4 steps to defining maintenance roles: Part I

David Berger explains how well-defined roles and responsibilities can help to get the most from your CMMS software.

By David Berger, P.Eng., contributing editor

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No matter how deeply we fall in love with sophisticated technology, such as modern CMMS software, we are still very much reliant on humans to ensure we get the most out of our technology investments. Many companies fail to properly implement their CMMS, even years after the official date of installation, because organizational roles and responsibilities are not clear.

For example, what value is purchasing a CMMS with comprehensive planning and scheduling functionality when there is no clarity around three key roles: maintenance planner, scheduler, and coordinator? What use are sophisticated data analysis tools if there is no one knowledgeable and with sufficient time to assume the role of reliability specialist or lifecycle analyst? Why bother with advanced spare parts inventory management features when there is no storeskeeper role to take advantage of them?

Parts I and II of this column will examine key maintenance roles and responsibilities that are instrumental in maximizing the value from your CMMS, in light of the guiding principles on how to make it all work.

Guiding principles

There are four basic rules presented below for ensuring that roles and responsibilities are taken seriously. Although the list is short and to the point, it is incredible how many companies struggle to achieve consistent enforcement of these rules. A common problem, for example, occurs when there is no full- or even part-time storeskeeper responsible for spare parts inventory control. There may be good reason for not having a storeskeeper, not the least of which is inability to justify the salary expense such as on a midnight or weekend shift where only a few maintainers are working.

Parts I and II of this column will examine key maintenance roles and responsibilities that are instrumental in maximizing the value from your CMMS, in light of the guiding principles on how to make it all work.

However, whether or not there is a storeskeeper does not negate the need for proper inventory control processes, such as how stock is issued from stores. As well, the business rules that underline the processes are critical to follow, such as rules governing which information is required for data entry into the CMMS and by whom. Additionally, those people who go through the process and follow the business rules are de facto playing the role of a full-time storeskeeper and therefore have the equivalent responsibility. This includes being accountable for their actions or inactions. Thus, if spare parts are not properly signed out, what are the consequences? Why should a maintainer or supervisor playing the role of storeskeeper be treated any differently than someone in a full-time storeskeeper position?

There are four simple rules to follow.

  1. Stick to the process. Define the standard processes and responsibilities for each role. Ensure anyone taking on a given role has the prerequisite skills, and provide adequate training as you would for a full-time position. Can a full-time admin person take on the maintainer role? Perhaps, if that person has the skills and training and is involved in executing the work. But most do not, which is one reason why it makes little sense for admin people to enter work order data on behalf of maintainers.
  2. Stick to the business rules underlying the process. Define the business rules that support the standard processes.
  3. Stick to the roles. When someone is playing the part of a given role, that person must not deviate from the processes, business rules, and responsibilities that are defined for that role. In other words, maintainers or their supervisors must not skip a few steps in the established storeskeeper processes because their “prime responsibility” is to get the equipment up and running. Similarly, lead hands or working supervisors must be true to their roles as supervisors, even if they are also maintainers. They cannot pick and choose when and how to play their respective roles.
  4. Ensure accountability tied to KPIs. There should be rewards when KPIs relevant to a given role are exceeded, and consequences when there is a negative variance. Management must show that they are tracking appropriate measures for a role, and that they care about the results.

Of prime importance is that employees understand what’s in it for them if they adhere to the four rules above. Any of their legitimate complaints should result in perhaps a change to the processes or even reassignment of roles.

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