Reactive maintenance rate: The leading indicator that gets no respect

July 19, 2022
Even if you know your reactive maintenance rate, you probably would rather not talk about it.

Most manufacturing organizations measure lagging indicators such as units produced and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which measures uptime, rate, and yield. To improve production volume, most plants use the gold standard of Pareto (also known as the 80/20 rule) to identify and mitigate the top five chronic losses.

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The other typical lagging indicator is cost. It’s nearly universal practice for an accounting function to measure and trend total manufacturing cost, along with the sub-category of maintenance cost.

When it comes to leading indicators, many plants deploy standard metrics such as overtime, schedule compliance, and PM compliance. One leading indicator that’s rarely used is Reactive Maintenance, even though the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) considers it a best-practice metric. At Life Cycle Engineering (LCE), we call this metric Maintenance Break-In Work (MBIW).

Whether the metric is called Reactive Maintenance or Maintenance Break-In Work, when it is used, it’s typically measured incorrectly. MBIW is calculated as follows:

MBIW = (Total labor hours spent on break-in work / Total craft labor hours) × 100

It is important to define what work order priorities account for break-in work:

  • Emergency Work: work hours that result from a breakdown causing lost production or service
  • Urgent Work: not the result of a breakdown, but work hours that require breaking the weekly work schedule to avoid a possible breakdown, or work that should have been scheduled but was not.

For example, one plant LCE recently worked with had most of their work orders categorized with a routine priority. Their metric for breakdown maintenance, which used work order count as the measure, was in the 12% range. After improving their priority structure to assign priorities based on time, the maintenance manager did not want to redefine and report MBIW based on labor hours, per the best-practice definition. When asked why, he said it would make him look bad.

When the correct definition was configured into the reporting software based on labor hours and included all shift maintenance hours spent on reactive work, the weekly results averaged 28%:

  • Maintenance consisted of 50 skilled tradespeople
  • 50 people × 40 hours available per week = 2,000 hours
  • Emergency and Urgent work hours = average of 560 hours per week
  • Reactive work =  560 hours/week divided by 2,000 hours/week = 28%

Why does MBIW get no respect as a leading indicator?

One reason is that it is a measure of a negative performance. By correctly measuring Reactive Maintenance, the negative is highlighted for all to see.

A second reason follows: no one likes to present negative results to their boss. We are trained that when one identifies a problem they are now accountable to fix it.

We should all challenge this paradigm. When Reactive Maintenance is correctly measured, meaning that it is probably a larger percentage than we like to admit, the result should be viewed as an opportunity. It’s important to measure reactive maintenance correctly and trend it weekly, and to include it in monthly communication reports. A plant should also Pareto the common causes of break-in work.

In my experience, these are common lessons learned:

  1.  True plant emergencies (where a production unit is down or there’s a significant EH&S event) and the associated maintenance labor hours are not as numerous as people perceive.
  2. Plant personnel will over-utilize this priority to get their issue resolved, regardless of the correct lower priority.
  3. Urgent work accounts for the majority of MBIW events and hours. Many of these are good use of this priority to prevent problems like a line going down.
  4. However, many urgent events are the result of last-minute poor decision-making and planning.

Here’s how you can use MBIW as an effective leading indicator

Develop Reactive Maintenance Pareto data and charts to identify problem equipment and assign them to reliability engineers to mitigate. Also, use the data to change behavior and improve decision-making through education and training. When you can convince your team to commit to this expression, you’ll be able to improve Reactive Maintenance:  “We are going to expose reality, we are going to own it, and act on it.”

This story originally appeared in the July 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

About the Author: John Cray

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