Does your maintenance team play like pros?

June 14, 2012
J. Stanton McGroarty says professionals play as if time were money, and they bring the right equipment.

We’ve all had great fun playing sandlot baseball and football. The first few friends to arrive have cool conversations about sports and everything else. The young players learn neat stuff about the game and the other players. We wait for people to arrive and hope that somebody brings the right gear.

After half an hour, we choose up sides and play whatever version of the game lends itself to the number of players that turned up. If nobody brought the right equipment, then we use a sweatshirt for second base. Pickup sports are fun, great exercise, and a wonderful bonding experience. But you sure wouldn’t call them precise or efficient. And believe me, nobody would pay to watch.

Professionals play as if time were money, don’t they? When pros take the field, everybody arrives on time with the right equipment. They all know the playbook and are conditioned to execute their positions flawlessly, at lightning speed. The fastest, best prepared, best conditioned team wins.

A professional team that behaved like a sandlot crew would be laughed off the field early in the game. Fans would demand their money back, and personnel changes would start early Monday morning.


Which way does your maintenance team play? How does the typical job start? If the available techs are standing in a circle figuring out what happened to a production asset, or if they are waiting for people or equipment to arrive so they can form a circle around the asset, then they are playing like amateurs. When the competition heats up, amateurs, even talented amateurs, lose. The pros laugh them off the field.

The real maintenance and reliability pros know that the job of figuring out what work has to be done and assembling the tools and skills to do it are a sizable part of any equipment maintenance job. If it’s done right, ahead of time, the use of tradespeople’s time is safer, more predictable, and more efficient. And, since it leaves the tradespeople’s day better organized and more predictable, it even makes for improved working conditions.

By the time the tradespeople get involved with most maintenance jobs, the material they will need should be available as a kit, at the job site. The right number of the right trades should be assigned and available to go to work. Work instructions, permits, and support information should also be in hand. Any rental equipment and contractors should be on site, complete with proper instructions. The area should also be prepared and ready for the work to take place.

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 [email protected] or check out his .
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The most exciting part of doing business this way is that you don’t need a team of tradespeople to do the planning. In fact, many organizations are finding that trades workers aren’t necessarily the best candidates for the planning job. A good planning candidate is a juggler who should be able to deal with multiple parallel projects at different stages in their execution. The planner will need good data and some access to maintenance experts, such as foremen. To help keep the planning realistic, the planner needs accurate asset history in the CMMS and a library of job instructions. With these tools in place, advance planning is very doable.

As to the issue of the planner’s background, even a planner with a journeyman’s card is only proficient in one trade and needs support to plan all the others.

If a shortage of trained tradespeople is one of your organization’s major maintenance headaches, consider the value of having someone else plan the work. And what about having your jobs fully planned before they are placed on the maintenance team’s schedule? Professional planning can mean a 15% to 25% reduction in skilled trade hours.

Sound like Never Never Land? Pay a visit to any sizeable auto dealership. They’re already doing it. Should your maintenance operation be less effective than theirs?

You should assume that professional planning is business as usual in your toughest competitors’ plants. If your competitors get there before you do, the competition could get ugly. If they can beat you on OEE and maintenance costs, they can probably beat you on product cost and customer service. That would leave you a little short of marketing tools.

How do you get started? It depends on how your maintenance operation runs today. If your maintenance house is in order, you should be able to say the following:

  • Maintenance planning is a recognized profession that receives the same respect and demands the same level of professionalism as the trades.
  • Emergency work — work that is not fully preplanned with material kitted — is less than 10% of maintenance work.
  • Work orders that are planned and scheduled actually start on schedule and are completed within 10% of the estimated time.
  • Preventive maintenance work is more than half of the maintenance workload, and it receives the same priority as breakdown work.
  • The CMMS has work instructions in place for all PM orders and the majority of repetitive repair work.

This is how strategic maintenance teams play like pros. And the pros always win.