Imagine a world where maintenance, reliability, and operations teams operate together and are aligned on achieving a common goal. What would that look like? For one, it would mean no more infighting between the three teams about when to take a piece of equipment offline, when to run scheduled maintenance, when to run a piece of equipment to failure, or what production goals should be.
It would mean complete alignment between maintenance, reliability, and operations so each team can focus on what they do best. When teams are synced like this, it enables them to run at full speed 100% of the time. But it’s not just teams who would benefit; it’s the whole organization. Companies would operate more productively because pointless meetings would be gone.
It’s a world where maintenance, reliability, and operations teams aren’t stuck in pointless meetings, worrying about politics. Everyone would come together to achieve one common goal; one unified team where everyone is there to help each other. Other benefits include lower cost of goods, more reliable equipment, less human error and safety issues, better working environments, and happier people.
Everything within an organization should be synchronized.
–Ricky Smith, UpKeep Maintenance Expert
It can be hard, though, to get workers on the same page initially. Natgas, a Mexican company dedicated to promoting an environmentally-friendly fuel alternative, used work order data to create a motivational, competitive game for its employees. Not only did technicians see how they compared with colleagues, but they had an opportunity to earn extra vacation days for good performance.
Ricardo Andre Carmona, Director of Engineering at Natgas, explained that he extracted work order data and began sharing it daily by posting pictures of the technicians on company televisions, along with how many work orders they had opened and closed over the last week, as well as how many work orders they had active.
“Beyond that, I could start grabbing the data and create a really interesting scoring system,” Ricardo said. “If technicians completed work orders on time, they got 100 points. As the deadline passed, the points earned would drop. They could see their scores in progress, and the person who had the highest score received an extra day off the next month. The whole team was really into it.”
This core concept of Asset Operations Management (AOM) revolves around bringing together the maintenance, reliability, and operations teams to rally around the same goals for every critical asset. It’s a mindset, a culture, and a philosophy that must be supported by the right data, technology, and tools to make it happen.
What would it look like if organizations weren’t split into disjointed, siloed teams? Natgas is a great example. Let’s go back to them.
During some of Natgas’ initial growth, their maintenance efforts were being handled by individual technicians in varying ways. Some technicians would perform work orders and put them in binders, while others would use a spreadsheet or a CMMS system that was in development. Ricardo knew he needed to bring all these elements together and connect the maintenance system to the company’s other systems.
Without a centralized repository of data, each of the three key asset-focused teams at Natgas would be working with incomplete information, at best, and heading off in a completely wrong or extremely inefficient direction at worst. Once Ricardo and Natgas settled on an AOM mindset and solution, it helped everyone involved to jump-start Natgas’ ability to dive deep into existing data.
Example of UpKeep centralized data system.
Image source: https://www.upkeep.com/product/work-order-management
Additionally, the connection between systems and teams helped the company spot other inefficiencies. About the mindset shift, Ricardo said: “Our dashboard allows us to see how our electrical consumption is tied to maintenance efforts. We had one situation where I noticed that we had a sudden increase in electrical consumption, and I could see that we happened to have maintenance work done by a contractor during that same period.
“I asked my manager to check into that immediately, and we discovered there was some modification that one of our contractors had made on our equipment that caused the increase. It was spotted so quickly, and that incident alone saved us 20% of our electrical bill per year.”
Another of the company’s goals was to reduce the amount of corrective maintenance, which was at about 50% before AOM. As teams collected more data, workers had what they needed to make smarter business decisions, and management could get a better overview of all the stations and what was happening in terms of equipment and components. After AOM, Natgas reduced its corrective maintenance to 20%.
Another benefit of having maintenance, reliability, and operations aligned on a common goal is the increase in productivity. Technical teams could get together proactively to check meters and graphs for different assets in different locations. These teams could say, “All right, we’re good here,” and move to the next location or identify something as a unified team that needed more attention.
Let’s say a hypothetical food and beverage manufacturer continues down the alternative path for another five years. Equipment continues to age. Maintenance, reliability, and operations work harder every year to meet their departmental goals. Critical assets remain in the middle, at the hands of multiple team members pulling them in somewhat different directions. Over time, this disjointed scenario will begin to negatively impact each of the three departments involved, as well as the whole company.
