waiting for approvals that never happen fast enough.
  5. Narcissism. The founder’s vision has been lost and replaced by people and policies that are short-sighted or self serving. New ideas are dismissed and long term planning is replaced by decisions designed for immediate impact.

Sound familiar? Most organizations have at least one of the problems described above. The good news is that all is not lost, especially if your operations already has a CMMS installed that is collecting work management information. Let us talk about the some ways to correct the problems.

The first step in improving asset and maintenance management is installing a leader who can see the bigger picture. Once the leadership issue has been resolved the individual areas can be addressed.

Forget the Acronyms

A little over a year ago, Steve Hanks of IWMSnews wrote an article about Why EAMCMMSCAFMFMISCIFMIWMS, and Other Acronyms Are Confusing. We followed up this piece with How Acronyms Can Be Confusing. The point of both articles is that there is not one solution that fits all needs.Facilities and maintenance management is a balance of different methodologies, tools and ideas that are unique to each and every business regardless of the industry. Organizations that rely too heavily on any one method or tool is going to have long-term operational sustainability issues. For example:

The Trouble with Acronyms
  • All Predictive Based Maintenance (PdM)= bad idea
  • All Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) = bad idea
  • All Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) = bad idea
  • All Inspection Maintenance = bad idea
  • No Backlog Maintenance Operation = bad idea
  • All Anything = bad idea

The point is that not every asset has the same needs. Large turbines may need advanced predictive tools and for some assets it may be more cost effective to run them to failure and then replace them (For example – small motors). Continuing the example, HVAC units do require preventive maintenance to operate efficiently and waste water systems require constant corrosion inspections to avoid unplanned repairs.

Since most facilities, plant, building, utilities, schools, hotels or even churches have a variety of assets, it makes better business sense to formulate an asset and maintenance plan that can accommodate the different needs. Hence the magic words Maintenance Planning.

Apply the Knowledge

The third step in fixing or setting up better asset and maintenance management is to apply the knowledge that already exists and/or to collect additional information to formulate a maintenance plan. This is the most important step. All the tools and technology in the world are useless if you do not have a concise plan to use them effectively.

There are two major areas in which asset information can be collected. They include:

  • Use of historical records, either already part of a CMMS or that can be added to a CMMS. A CMMS is the core engine of maintenance management software and should contain information such as description, location, date purchased, vendor info, associated documents, maintenance history and so on. It is a complete record of all assets from planning to retirement.
  • Interviewing maintenance staff who know the organizations assets inside and out. Collection of this information can be added to a CMMS database. The knowledge that experienced staff have caring for assets should never be underestimated. Manufacturing specs are for typical environments. However, there is no definition of a typical environment. It is the little tricks of the trade that can make the difference between uptime and unplanned emergency repairs.

The last part of applying the knowledge is to stay aware of the different evolving technologies that can improve safety and performance. This may include predictive tools such as vibration analysis or ultrasound or the use of program logic controllers (PLC) that can improve asset reliability as well as many other devices designed to prevent major disruptions in work flow.

The Final Battle for Better Asset and Maintenance Management

With the right leadership, the best balance of tools, technology and methodologies, organizations are in a good position to return to the entrepreneurial maintenance management. Entrepreneurial maintenance management can be defined as brushing aside narcissism and politics to empower management and staff to make decisions in the best interest of the company.The key to everything described in this article taking the steps necessary to be able to plan maintenance. Acquiring asset information leads to greater knowledge. Greater knowledge plus leadership leads to the ability to PLAN MAINTENANCE. Once a maintenance plan has been developed, the proper set of tools like an EAM CMMS and training can be implemented.Finally, Once a maintenance plan is implemented it is absolutely critical that follow-up be conducted. Follow-up includes making sure that:

  • The tools are being used properly.
  • Proper EAM CMMS training has taken place.
  • Work management is being scheduled
  • Work history including resolution, parts, time, costs and so on are being collected.
  • Feedback is constantly being accepted with improvement processes in place.

Maintenance operations without a plan is not maintenance, it is simply a long slow cash drain. What do you think is preventing organizations from implementing good maintenance plans?

Stuart Smith

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