What Are The Responsibilities And Goals Of The Maintenance Department

What are the responsibilities and goals of the maintenance department?

Jan. 26, 2023
In this episode of Assets Anonymous, George Williams and Joe Anderson define the role of the maintenance team in improving proactivity.

Assets Anonymous is a 12-step podcast series designed to help you get grounded in reliability basics and create a culture of continuous improvement with your team. This series will feature interviews with George Williams and Joe Anderson of ReliabilityX. ReliabilityX aims to bridge the gap between operations and maintenance through holistic reliability focused on plant performance. In this episode, George and Joe answer the question “What will maintenance do about it?”

PS: You know, episodes eight and nine were sort of a paired set. We talked about developing your criticality analysis and then understanding the failure modes of those critical assets. These next two episodes are also kind of a paired set and we're going to start today with “What will maintenance do about it?” And I love that we've taken a very practical approach to issues of becoming a more proactive plant team, taking steps to move away from that run to failure reactive mode, for all assets. So let's talk about what does maintenance do about the things they are identifying with the criticality analyses and the failure modes?

GW: They're going to fix it.

PS: Good. Boom. We're done.

JA: They're going to fix stuff.

GW: The first step is to identify your risk mitigation strategy, right? So the short term of that is what's my PM or PdM strategy to help either understand that a failure mode is about to have a catastrophic event on my P-F interval, or that I need to replace wear components at some interval of time based on duty cycle or time or however that may shake out.

Now, there's all kinds of standards around that, then questions associated with that. “Can I engineer it out? If I can't engineer it out, can I predict it? If I can't predict it, do I do some scheduled intervention, whether that is a preventive maintenance activity for wear components or a scheduled restoration, or a failure finding task?” So, failure finding task – something against the hidden failure mode, like a generator transfer switch, something you'd never know if it's going to work until you actually need it. You're testing it to see if it already failed. You are not testing it to see if it will work when you need it. And so a failure finding task.

So all of those things and then eventually run to failure and the development of a spare stocking strategy, all of those things get vetted out based on cost. What does it cost if I run this at this failure mode? The failure, what does it cost? If I can predict it, what does it cost? And then the most cost effective strategy gets implemented.

JA: And then you can develop a maintenance budget around all of those tasks because you have a cost, and that's zero based budgeting. But yeah, you have to be really good to get to that point.

GW: That's heresy! You're talking about managing maintenance? They should have a position for that in the company.

JA: What is maintenance management anyway? Isn't that a title?

PS: Let's talk about that zero-cost strategy. It sounds like it's not that common in maintenance departments for people to get that far ahead of their work to understand how to zero that budget out, and ask for what they need.

GW: I'd say the most common thing is for the maintenance manager to not even know a budget exists. They're just given a number or they don't even know it exists. They just operate, which is even worse.

JA: The largest gap, in my opinion, when it comes to maintenance managers is understanding the business side of things. Understanding budgeting, costing, understanding how the business generates money and the value that you bring to it. Understanding that your budget is an investment into maintenance, so are you returning all that investment? There's a lot of pieces there, but yeah, budgeting is typically it's add 10%, they'll take that 10% and my budget stays the same. And that's the budgeting strategy.

GW: Did you say add 10% or take 10%?

JA: You add 10% to it, you go to submit it and then they pull. I'll say, ok, I'll give you 10% back. So they'll pull the 10% and then your budget stays untouched. They don't budget for obsolescence in their storeroom. They don't budget for training. There's all these things where they don't fight to write in line items.

Obsolescence for spare parts is a huge one because now supply chain brings in some consultant that tells you this is all of your things that haven't turned. Supply chain doesn't understand that you have critical spares, and I don't care if they've turned or not, it's critical! Or they'll say, hey, you need to throw out everything that hasn't turned in two years. That's all obsolete by their definition. Or at the same time, you've replaced 32 pieces of equipment with completely different pieces of equipment, but all their spare parts are still sitting on your shelf from machines that you don't have anymore, and no one budgets their ability to get rid of that stuff. Because if I throw it out now, it hits my budget and I'm losing money. You have a million dollars in spare parts and your budget's $10 million a year, you just ate up 10% of your budget throwing it away., and you can't afford to do that.

PS: I don't know Joe, I may need that Atari joystick that I've got sitting on the shelf from 1983 one of these days, that spare part.

JA: But you could probably sell that thing for a good amount of money.

GW: We talk about what maintenance can do about this, and inevitably the question becomes, well, I don't have the people resources or resources in terms of funding to go through and identify and update my PM strategy. I'm barely making ends meet today. And if they're using their CMMS, and this is why it's important to have that data collected, there are some really easy things you can pull out to help identify and justify this, right?

