When metrics are misleading

ask jeff shiver When Metrics are MisleadingQuestion: Jeff, we utilize a suite of metrics, including schedule compliance and PM compliance, to measure work execution. Our metrics scorecards are always in the top percentiles – i.e., PM compliance is 90-plus percent. That said, the equipment still breaks down, and production struggles to meet their numbers. What is the issue?

Andrew, maintenance supervisor, GA

Answer: Hello, Andrew. Metrics can be misleading, and without understanding the context of your situation, I suggest digging deeper to understand what is really going on. If you have random equipment that's failing after executing the PM, then odds are that the correct work is not being performed in the right way. 

Most people recognize that too much grease is worse than too little. Along the same line, more maintenance does not mean better maintenance. You can overmaintain an asset. Nearly 70% of failures occur prematurely. Every time that we do intrusive maintenance, we disturb an otherwise stable system and introduce the potential for failure. We find that a good portion of the overmaintenance of assets comes from knee-jerk reactions to past failures. When something fails, management requires an addition to the PM without taking the time to understand the root causes of the failure. Rather than updating the existing PM if required, someone slaps a new PM into the CMMS, causing duplication of efforts in many cases.

We also know from RCM analysis that 40%–60% of PM tasks don’t address likely failure modes for the assets. I see many instances in which PMs are not written to a standard. Sometimes the PM plan consists of a descriptive title and NO detailed tasks. It’s merely a placeholder, and the technicians are left to their own judgment regarding which tasks to perform.

In other cases, I see PMs that consist of running and shutdown tasks in the same task plan.  When the pressure is on to complete PMs to get desired numbers and the equipment is always running, expect technicians to sign off on a PM as completed even if the bulk of the PM was not done, because the equipment was never down for maintenance and only the "running" tasks were completed. The PM compliance score will look great, but many tasks will not have been executed. Sure, we want 100% of the PMs done – just be careful to understand what's getting done. Findings from RCM analysis indicate that only about 60% of PMs get done. Of that 60%, only 20%–30% are done right.

I also see sites where schedule compliance is high, but the schedule consists primarily of PMs and very little corrective work. Remember that PMs likely are getting signed off on when they're only partially completed or are missing precision steps. Sometimes, tight budget control by management delays the ordering of parts to execute corrective work. Technicians get frustrated. For example, if a PM identifies the need for a corrective repair, I sometimes see management take upward of 4–6 weeks to sign off on the purchase. With an eight-week delivery on the parts, three months or more can pass before the parts arrive and the repair is executed. When the technicians have to reactively address problems they identified on a PM but management delayed action on, people become tired. At that point, they check out and become disengaged. When this occurs, they just "go with the flow.” Upon hearing this phrase in an organization, I recognize that the organization's problems are systemic. Getting people on board for change will be difficult unless new management can successfully demonstrate a commitment to righting the ship.

Bottom line: Go beyond the metrics. Take a deep dive into the work execution process.  Determine whether your PM tasks add value. Observe the actual work. Take corrective actions where needed.

What other insights did I leave out? I suspect you can identify different proactive approaches to set up the maintenance group for success. Please share your thoughts and feedback.

Email me at the address below,and I will respond or place your questions with my answers here.

Talk soon,
Jeff Shiver, CMRP
If you have problems in the fields of maintenance, reliability, planning and scheduling, MRO storerooms, or leadership, please contact Jeff Shiver with your question(s) here.