Change Management / Reactive Maintenance

Finding your way when the road to reliability takes a detour

Don’t lose sight of your goals when inevitable road blocks go up.

By Steven Tuttle, CMRP, senior maintenance planner

My day started on a Monday morning before coffee and before 0600 – my day normally started at 0700 with coffee, but you will see why in a few minutes.

We have an extremely reactive plant site with a footprint of more than 500,000 square feet, with 30-plus buildings, four floors minimum per building, a minimum of 20 rooms per floor, and an average building age of 100 years. I had just returned from a wonderful trade show filled with exhibitors, speakers, subject-matter experts, close friends, and peers.

I walked in carrying three go-bags busting at the seams with new information and contacts pertaining to technology I was sure would make our journey to world-class maintenance a relatively quick one. Before I had a chance to check in, I was greeted at the time clock with a message to head up to the BIG BOSS MAN’s office – he needed to see me ASAP.

I discovered that, during the past week, his office had been transferred from my maintenance office two cubicles away all the way to the fourth floor of the executive wing of the plant. I proceeded to his office and at his request shut the door and sat down. He then informed me of the “current events” from the week that I was at the trade show.

Namely, my maintenance budget was frozen; we were not going to implement any of the information/technology that I had brought back; my budget was cut by $300,000; and my five most senior mechanics had been let go, along with their supervisor. Oh, and outside contractor support was also cut out of the budget.

Furthermore, every job was to be “planned and scheduled” from here on out. My current staff had almost no current training, extremely poor morale, and was less than motivated, to say the least, since they were now on scheduled breaks/lunchtimes and were timed to the minute.

Finally, I discovered 74 calls that had gone to voicemail. (My company-issued phone was even less reliable than my personal one, so those calls were caught in limbo as they were “transferred” to my personal cell.)

The good news was that I could get a one-on-one with my BIG BOSS MAN for 30–60 minutes once a week with no questions asked for a status update; that did not change. I also could get a “breakfast and learn” in with my outside vendors, but only if it was free and could be scheduled during normal business hours between calls.

I was then told: “Welcome back, Steve-O, and have a great day!”

It was about this time I had realized that my 50/50/50 day—50% on the floor, 50% in my office and a 50% random variability—was right out the window. Now, lunch and dinner would be a luxury, and 10 hours daily plus unknown overtime was going to be going to be the standard for the foreseeable future.

Getting up to leave, I found four new emergency/reactive calls on my personal cell phone requiring “immediate assistance,” so I wished my boss a good day, set up our one-on-one for Thursday at our normal time, and returned to my maintenance office.

When I got there, I found out that my office also had been moved during the week—to the shop area. I had no landline phone or computer service and extremely unreliable text/cell service due to the provider and “dead-zone” site location. I also had a backed-up sewer line and a 1.00” air line above me hissing like a Halloween cat with its tail caught between two rollers on an old manual washer/wringer machine we had on the fifth-generation farm that I had grew up on.

At this time, I thought the best plan was to grab my planner bag and take a walk to clear my head. I stopped at the café to get some breakfast, headache medicine, and coffee as well as Earl Gray tea with lemon, all to jump-start my heart with caffeine and high protein and calm the impending headache and the stomach acid that had already developed.

I started my workday by tackling the four calls for immediate assistance, and applied the RIME (reactive index maintenance expenditure) to rate how “immediate” they actually were. The calls involved an automatic service door to production that needed to be re-re-adjusted at the operators’ request (index: 70), a janitorial service in the customer entrance/service lobby (index: 25), a massive all-hands plumbing overflow in the warehouse that could affect product/storage (index: 90), and a plugged toilet in the customer service area in the executive building (index: 15).

Experience suggested that everyone considered their request to be at least a 100+ RIME number, but I selected in order of need and started with the pump job. When I arrived, there was already safety tape all over the area. I performed a quick root cause analysis and talked with operations and my crew. Apparently, the pumps were engineered to be in the overflow pit and not placed on top of the pit’s safety grating, which is where they had been located. As a result, the float switches did not kick on automatically, and auto-alarms never sent out a signal. Ultimately, the strainers got totally plugged up and failed, causing the pump motors to overheat and 10 to fail prematurely.

Getting back to my desk, I dumped a gallon of bleach in the sewer line, put in a set of earplugs, and had a quick “adjustment” on the air line to quiet it down, placing an email and text to the second/third shift to repair it that night as time permitted. I called IT as well for an update and found a computer in the shop for the second/third shift to use until I was back online and connected at my new desk and office location.

Using a bit of internet research, I was able to spec out the pump/motor platforms, new updated strainers with needed pipework, and new updated float switches. Within three calls to different suppliers, I put an EXPEDITE RUSH PLANT IS ON DOWN on the orders and was assured on-site courier-tracked delivery by the end of the week, as not all needed parts were in stock to build and ship three units that day.

I sent out an email and text to all pump-job stakeholders to bring them up to speed, and then it was onto the next job: the operators’ door adjustment. It was a simple screwdriver adjustment – first it closed too slowly, then too quickly, and then finally just right to the originator’s request. I sent a text and email to the originator when the work was done and also completed a visual inspection with mechanic.

The third “rush” job was the janitorial service request. Someone had dropped some paper shards from a shredder and some candy sprinkles from a birthday party on-site. I put a call into Housekeeping/Janitorial to prep that area ASAP.

Finally, it was time to focus on the plugged executive toilet. This work involved adding an out-of-service sign to the door with date and time stamp and assigning work to the second/third shift since it was normally a bit more quiet at that time. (A walk-through the next morning showed the sign down and no other concerns noted. The originator updated me shortly thereafter with a nice thank-you note.)

Knowing full well that there was no way to solve all 74 voicemail requests on Day 1, I went back and started a quick job plan with a checklist of tools, parts, and LOTOTO (lockout/tagout/tryout) procedures. I was fortunate enough to have some very skilled vendors who walked down the job with me that day and during that week to advise on supplies and best practices that would save money, reduce downtime, and increase uptime. All of these details were incorporated into the job plan, along with an originator’s initials and my name, time, and date stamp as well for accountability.

Upon receipt from the vendor(s) and storeroom, I pre-kitted and hand-verified all of the parts as they came in with the work order number on them for traceability and to update job progress, which was to be scheduled as well for first availability on the Saturday weekend down shift as requested.

Naturally, we had some unexpected issues with the pump job and had to call in extra contractor support in the skill areas we did not have in-house. Sure, I walked down the job and updated the job plan afterward and talked with the crew involved over break times or caught them in transition from job to job.

After reading all of this, I hope you note many of the trends present in my plant and, more than likely, in your plant(s) as well. Production staff do not like to be ignored or to feel that they have no update/idea on what is going on with their repairs/concerns. I have found out time and again that if I cannot contact the work request originator, a supervisor in that area is the next best point of contact.

I also prefer not to have issues escalated to the owner or executive management unless I am faced with no other option. I view my knowledge, skills, and attitude as a point of contact on the floor as a top asset to keep the plant in an uptime position as much as possible. I have also found out that I cannot be at every staff, production, or leadership meeting and that I can use my upper management as a very valuable resource (asking politely works 99.99% of the time for me) to assist when I am out on the floor or at my desk; he or she can make those updates and appearances that I cannot.

I also use texts and emails to my advantage for a reliability and accountability factor. If something unexpected happens during the work, that communication can be printed and brought to the next level of awareness as needed/required.

I hope you have learned something valuable to take you back to your plant and that reading this perspective can help you get one step closer to world-class maintenance.