5 steps on the path to maintenance superiority

Assess, collaborate, build the business case, execute, and make adjustments to achieve maintenance superiority.

By Wayne A. Vaughn, PE, CMRP, Vesta Partners

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In brief:

  • What are the important steps required to move from current performance to maintenance excellence?
  • Understand the company goals that get translated down to maintenance or that maintenance can influence by improved performance.
  • If you aren’t delivering the results desired now, then you must make changes.

Maintenance is easy, but not simple. It’s not nuclear physics, but the large number of moving parts means that maintenance performance often falls short of what’s needed by operations.

But in what way is it easy? Let’s look at excellent lubrication. It’s delivering the right lubricant to the right spot and following the right procedure at the right time. What’s more, almost all of the information about lubrication is readily available. Why isn’t it simple? Other priorities often interfere with the lubrication schedule. The environment or handling procedures introduce contamination, the location is sometimes hidden or not labeled, and the people doing the work are often not properly trained. All of the same kinds of issues apply to preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, and corrective maintenance. To achieve maintenance excellence, each of these activities must be done with excellence.

What are the important steps required to move from current performance to maintenance excellence?

  • Perform an assessment.
  • Work on achieving collaboration.
  • Build a business case.
  • Execute the improvement project plan.
  • Check results and make adjustment.

Make sure your people have the skills to use new technology effectively.

As you begin, take the time to understand the company goals that get translated down to maintenance or that maintenance can influence by improved performance. Make sure you understand which results maintenance must deliver to be a partner in achieving operational results. If you aren’t delivering the results desired now, then you must make changes. Fundamentally, work processes deliver the results they’re designed to deliver. Operations personnel clearly understand this relationship, but sometimes it isn’t as clearly understood by maintenance workers. If you’re unhappy with current results, you must make changes. Simply working harder will not do the job.

Assessment

An old Chinese proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The first step in the journey to maintenance excellence is to understand where you are right now. This means that you must do an assessment of your maintenance practices. There are many ways to do an assessment, but it must be a detailed, structured process that looks at the entire maintenance work process. These areas should be covered.

  • maintenance organization
  • training
  • work order system
  • planning and scheduling
  • preventive maintenance
  • inventory and MRO purchasing
  • maintenance automation
  • operations/facilities involvement
  • reporting
  • predictive maintenance
  • reliability improvement process
  • maintenance general processes
  • financial controls
  • continuous improvement
  • contracting process
  • document management.

Select the areas where improvement is needed and begin to develop a survey that will capture critical data (Figure 1). Look at key performance indicators (KPIs) to see what performance is being achieved and where improvement may be needed. Follow the work process and document it to gather data on what might be changed to reduce the time and to improve the results of the work process. Develop questions that will help you understand how the area is managed and how it interfaces with other work processes or other parts of the organization. Once you have a solid data gathering process, you’ll need to gather the data.

Figure 1. In the assessment phase, select the areas where improvement is needed and begin to develop a survey that will capture critical data.
Figure 1. In the assessment phase, select the areas where improvement is needed and begin to develop a survey that will capture critical data.

It’s necessary to communicate to all stakeholders about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what you plan to do with the data. Stakeholders include technicians, engineers, staff, operations leadership, purchasing leadership, and finance personnel. Communication is key throughout the assessment, just as change management will be critical once you begin to implement changes.

It is useful to gather benchmark data in the areas of interest. As you gather your organization’s performance, you can compare it to other companies or best in class performance.

The entire assessment process will likely take a few weeks of effort to complete. It’s useful to get some outside eyes on the operation to reduce the bias that often comes from self-assessment. If you have corporate staff or sister plants that are able to help, use them. If not, you might consider getting some outside help. Make sure you gather data from people within each stakeholder area, and ensure those people comprise both the doers and the leaders. This is an important first step. Do it well.

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