How reactive is your performance?

Stanton McGroarty says keep emergency maintenance work to less than 5%.

By J. Stanton McGroarty, CMfgE, CMRP, senior technical editor

The percent of emergency maintenance work is the percentage of all maintenance work that is identified and handled as emergencies by your maintenance organization.

Derivation: Emergency maintenance work is work that must be started as soon as it is identified. Easy examples would be fires and serious leaks that threaten the safety, ecological status, or production capability of an operation. Unlike planned maintenance, emergency maintenance is usually performed, or at least assessed, by whatever crew is available. The work begins immediately, though some organizations use a horizon of about two days in determining whether a task was handled as an emergency. There is not time to properly plan emergency work prior to beginning, so the most cost-effective approach is not determined prior to the start of the effort. The work planning that does occur is normally performed by the tradespeople and other staff who are summoned to the site once the work is identified and notification is made to maintenance. In other words, the job is planned on the fly, while the maintenance crew’s clock is already running. Due to the lack of planning, the crew is typically larger than it would have been for planned work. Clearly, this is the most expensive approach to maintenance work. Multipliers can range from two to six, depending on the organization and the type of work.

For any time period, the percentage of emergency maintenance work can be derived in at least two ways; both have value.

  1. Percent emergency work = total number of emergency maintenance work orders/total number of maintenance work orders.
  2. Percent emergency work = total man hours of emergency maintenance work completed/total man hours of maintenance work completed.

Track both figures at the beginning of a measurement and improvement effort, since they won’t usually be the same for an organization. Once emergency work is under control, either of the measurements will probably be enough.

Want to learn more about KPIs? Check out "A process for developing key performance indicators (KPIs)" by Daryl Mather.

Significance: Emergency maintenance is a very bad thing. In any department where it exceeds about 5% of the total work orders, it makes control of maintenance expense and performance very difficult. Above about 10% emergency work orders places a maintenance operation in an almost completely reactive mode. This is true for two reasons. First, because of the multiplier above 10%, emergency orders will consume something like 30 to 50% of the maintenance organization’s resources. Secondly, even if proper maintenance planning and scheduling are in place, the emergency work grabs the resources scheduled for the work that was to be performed, forcing it to be postponed and rescheduled. Typically this means that contract resources are cancelled and rescheduled, with penalty payments applying, too. Once emergency work exceeds about 10%, maintenance is out of control.

The first casualties of emergency work are often preventive maintenance (PM) and predictive maintenance (PdM), since they are the first to be postponed. Of course, the result is that more emergency work self-schedules, since early warning signs are no longer being picked up by PM and PdM work.

J. Stanton McGroarty, CMfgE, CMRP, is senior technical editor of Plant Services. He was formerly consulting manager for Strategic Asset Management International (SAMI), where he focused on project management and training for manufacturing, maintenance and reliability engineering. He has more than 30 years of manufacturing and maintenance experience in the automotive, defense, consumer products and process manufacturing industries. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Detroit Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in management from Central Michigan University. He can be reached at smcgroarty@putman.net or check out his .

Getting started: Maintenance work orders should be processed in classes of urgency. “Emergency” is the first class. The second class of work is usually “urgent,” meaning work that has time to be planned, but should be started as soon as it is planned and can be safely and economically performed. Urgent work might include follow-up to temporary repairs, replacement of overheating motors, correction of small, or non-hazardous leaks. Typically, urgent work is begun in a time frame of days, rather than weeks.

The rest of maintenance work should be labeled, planned, and scheduled as “routine.” When maintenance work and backlog are truly under control, routine maintenance is planned and scheduled to take advantage of the economies of work grouping by area, special equipment, seasonality, and the other factors that can save a great deal of time and money. The horizon for this kind of planning is usually in the six-to-eight-week range.

If a work classification system isn’t in place, putting it in is very urgent. In the absence of such a system, it is often true that everything gets handled as an emergency, with no planning and uncontrolled resource use. An important wave of savings can occur just from the installation of a classification system and the planning of routine work.

Assessment of today’s situation: If the data are available, a lot can be learned from taking the past few months of maintenance orders and making a spreadsheet of their urgency if there is a system, the date of notification, the planned start date of work, actual start date, and completion date for each. If cost data by work order are available, cost would be a good column to add. Each work order will be one row. If possible, make sure that special handling and freight costs for emergency procurement of parts and services are included in the cost of the appropriate work orders.

Arrange the rows in the order of how long it took to begin work — the time between notification and start of work. A little quality time spent with this spreadsheet will yield a lot of understanding of the way maintenance work flows and the use of urgency criteria. For example, emergency work orders that are weeks old indicate unplanned, costly execution of routine work. If most of the backlog is PM and PdM work, the plant is headed for serious breakdown trouble. The cost of emergency work orders may tell a story of its own, but don’t be fooled if many of the costs are hidden.

The spreadsheet will also provide the information for a baseline calculation of how much emergency work is done. Identify emergency work either by using assigned urgency or assigning emergency status to orders with a start date of less than two days after notification. If the percentage is more than 10%, the meaning is clear. The plant has a lot of work to do and stands to save a great deal of money.

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