Maintenance plans to the rescue

How equipment maintenance plans can help balance needs, production goals.

By Monroe Blanton, Life Cycle Engineering

Operations is asking for better performance from its equipment. Could more and better maintenance be the wrong solution? Let’s consider a scenario.

The Widget Manufacturing Co. recently overhauled its maintenance program. Staff evaluated every piece of equipment, developed the absolute best maintenance activities, and entered new PMs into the CMMS system. Every week, preventive maintenance instructions were issued to mechanics, electricians, and operation support crafts. All personnel worked hard to implement the new and improved maintenance program.

The company quickly saw improved efficiency ratings on its manufacturing equipment. During a regularly scheduled review meeting a few months later, everyone was celebrating the success achieved via the improved maintenance program. Then Jim, the department’s maintenance planner, noticed the storeroom financial reports. The cost of goods issued had increased significantly.

Jim carefully reviewed the production schedule and equipment runtime improvements. Even with the maintenance costs normalized to the schedule changes, he could see in the maintenance ledger sheets that the upgraded program was getting very expensive to maintain. In addition to the storeroom cost, overtime hours for the craft departments were out of control. Everyone was working way too many hours to keep up the new program. Yes, the Widget Manufacturing Co. had reached all-time records in its uptime utilization, but it had done so at the cost of an over-budget maintenance program and exhausted employees. Jim observed that something needed to be done to align maintenance costs with budget goals set by management.

How can you balance maintenance cost, labor cost, and the goals established through production requirements? Equipment maintenance plans (EMPs) can help. The EMP is a structured document that captures the big picture of all equipment maintenance activities. This tool aids in administering the maintenance program by organizing maintenance tasks and guiding the applicable planning and scheduling. It will help identify unnecessary or excessive maintenance activities and enable the efficient planning and budgeting of work that needs to be done.

If you are not using EMPs to help manage maintenance, chances are good that you could be spending too much, missing key activities, and overworking the craft departments. While developing maintenance work instructions, I’ve often heard this comment: “Who is going to do this additional work? I’m already overloaded.” EMPs can help align maintenance program activities with your business plan.

If your program’s current EMPs are out of date, or if they were never created, where do you start? An EMP can be created for each equipment item or a collective system. For each EMP document, you will need to record the following types of information:

Equipment type, description, location, documentation. First, you need to validate that a given asset is, in fact, in service. Many companies waste money on unnecessary maintenance for missing or decommissioned equipment. Often validation is accomplished by printing an equipment list from the CMMS system and physically verifying its existence. A side benefit is a chance to make corrections and adjustments to the parent/child relationships that best fit the organizational hierarchy structure.

Maintenance task descriptions. This includes a task item number for reference, the task description, and the frequency with which the task is to be performed. Here, you may discover that the same filter is replaced monthly and quarterly. Which is right? Are you changing the filter twice in the same month?

Task support information. Here you record the craft departments that will perform the tasks and how many craftspersons are required. Note the condition of the equipment required to perform the tasks. Does the equipment need to be shut down or kept running to execute the maintenance instruction? You will also note if the intent of this work is preventive, predictive, condition-based, or corrective. Give each task a unique procedure or task number that can be referenced in the CMMS system. For each task, enter an estimated time to perform the work; this will be used for work planning and scheduling. You’ll also need to include special tools, materials, and any additional comments on logistics required to perform the task.

With all of this information entered into a document or spreadsheet template, you’ll have an effective work overview that will enable you to review the complete maintenance plan attributes. The EMP is the central planning tool for effective labor utilization, work backlog scheduling, work priority ranking, and materials management. Only with this planning matrix is it possible to see cost-saving opportunities and efficiently schedule the work to be performed.

The maintenance task descriptions will help identify waste in the form of task frequency that is too high or too low. Too high a task frequency will cost more in materials and/or time doing unnecessary work. Too low a frequency may cause extensive damage to operations in equipment loss and downtime. In addition, the maintenance task descriptions are vital to materials management and key to the storeroom kitting process and material usage planning.

Task support information identifies the labor requirements and will assist with the scheduling of people in a craft as well as the best schedule fit when multiple crafts are involved. This helps avoid wasted labor hours and identifies when managed hours could be put to better use.

But wait: The good isn’t over yet. Keep the EMP up to date as a living document. Make changes to adapt to lessons learned and feedback receives from the craftspersons. Jobs that were planned for four hours may actually take two hours or two days. Adjustments will be needed to fine-tune the plan’s effectiveness. The EMP now will provide an accurate means of reviewing planning and budgeting for each equipment item or an entire workshop unit.

I am absolutely sure that by using an EMP to manage your maintenance plans, you will find interesting opportunities for improvement. Plus, you’ll be better equipped to plan and schedule upcoming work while adhering to budget constraints. Remember, there is a difference between a maintenance plan and planned maintenance. The difference is your EMP.

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