A maintenance team could see its balance shifting from preventive maintenance tasks to more reactive ones. Stress levels for technicians begin to rise, and more of them start to feel like they are always “putting out fires.” Managers and operators submitting repair requests are seeing the maintenance staff negatively as they blame them for broken equipment and increased downtime.
Maintenance costs begin to skyrocket, reinforcing an age-old belief that maintenance is a necessary evil and unavoidable cost center.
Meanwhile, the operations team can no longer boost uptime with band-aid fixes and begins to experience a domino effect throughout the facility. Unplanned downtime rises, resulting in lost production and unusable labor.
At the same time, consumer demand for more natural and organic ingredients, as well as shorter delivery time frames, put additional pressure on the organization. While the reliability team struggles with having enough resources to keep the aging equipment running around the clock, it also faces difficulty in tying its work to business finances to justify funding additional support.
Suddenly, the company begins to miss deadlines for order deliveries and sees an increase in back order issues. Customers start to complain about late and incomplete shipments due to production issues. Costs rise while market share and profits begin a downward slide.
If, however, a company chooses to embrace the asset operations management philosophy before heading down this typical path, it can avoid many of these negative impacts and reap the benefits of its maintenance, operations, and reliability teams united around asset-focused goals. Let’s take a look at this alternative scenario again and its resulting returns.
When the food and beverage manufacturer hit its 10-year anniversary, the management team recognizes the need for an integrated, centralized system that can pull all its asset-related data into one centralized repository. It knows it needs a cultural change as well as a realignment of company goals around asset health.
Management leads the effort, working with departments to redefine goals and objectives away from the work being done to revolve around the value being provided. Maintenance begins to reward technicians for problem-solving, adding value to the process, and flagging underlying issues instead of simply completing and closing work orders.
At the same time, a technology solution that centralizes data is put in place so that when a technician is assigned a work order for a repair, a detailed explanation of the current problem with photos appears. The complete history of the asset, including all preventive maintenance performed, all problems and repairs reported and completed, any failure modes discovered by reliability, all manufacturer documentation, relevant checklists, and the status of parts within inventory is at the technician’s fingertips. By combining all this data with the technician’s own past experience, they’re empowered to complete the repair, make a temporary fix while flagging another expert for a closer look, or get additional assistance or parts as needed. The technician has all the tools and data to do the right thing each and every time.
When people know the score, reflected with consistent, accurate data, they are able to make better daily decisions
–Ricky Smith, UpKeep Maintenance Expert
The operations team has ready access to standardized and documented workflows, which eliminates trial and error efforts and searching for answers by calling or emailing colleagues. A customized dashboard allows the operations team to obtain operational insights on performance, efficiency, revenue generation, and cost savings, all in real time. The new asset operations solution anticipates replacement parts needed, updating the management team on part quantities and order status, as well as their effects on outstanding work orders.
Since the reliability team now has access to granular data on each work order, the team can now enhance and optimize the performance of each asset. This work and its results are easily organized and presented as dashboards that align with KPIs in formats such as shareable PDFs and customizable reports. Any member of the organization can have the ability to categorize and view work orders by technician, team, asset, or location to discover more opportunities for reliability improvements.
Finally, when it comes to helping technicians feel empowered, knowledgeable, and connected, a great resource to utilize is certification, such as the Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP) certification. This resource ensures that each qualifying member has an in-depth and well-rounded knowledge of maintenance and reliability topics, such as Equipment Reliability, Physical Asset Management, and Manufacturing Process Reliability. By giving technicians the opportunity to increase their understanding and awareness of their essential duties while expanding the realm of what they believe is possible, a company can continue to build on the progress they have made with their AOM efforts.
Excerpt from “Asset Operations: The Future of Maintenance, Reliability, and Operations,” courtesy of Ryan Chan. To purchase a copy, visit store.noria.com/products/asset-operations.
Ryan Chan will be a featured speaker at the 2023 Reliable Plant Conference and Exhibition.