Why investing in time management pays the biggest returns

Aug. 19, 2020
The transition to proactive maintenance should start with optimizing the most important one you already have: time.

Does your maintenance department control the plant, or is it the other way around? Who’s in the driver’s seat?

That’s the difference between proactive and reactive maintenance, and also is the crux of reliability. The basic roadmap of how to transition out of a reactive state is well-known. First, invest in preventative maintenance optimization, including planning and scheduling. Down the road, expand predictive techniques and ultimately implement state-of-the-art technologies.

Why, then, do so many plants struggle to turn the corner?

One reason is that it’s hard to know where to start. Getting the ball rolling doesn’t necessarily mean a big investment. Chances are that if your maintenance department can’t seem to get out of firefighting mode, it probably doesn’t have resources available for high-dollar consultants, extra engineers or the latest high-tech gismos either.

Instead of pursuing more resources, the transition to proactive maintenance should start with optimizing the most important one you already have: time.

Time management is key to bridging the gap between theory and practice when it comes to maintenance and reliability. A good starting point is identifying the activities, practices, or policies that either consume or limit technician wrench time. One typical culprit ripe for optimization is a bloated PM program. For example, excessive calibration programs may include non-essential instrumentation and can tie-up inordinate I&E resources. Look around and you’ll likely find many similar areas for potential efficiency improvements.

Root cause analysis techniques tend to add new PMs yet never seem to cull any. The same can be said for training programs like CBTs – it seems like there are always more and never less. EHS departments, if reactive and left unchecked, can spawn an infinitely expanding regiment of corrective actions that include meetings, training, and capital investment.

Step back and take a look at the big picture: many initiatives made with the best intentions often create runaway bloat that takes a big toll on available resources. While increasing head count is certainly an option for handling the load, it’s one that doesn’t address the root cause nor drive overall business efficiency.

When starting down the path of World Class Maintenance, keep in mind that improvements aimed at improved time management have an important return on investment: more time. That means more time for activities that can, if chosen wisely, result in further savings thus kicking off a virtuous cycle. That is the path to achieving steady state, and to taking back control of your plant. All aspects of your reliability program can be viewed through this lens.

Where’s a plant to start? A PM audit? A new CMMS? Investments in PdM? Procedure writing? There are infinite paths forward – a unique one for every plant. To get the most bang for your buck, think lean and select options that result in saving time in the future. That time, which otherwise would have been unavailable, will soon be an important resource for launching your next initiative.

About the Author

Alex Ferrari

Alex Ferrari, CMRP, is a Maintenance Manager of a specialty cosmetics manufacturer in Charlotte, NC. He has worked in the chemical and nuclear industries both in the US and abroad in Argentina. As a blogger and as a maintenance professional, Alex aims to explore the challenges faced by small and mid-sized facilities without the budget for by-the-book reliability programs.

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