We are all aware that the economics of today have been severely hampering efforts of asset-intensive facilities to manage their maintenance costs. Many organizations have trimmed maintenance staff and at the same time expect the maintenance management to do more work with fewer resources.

The modern buildings of the city skyscrapers.

Ultimately, facilities that have cut staff will slip into a reactive maintenance mode. Reactive maintenance means that maintenance, capital budgets and larger maintenance projects are not being planned. The lack of planning can cripple an organization as the increase in reactive maintenance fails to set aside the proper resources (time and money) for planned projects. Postponing that turbine overhaul or forgoing the roof replacement for one more year is just a gamble that decision makers hope won’t come back to haunt them.

In addition, a reactive maintenance approach consumes more and more resources for emergency or unplanned maintenance work as a result of neglected asset care. The end result is cash flows become unnecessarily strained placing the organization in a band-aid mode. Replacing the band-aid is rework and a waste of money if the work order could have been done right the first time.

Maintenance Planning Tools

Even if your facility has fallen down the reactive maintenance trap there is a way to dig out of the hole. The most important step is for the facility maintenance manager to take a step back and plan. Yes, the word planning strikes terror in the heart of a hands-on-manager, but unless you take a step back and think through your needs, there is little hope that you can stem the tide of reactive maintenance or convince senior management to return your lost headcount.

Maintenance planning is more than assigning whoever is on duty to fix reported problems. Planning covers the asset care needs for the now, the short term, the long term and the extended future. Good planning also has a degree of flexibility to ensure the proper handling of unplanned maintenance. Basic planning guidelines will include:

  • The understanding of all your available resources. What staff is available, what tools are available such as a CMMSEAMsystem, handheld devices, spreadsheets or pencil and paper?
  • Forecasting the workload expected to be needed in the next 3,6,9 and 12 months and figuring out how to get it all done within your budgetary constraints.
  • Forecasting major asset projects. These are projects that may require considerable manpower as well as an understanding of the workflow through the organization.
  • Forecasting major capital repairs/replacements. These are repairs or replacements where the cash outlay can be capitalized (depreciated over time) according to the financial standards used by the company. For very expensive assets capital expenditures may require loans or other financing options. Unanticipated capital expenses make everyone in the company look bad.

The accuracy of planning is only as good as the inputs used. Asset managers must base their projected needs upon asset knowledge, knowledge of how the asset is being used, the projected use of current assets and the expected growth plans of the organization.

For example, how many times has asset XYZ been repaired, what was the cause, what was the outcome, what parts were needed, what was the cost, who did the work? This information is then used to project labor, parts, major repairs and/or capital replacements. It can also be used to identify the areas where preventive maintenance can actually lower labor needs by reducing the amount of repairs needed for common failure reasons.

Collecting and storing the information for maintenance planning is the first real test of management. Common excuses for not having the right information include;

  • We don’t have the time – translation – We are not organized.
  • I want my staff doing real work, not paperwork – translation – We don’t have the right tools.
  • We don’t track that information – translation – We are in big trouble when senior staff retire as too much knowledge is concentrated in too few people.
  • The Manufacturer said it would last 10 years so that is when it will need replacement – translation – We need help!

The EAM/CMMS Light At the End of the Tunnel

How do facility managers juggle the need for better asset and maintenance management against the constraints of a tight budget, a shortage of manpower and an ever increasing amount of reactive work orders?

The short answer is facility managers and executives have to first understand that lower labor cost, lower energy bills, fewer major repairs, better budgets and accurate capital analysis will only happen if their organizations have the right tools, the training to use them and the patience to implement them correctly.

Software tools such as an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system or Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) can help automate manual processes, increase proactive maintenance practices and enhance planning and budgeting for large projects or capital expenditures.

“A modern CMMS is an excellent tool for maintenance management to budget for projects and better control costs.”

Source: David Berger, P.Eng

The decision to purchase an EAM is a catch-22 for many organizations. Often the question raised is how can we afford a new expense at a time when we are bleeding so much? Instead, the question that should be asked is how do we stop the bleeding and get back into the game? An EAM or CMMS is no longer an option for companies, it is an instrument of survival.