We're not going to get into a deep dive conversation about the validity of percentage of PM versus CM. However, because your management doesn't know any better either, this is a great metric to pull out. If you're doing. 65% corrective maintenance work and 35% PM, and the average corrective maintenance work order costs $2,000 and the average PM work order costs $200, then you can very quickly get to, “well, if I do better PMs and flip that ratio, or even if I can drop my CMs by 10%, what does that give back to the business?” That's a significant amount of money. A significant amount of money, and easily justifies whether you spend time internally in backfill or hiring another company (hopefully they're amazing like we are) and helping you along that path because the money is there, you just have to know how to pull it out and how to create the ROI.

PS: This is something that the average, frontline millwright can do as well, right? This is not something which necessarily requires management authority. This is the opportunity which anyone on the team can engage in.

GW: I would say anyone can be the champion. Anyone can say, I'm sick of it the way it is today. Let's do something different. And the millwright certainly would be part of the team that's identifying failure modes and criticality perhaps, and identifying what we do about that failure mode. And then that millwright is going to potentially be a person that gets trained in how to collect vibration data, or, whatever you may be utilizing that resource for on the predictive side of things and changing what they do today, from the asset managing them to them managing the asset. Whatever part they play in that, they certainly can be a champion. I think anyone can be a leader and certainly folks in that position are and can be leaders for this change.

PS: Something that you both have reinforced is that, especially on the managerial level, 75% of that kind of managerial work should be strategic and it's just tough to keep from getting dragged back down into the day to day. You touched on that a couple of episodes, but it really is at this point critical to move forward away from more reactive modes of maintenance and towards more proactive, just do that strategic work which you just talked about George, which is identifying where the most valuable work is occurring.

JA: So, the way I always did it – now I'm not like everybody else, I'm a little more of a jerk – but the first conversation I would have would be with my boss., and I would let them know, listen, if this meeting you have on my schedule does not add value, I'm not going to attend. I have more important things trying to get us out of this reactive mode and becoming more proactive, so I have things I have to do to set time aside to develop this strategy and set direction for my team, so that we can get things turned around. So I would ask that if you really, really don't need me, I don't get an invite to a meeting. Because typically 98% of meetings really is just an email or a reason to have donuts and bagels and have a conversation, and no value comes out of it anyway. I don't want to waste my time.

GW: Are you saying donuts are not valuable? Because I think donuts are valuable.

Listen to the entire interview

JA: Donuts are very valuable, but I can have my suppliers bring them into the maintenance shop. I don't need to go to a meeting. My first thing is clearing my schedule, because it's vitally important as a leader of my business unit that I set clear direction for my people and we understand the direction that we're headed and we have a robust strategy, and I'm spending time developing strategies with all these folks. Because again, when 90% of your time your day is spent in meetings, how much time do you have to do strategic work? And they typically don't. It's typically the other few hours they have, they're out running around on the floor like a chicken with a head cutoff trying to keep things running and doing all this other stuff. And so to me, that's the first conversation I would have, and really it didn't matter what the answer was, I'm not going to the meetings. So I'm just saying, if you said no, you had to be there, sorry, you know I'm tied up doing other things.

GW: Think of it like this. If you're the current maintenance manager, there are plenty of times where crap hits the fan and you don't go to an important meeting. Just pretend like that happened. There's plenty of times you don't go to it, right? Because, oh my God, this failed and I need for whatever reason, you as the maintenance manager think you need to be in front of an asset that failed, because in most cases, you shouldn't be the one fixing it, but you're there anyway. Right? This is what the issue is: without proper training and maintenance management, understanding the business, and understanding the goals of the maintenance organization, most maintenance managers are just supervisors of the supervisors. That's not what the job is. Your job is not to be the supervisor of a group of supervisors who then supervise the technicians. That's not the gig.

PS: Part of what maintenance can do about it also is celebrate the win. This is something we've talked about again since the first time I met Joe in 2015 and since meeting you, George, in 2017-2018. That's also an important part of the gig, is managing up. It's talking up the achievements of you and your team because if you do work and don't enter it in the CMMS, that data's lost, the work may as well not have been done. If you get a win on the maintenance floor, it still exists and the asset is maintained and managed, but who knows about it?

JA: And it needs to be an actual win though, not a perceived win or your definition of moving the goal post. Let me give you an example. I worked for an organization in Kansas (right before I joined George at B. Braun) that celebrated with an ice cream social only 14 people being injured. It was a record for us. 14! 14 lost time accidents. That was it, you know? And we had an ice cream social for that.

I was embarrassed. Picture being somebody that lost time due to something, And they're celebrating because it was only you, Like good thing it wasn't more of you. I'm like, you’ve got to be kidding me. This has got to be a joke. You guys are actually celebrating 14 people losing time on the job due to injury. What they're doing is, “well, we're going to be optimists, there were 1,232 people that didn't get injured.” I'm like, that's not a win! I don't know how you think this is a win!

So you have to be careful about what you define as a win. A win is preventing something from failing or finding it early enough on to fix it to where in the past, this downtime event cost me $14,000, and now we caught it so early it only cost me $300. That's a win, so be careful. Of course you want to celebrate your wins, you want the recognition, but don't create something out of thin air. For example, “100% PM compliance!” It's like, what is that? I could pencil whip every single PM and get a hundred percent compliance. Why are you celebrating that? You’ve just got to be careful with it. You definitely want to celebrate.

