Questions, comments and random thought triggers on maintenance

Rex M. Gallaher

I evaluate maintenance operations on the existence of effective PM programs, a working and meaningful work order and information system, effectiveness of the stockroom, and the processes in place to support the technician. Are there contingent processes in place for handling emergencies? Are there seasonal variations to specific processes?

Where are the resources to support the fixer: tools, documentation, past history, spares, technical support and management? Are they readily available when needed? Does the fixer shag parts or does the stockroom deliver for breakdowns? How about accessibility of documentation for the "fix"?

Are there processes in place which allow the operator and technician to make informed decisions, to work as suppliers/customers to each other, to participate in work design and provide information on performance to make for world-class maintenance?

Your management and processes must provide the necessary tools and information for a trained employee and not get in the way of his or her efforts. They should either help or get out of the way.

Realistic benchmarks can be gleaned from industry groups, professional organizations, trade groups and within a company for plant comparison. Benchmarks are tricky in understanding terminology and processes. Benchmark numbers are less important than the processes that generated them. These can be documented from professional association with other maintenance professionals, literature, attending conferences and networking. Most important is personal observation. Is the process dependent upon a champion? Do you have such a person?

Use your contacts, employees, benchmarks and professional organizations to tackle:

  • Reactive maintenance
  • A hostile environment
  • Lack of training
  • Poor storeroom procedures
  • Lack of discipline to operating procedures
  • Self-serving metrics
  • An adversarial relationship with customers
  • Poor supervision (not knowledgeable, demeaning behavior)
  • Caste system
  • No analytical effort
  • No log books
  • Folklore maintenance
  • No review of PMs
  • No PERs
  • Excessive overtime
  • No backlog
  • Too much backlog
  • No priorities
  • An uninformed customer
  • No accountability
  • No effort for continuous improvement

Do you want a learning organization? What has been your role in the above issues? Placing a new process in such an environment will validate the old axiom of "clean it up to see if what you have is really effective before you change". Only then will the delta between your process and the benchmark be evident.

TPM, OEE and RCM: Look hard at Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) principles. Begin to train all (including personnel, finance and the ops folks) on the concepts behind overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and the concepts of value-added activities. Begin to talk in terms of losses and lost opportunity costs. Work toward Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) in development of equipment/system support plans. What is meant by condition-based maintenance?

Improve training: Ask the employees what they need. Do some benchmarking with other companies you know. Can you have joint seminars? How would you design one? Implement good planning. Most importantly, provide all employees with actionable information and meaningful explanations of management decisions. Treat employees as citizens of the company. Discover the real talents of each employee and grow that through specific work assignments.

Other learnings: Seek out expectations of internal customers with face-to-face surveys. Learn their language. Run a business making a profit. Focus on product quantity and quality (i.e. OEE). Target improvement in information, planning, communications and standard processes to make the operation seaml

Buildings and unskilled workforces: Use technology to monitor the building systems and have contracts with outside vendors for on-call maintenance for areas in which you can't maintain skilled workers. Train less-skilled employees to be able to take instructions over the phone or by using video. Arrange with vendors to provide remote diagnostics, and guide employees to correct situations. Develop internal on-the-job training using available expertise; use outside training organizations to train, including vendors.

Metrics for evaluating: First must be a tie-in of maintenance costs to the plant's product and quality. I would like to see OEE-type metrics tied to resource utilization. Work order systems must incorporate production/equipment performance against maintenance effort. Planned work must be greater than 60 percent. Scheduled work must be greater than 70 percent. I would like for wrench time to be at least 40 percent. Expect to see work order systems which require planning and a report against plans, and collect history to support planning.

Also important:

  • A planned work backlog of two to four weeks
  • Account for every hour paid
  • A priority system, daily shift turn over process
  • Participative empowered employees
  • Clean restrooms

Are clean restrooms a key process indicator (KPI)? They should be.

Remember, vision, passion, knowledge are best validated by humility.

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