Reactive maintenance a thing of the past? Let's hope so

Feb. 9, 2005
The public's perception of maintenance is that its full of a bunch of "Bubbas and Skeeters." Contributing writer Joel Leonard says its time to kill Bubba and Skeeter and change the perception of maintenance.

At AFE’s 2002 Facilities Americas conference, during our session “Elevating the Image of Maintenance,” an attendee asked a great question: How can we elevate maintenance if the public’s perception is that we are a bunch of Bubbas and Skeeters? Our response was this: Before we can move our profession forward, we must kill off Bubba and Skeeter.
To help us fully kill off this negative perception of our honorable profession, below is an obituary about reactive maintenance personified by Bubba and Skeeter. This tongue-in-cheek piece took only 15 minutes to write after the conference. During the workshops I host, attendees usually ask for more copies so they can take them back to their management and staff.

Many companies are so focused on cost-cutting that they refuse to formally train their personnel, all while simultaneously installing automation systems that require more sophisticated maintenance care. Many a short-sighted bean counter’s response to a training request is, “What if we train them and they leave?” A great answer is, “What if we don’t and they stay?”
To my amazement, hundreds of managers report that they have this obituary posted in their offices, have made it required reading for the maintenance department and have shared it with management. Many U.S. military motorpools have it posted with a note from an officer stating, “Don’t let this be us.” I hope you put this to use to both elevate your staff performance and to educate management that investing in maintenance development is, in essence, investing in economic development. The better the maintenance performance and efficiency, the better the company capacity and the better our country’s gross national product (GNP). 

With the advent of technological advances and the movement from reactive maintenance to proactive maintenance, Bubba and Skeeter are officially deceased.

Although they have served the organization for the last several decades, they leave behind no written documentation of their work orders. As we researched their work area, we discovered several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of spare parts inventory stashed away in cubby holes.

Despite Bubba’s prediction that computers would be a fad, all other maintenance personnel plan, schedule and document their maintenance activities. They also have a complete history of all of their maintenance activities and, to conserve costs, they use a centralized spare parts inventory.

Also left behind are Bubba’s and Skeeter’s tool belts and work pants, notoriously worn to expose their posterior cleavage. In addition, they leave behind their fermented spittoons and mounds of tobacco chaw that usually trickled outside of their mouths as they garbled indiscernible instructions to their colleagues.

We will miss Bubba’s and Skeeter’s dedication to crisis maintenance. As we are performing PMs, our emergency maintenance requirements are minimal.

We also learned that Bubba and Skeeter were not completely technologically averse. They used the company’s $50,000 infrared camera to detect which cheerleaders were re-engineered and used the ultrasound listening device to detect deer flatulence on hunting trips. We also discovered that Skeeter converted the CMMS CDs into fishing lures.

Before your business becomes extinct, you might want to terminate your company’s Bubba and Skeeter maintenance practices.

Who’s to blame? Shame on us as management personnel. We used to reward our staff for keeping our chestnuts out of the fire instead of chastising them for allowing them to get in the fire. Experts state that upward of 70% of all maintenance failures are self-induced. Most are caused by lack of formalized training and documentation of work orders.

May Bubba and Skeeter rest in peace! If guided better, they and our businesses would have been more efficient and shareholder value would have skyrocketed. 

E-mail Joel Leonard at [email protected].


Answer the following questions to see if the spirits of Bubba and Skeeter are alive in your plant.

  • Does anyone on your maintenance staff think RCM (reliability-centered maintenance) stands for Richard Childress Motorsports?
  • Seriously, are more than 50% of your maintenance activities reactive?
  • Is your CMMS implemented?
  • Do you have a predictive maintenance program?
  • Do you have a formalized maintenance training program?
  • Do you have accurate equipment history records?
  • Do you haev a centralized spare parts inventory system?
  • Do maintenance and operations work with or against each other?
  • Would you be proud or embarrassed if members of your board, largest stockholders and most important customers visited your maintenance department?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's time to get rid of any and all Bubba and Skeeter maintenance practices in your facility.