Bean counters don't always understand the potential for maintenance investments to pay off

Nov. 5, 2003

In the short time since I joined Plant Services, the questions that have come up most often are, "How can I show management how well we're doing our job? Are there any benchmarks I can use to justify investment in maintenance?"

So when Rockwell Automation approached us about working together on a survey of what Plant Services readers are using for maintenance performance metrics, we jumped on it. The results, analyzed by CMMS expert and Plant Services columnist David Berger, are the foundation of our cover story.

Most respondents' companies measure maintenance performance indirectly, using manufacturing production uptime. And if production flows well enough, maintenance is seen as a necessary evil that should cost as little as possible.

That kind of thinking is counterproductive, Berger says. Using the right data, managers can see how to improve uptime while reducing total costs. And improvement often requires spending more on maintenance.

Bean counters don't understand or appreciate the potential for investments in maintenance to pay off, agrees Mike Lasckiewicz, vice president, Asset Management at Rockwell. But he says maintenance managers, supervisors, and technicians need to take more responsibility for getting that message through to them. "Just cutting people is a death spiral," Lasckiewicz says. "It takes managerial courage to resist the easy way out- cutting expenses- and commit to a better way."

Along with the best and brightest mechanics and electricians who can solve your plant's technical problems, you need strong business acumen. You must be able to relate your needs to your company's business priorities and to make a business case for investment.

And once you've made your case, you must be willing and able to sell it to the guys handling the purse strings. Your idea or project has to compete with many alternative investments, and the ROI for many of them may be much easier to quantify.

But you're too busy fighting alligators, you say, because your skeleton crew can't keep up with fixing all the stuff that's been neglected for lack of funds.

Well, Rockwell and other vendors offer a growing array of assessment services. They'll come into your facility, take a look around and recommend specific improvements. From reducing spares inventories to implementing predictive technologies to actually getting something useful out of that CMMS, they'll explain the problems they see and potential solutions. If you agree, they'll help you make your case to management.

Show corporate that proper maintenance pays. It's better than being a necessary evil.

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