GW: I fully agree, it's got to be something that is quantifiable and actually adds value. On the other side of that, I think you should also be promoting the failures that create loss, significant loss, because they help you to gain support for the initiatives you're looking to achieve. For example, you've been screaming, I need a criticality analysis and we've got to go get down the failure mode, and get PMs on assets that don't have PMs. And I did an analysis for a client yesterday to help put an ROI together that included an understanding that they had 600 work orders in their system in the last 12 months assigned to a line because the equipment's not in a database and doesn't get a PM. Those represent 25% of all corrective maintenance in their system, tied to assets that don't exist because they don't get a PM, it's all their corrective maintenance. So it's pretty easy to go back and say, “hey look, we're wasting $2000 a work order. There's $120,000 and 600 work orders that we're not taking care of properly, that we're just tossing out the window in exchange for some effort to put PMs in place and help mitigate some of those from happening as often as they do.

That's ridiculous. Maybe we should get the funding in next year's budget, right? And that's just as important as the win. Because in many cases we fail as maintenance managers because we don't know how to develop the ROI. We don't know how to say, this is what we've spent doing these things, and here's where the waste is. And that, that really is, to Joe's, point around understanding the business side of maintenance.

JA: Well, that's part of the reason, again, it ties back to not going to meetings. Because people don't understand plant losses, the reason maintenance gets called into meetings most of the time is to be abused and blamed for everything that's going on in the facility. The morning production meeting to me is, is vitally important, I'm going to that one, but I'm also going to that one with data, and going, “yes, the 30 minute breakdown. I got it. You didn't hit your numbers. True. But you know, this line's designed to do X and we only produced Y. Even with my 30 minute breakdown, we're still losing 50% of our capacity. Where are those numbers at?” and flipping it back on them and saying, “look, y'all aren't doing your job. I'll take the 30 minute hit, but why are we losing four hours of downtime to minor stops?”

Now if you want some help solutioning them, I would love to help you. But don't sit here in this meeting and act like my 30 minute breakdown completely ruined the year in not being able to hit the numbers. I'm sorry, but there's four hours out there that's owned by operations that wasn't solutioned last night that we could have got back as well.

GW: Joe, you're so monotone when you talk about that.

JA: I'm telling you, man, those, those are my favorite meetings to go into. But again, it's because I understand the business, I understand how to solution those things, and how to turn plants around. And you know, typically as a maintenance manager, I spent more time in operations working with operators than I did actually focusing on my maintenance guys. Because, for example, if I understand to prevent a breakdown on a motor, I've got to take my sham-wow and wipe it off once a shift so that it doesn't collect dust, because as that layer of dust continues to build, I reduce the life of the motor by half and then by three quarters, and then eventually the motor fails due to overheating because I didn't take my towel and wipe down the fins in the fan blade, which takes 12 seconds. I can prevent those issues by having someone do that, then my guys aren't out there running around like chickens with their head cut off and we actually have time to do things that add value. It's very simple things that the operators can do to extend the life of the equipment. But no one's spent time investing in them, and I would spend all my time investing in them.

GW: When we talk about what maintenance can do, that's exactly what maintenance can do. It's kind of two twofold, right? So you have your equipment reliability strategy from a maintenance perspective, which is, am I going to predict values and use technologies and replace wear components, and all that fun stuff. On the other side of that, there's a whole another world that folks don't generally look at. And if you want to see it, you just go into your CMMS and you pull all the work orders that you were tied to an asset and replaced no part. Every work order you did that was not either preventive or predictive in nature, and you tied it to an asset but replaced no part, is generally areas where you are solving operational issues, but not teaching operations to fish for themself.

So you come out to the line and the setup was no good, and you make adjustments and figure it out. You figure out how to make the box maker run when the corrugate’s no good. You figure out all these things as maintenance. But you don't teach operations to do it, and all this time gets wasted while they try to figure it out for 20 minutes, can't figure it out, and then call you. You have to button up what you're doing. It takes 15 minutes for you to get to the line. Meanwhile, 30 minutes of downtime has happened (that you get talked to in the morning meeting by the way) because maintenance eventually responded to it, even though it wasn't a maintenance breakdown. What we suggest in the maintenance space of this is that maintenance can help create those standards in which operations can then better operate their equipment.

JA: What we're finding is about 75% of those calls are just that they're not going out and replacing parts or any components, and that's very conservative I would say, and those are what's called a process failure. Something in the process has failed. It could be a lack of training, it could be a lack of understanding, all this type of stuff, but you want to know why you're so busy running around like a chicken with the head cutoff.
It's that right there.

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Assets Anonymous | Assets Anonymous

Assets Anonymous is a 12-step podcast series designed to help you get grounded in reliability basics and create a culture of continuous improvement with your team. This series will feature interviews with George Williams and Joe Anderson of ReliabilityX, which aims to bridge the gap between operations and maintenance through holistic reliability focused on plant performance.

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