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By David Berger, P.Eng., contributing editor
|David Berger, a Certified Management Consultant (C.M.C.) registered in Ontario, Canada, is a Principal of Western Management Consultants, based in the Toronto office. David has written more than 200 articles on a variety of topics such as maintenance management, operations management, information technology, e-commerce, organizational design, and strategy. In Plant Services magazine, he has written a monthly column on maintenance management in the United States, as well as three very extensive reviews of maintenance management systems available in North America. David has done extensive work in the areas of strategy, information technology and business process re-engineering. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Follow-on work request: When a maintainer discovers a significant amount of work is required, over and above the work covered by the current work order, a follow-on work request is completed. This ensures both work orders are cross-referenced. For example, suppose a maintainer is working on a work order to change the oil and notices a significant leak. Many CMMS packages will allow the maintainer to complete and submit a follow-on work request from within the original work order. Using the original work order for follow-on work is not optimal since it skews the planned to actual variances for hours and dollars. As well, the original work order would remain open longer than originally estimated, thereby negatively impacting schedule compliance, especially if you are waiting for parts or a specific skill.
Quick work request/order: One of the CMMS tools used to optimize workflows is some type of form for quickly entering a minimum amount of work order information. This is useful for, say, recording emergency work that was completed off-hours without filling out a full work order ahead of time. It is also good for quickly requesting small jobs around your facility — for example, if a maintainer walks by an asset and hears an unfamiliar sound.
Most CMMS vendors provide an easy way to manage approvals within workflows, using the workflow engine, using business rules, or through configuration. Approvals are an obvious bottleneck for maintenance workflows, if not set up properly. For example, look for a CMMS package that allows users to set up substitute approvers for instances such as when the manager is on vacation, or establish approver groups such as any maintenance supervisor, as opposed to a specific supervisor.
One powerful way to optimize maintenance workflows is to simplify and standardize them, while minimizing any exception flows. This is critical if there are multiple sites doing similar work, especially if there is a shared database and equipment hierarchy under a single company. Business rules, automated default values, mandatory fields, alarming, and a running clock for automatically tracking maintainer time, can all be used to detect and minimize exceptions. For example, these tools can help prevent the operations group from skipping mandatory steps or push through a demand work order to be completed immediately by the group’s favorite maintainer.
Another key factor in optimizing workflows over time is constant reporting on performance indicators and making adjustments accordingly. For example, monitoring statistics such as average dwell time in each work order status —waiting for parts or awaiting approval — can reveal bottlenecks within a process flow. Additionally, drilling down on reports such as schedule compliance and average actual versus estimated hours on work orders will assist in understanding where the opportunities lie for process improvement.