Using gap analysis to monitor and maintain your Work Management Process

This article explains how a gap analysis can be deployed to effectively assess how your Work Management Process is currently being used, as well as identify areas of improvement.

By Ed Espinosa, CAPM, CMRP, Puget Sound Energy

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A great team effort was expended to implement your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). And probably just as much effort, if not more, was expended to implement the system that serves as the “practical user’s manual” on how to use your CMMS to manage your work. You and your team spent many hours interfacing with plant folks immersed in concentrated dialogue answering limitless questions regarding plant layout, function, equipment maintenance, staffing, spare parts, and their warehousing requirements, vendors, and manufacturers. This was followed by even more conversations defining the site-specific work processes that take place in order for work to be identified, planned, scheduled, executed, closed out and critiqued.

The Work Management Process (WMP) is the result of a painstaking effort to document this process and make “doing work” efficient, effective, and easier. Maintaining a healthy Work Management Process goes a long way to ensuring that your physical assets are receiving the proper care they need to continue performing at their expected level and delivering value to your stakeholders and process owners. However, with the passage of time, folks tend to become a bit too “comfortable” with how to do work and ultimately stray away from what has been decided and accepted as the best way to do work – all defined within the framework of the Work Management Process. Straying away from this standard hastens bad habits to develop. These bad habits quickly settle in and become part of the MRO culture.

In order to preserve the effort that went into the creation of the Work Management Process, a method must be developed to monitor and evaluate the process to uphold the way it was originally designed and implemented. One must expect to see a difference between the way the Work Management Process was rolled out and the way it is being executed currently. The difference is the “gap,” so it only goes to reason that the method developed to measure this difference would be known as a “gap analysis.” This article explains how a gap analysis can be deployed to effectively assess how your Work Management Process is currently being used, as well as identify areas of improvement.

Conducting the analysis

The Work Management Process Gap Analysis measures processes by comparing the current to the desired. How is the plant using the process, and is how they are using the process yielding the desired results that plant management wants to see that is in-line with corporate goals? Finding these answers triggers more questions being asked specifically on what contributes to a successful operation and proper and efficient use of corporate resources.

First, a note: It is preferable not to use the terminology “assessment” with your wider team when engaging in a Work Management Process evaluation, because the connotation of this word seems to place the plant on notice that they are being looked at under a microscope by senior management. “Assessment” is an uneasy and contentious word at the plant level, and the shorter term "Gap Analysis" tends to produce better results (as well as not ringing alarm bells with your team).

What triggers the performance of a gap analysis is typically a request by senior leadership to conduct such a study. Your first step in fulfilling this request is to contact plant management and inform them that they have been selected by senior management for a Work Management Process gap analysis. Request a site visit from plant management at their convenience and make the necessary arrangements to visit the plant for this purpose. Expect to spend between 2-3 days performing this analysis. Make sure to check on personnel availability prior to committing to a plant visit. Get a commitment ahead of time from plant management for personnel’s time who will assist you in collecting data that cannot be otherwise derived by remote database mining.

Prepare as much as possible ahead of time prior to the site visit by remotely performing the applicable database mining and populating those results in the proper areas of your analysis document along with supporting data. Doing this will save you a considerable amount of time before setting foot at the plant and will not waste anyone’s time. Be sure to enter comments and/or questions to ask plant personnel if questions still persist after the initial database inquiry. Reserve a conference room with audio-visual capabilities large enough to accommodate the staff that will participate in this exercise. If the conference room lacks this feature, bring your own overhead projector compatible with your laptop in order to present the result of the gap analysis.

What exactly should be measured? You should turn to the source of why you are performing this gap analysis for the answer – the process itself. Generally accepted work management process components consist of the following correlated to work: identification, prioritization, approval, planning, scheduling, execution, review, closure, continuous improvement, and possibly materials management. When developing your site-specific work management process, recall that these areas were the centerpieces of discussion that were used to create the Work Management Process Manual, a publication you will be invoking regularly as a source document.

Now that we know what needs to be measured, we have to decide how we will measure them. There are three ways to measure the work management process variables: (1) personal interview with those responsible for that portion of the process; (2) independent observation of an event such as a planning and scheduling meeting; and (3) CMMS database mining. Of the three methods mentioned, the most objective and unbiased method that produces best results is database mining. The one method that is subject to skewed and possibly doctored answers – in other words, answers that the interviewee anticipates you want to hear – is personal interviewing. For the sake of acquiring the most accurate information, database mining is the preferred method to employ. Unfortunately, not all questions can be answered by database mining. The nature of the question will determine the best method to go about finding an answer to it.

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