10 proven work-management practices

Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy brings you 10 work-management strategies that represent the diversity of approaches being put into practice today, and which benefit not only the organization, but workers, too.

By Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor

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Leading maintenance organizations are taking bold steps to improve workforce effectiveness and are constantly evaluating opportunities for further efficiencies. The challenge is to select the approaches that make sense in your environment and that will enhance the bottom line. Even then, a technology or process that works today might be inadequate tomorrow, making it essential to remain open to new techniques that are constantly emerging.

Here are 10 work-management strategies that represent the diversity of approaches being put into practice today. Some concepts are seasoned and others are new, but one thing is certain: They benefit not only the organization, but the workers themselves. Clarifying work, deploying cool technology, upgrading skill sets and offering more challenging roles are good ways to inspire greater enthusiasm among the workforce.


Top 10 techniques
1. Evaluate your strategy
2. Assess skills
3. Develop knowledge
4. Outsource appropriately
5. Plan and schedule
6. Go mobile
7. Be more proactive
8. Automate materials management
9. Get clever
10. Reward results


1. Evaluate your strategy

One trend that has lasting value is to reassess your maintenance strategy periodically. Top performers won’t get too comfortable with the way they do business because inertia can set in. Fueling this trend is the fact that more executives are waking up to how reliability affects the bottom line, says Ricky Smith, senior reliability adviser at Allied Reliability (www.alliedreliability.com). “Improving reliability reduces maintenance and replacement costs, and this message is increasingly being pushed from the top down.”

John Yolton, maintenance strategy consultant for SKF Reliability Systems (www.skf.com), agrees. “Companies are finally realizing they need to run maintenance as a business to satisfy business goals.” Whether your preference is reliability-centered maintenance (RCM), total productive maintenance (TPM), operator-driven reliability (ODR) or another approach, a maintenance strategy review will determine what is or is not working for your equipment in your location.

As a means of maximizing equipment reliability, Yolton believes preventive maintenance (PM) is steadily losing favor, because the PM tasks are traditionally time-based. “Condition monitoring is the true means to predict maintenance and prevent failures,” he says. “For one, it is easier to rely on machine-generated reliability data than inconsistent work-order data.”

Benchmarking brings to light specific maintenance strategy weaknesses by showing how you stack up against the best and worst industry performers. Anheuser-Busch Packaging Group (www.anheuser-busch.com) has two benchmarking processes underway. The first, explains President and CEO Michael Harding, is external, where personnel participate in industry and vendor conferences to learn how other companies are managing the business of maintenance. “They continuously bring back ideas from these sessions that we weave into our maintenance management procedures.” The second involves internal benchmarking and audits at each plant to measure performance against goals. “This process has enabled us to find and share best demonstrated practices more efficiently.”

Periodically assessing your maintenance management software usage also is fundamental to this strategy. According to Smith, the more that companies spend on maintenance software, the less return they might see on their investment. “The problem is that usage rates aren’t rising. Many users aren’t putting the data in the system correctly - or at all.” Anheuser-Busch Packaging Group proactively enforces use of its SAP maintenance management system. “Follow-up audits make sure it’s consistently being used the same and right away at each plant,” Harding says.

2. Assess skills

Companies are increasingly seeking quid pro quo when making a job offers or instituting pay increases, says Tom Ramsay, president of Ramsay Corp. (www.ramsaycorp.com). “Employers want to pay for knowledge, not years of experience.” The more knowledgeable workers will be the more efficient performers.

Ramsay Corp. develops tests that measure production and maintenance labor forces. Benchmarks based on local and national normative data illustrate how the mechanics and electricians compare to others. Prepackaged or customized, the tests serve multiple purposes, including pre-employment screening, skills evaluation, promotional exams, pre- and post-training assessments, and certification testing.

“Some customers ask us to custom-design selection procedures for them. Bombardier Transport (www.bombardier.com) has us testing for master electrical and mechanical technicians,” Ramsay says. The tests cover not only technical skills, but training, supervision and leadership capabilities. “There is a lot of competition for the few who have these capabilities.”


Wise new welders
Many companies are filling their skills gap with targeted training programs, building a competitive edge with formidable in-house capabilities. This welding class attended by water and wastewater maintenance personnel at the City of Houston was one of several progressive seminars performed on-site to mitigate retirement of seasoned personnel.

3. Develop knowledge

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