4 FM quick reads on maintenance management
1. Maintenance: Focus on Work-Order Management
Scheduling work orders causes significant pain and heartburn for most maintenance and engineering departments trying to escape the grasp of chaos and become world-class organizations.
Maintenance and engineering managers have tried work-order scheduling in many forms, but most have found only limited success because they overlook key strategies and building blocks essential for making work-order scheduling successful. One of the first issues managers need to address is the reason they want to schedule. In other words, why is it important to the department, the organization and customers?
The first reason is that it can improve customer service. We must have a structured maintenance process that allows us to promise to our customers when we will be on the job site to perform the promised work. Think of waiting for the cable guy. Departments too often continue the habit of promising to do things but then rarely showing up on time. The results are reduced customer satisfaction, lower morale, and increased daily work chaos.
If we want to improve customer satisfaction and customers' willingness to work with the maintenance organization, we must be reliable and perform as we promise. Doing so will change their perception of the maintenance department and change the perception of maintenance from being part of the problem to being part of the asset-management solution.
The second reason work-order scheduling is important is that it improves labor efficiency. If departments successfully schedule work, the cost to perform that work drops significantly because planners can better coordinate labor and materials. When the cost to perform work drops, it indicates technicians completed the work more efficiently, meaning the maintenance department can complete more work with the same amount of staff.
The third reason for work-order scheduling is that it improves the work's quality and increases worker safety.
2. Maintenance Strategies: Technician Training
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, technician training
The Des Moines (Iowa) School District has made a major commitment to sustainability in recent years. Of its 52 schools, 38 have undergone renovations and upgrades that led to an Energy Star rating by earning a score of at least 75 on a 0-100 scale.
And in tackling the number of renovations and upgrades the district does — especially when those projects involve newer, more advanced technology — managers have gone to great lengths to ensure technicians have the training necessary to maintain the equipment properly.
"We have a very well-trained staff of maintenance people," says, Dave Silver, the district's facilities director. "One of the first things that happens when we take possession of a building is owner training supplied by the contractors or system manufacturers. We have what's called owner training, and there are two levels. It's one level for my people who maintain the systems and actually work on them, and there's one level for operations staff."
District technicians also are involved in project design — not a typical scenario in commercial and institutional facilities — which illustrates the team approach the district takes in executing renovations and equipment upgrades. That approach is particularly evident in the relationship between Silver and his boss, Bill Good, who understands the importance of investing in existing buildings and the role the facilities department plays in prolonging the life of those buildings.
Says Silver, "I felt like there was an opportunity to save money and energy for several years. Bill was way ahead of us when he came on board. He already had a very good energy-conservation program at his former employer. It was an easy marriage. I was thankful. There wasn't any selling to Bill. It was more Bill coming to me saying he wanted to do this. I was anxious to jump on the bus as soon as he opened the door."
3. Avoiding Outsourcing Failure
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is avoiding outsourcing failure.
Directly or indirectly, all maintenance and engineering managers have experience with outsourcing. Many have found great success with outsourcing endeavors, but even more have found problems — even serious failures — with outsourcing contracts and contractors, says Michael Cowley, president of CE Maintenance Solutions, who provides maintenance training, coaching, and consulting services.
Outsourcing can be an effective tool to help managers and organizations make progress toward productivity and effectiveness, but outsourcing is not always a less-expensive or even successful alternative. And there is one common mistake managers make most often that is fatal to the process, Cowley says.
An array of problems, from hiring the wrong contractor or setting unrealistic goals to inadequate contract details or inflexible contracts, can ruin the relationship between the contractor and the manager and lead to outsourcing failure.
Good outsourcing contractors perform an autopsy after the death of an outsourcing contract to determine the reasons it failed and steps the parties involved can take to prevent future problems.
But here is the single most common cause of outsourcing failure: Building owners and managers who fail to understand the existing scope of work and do not offer a vision for measurable maintenance performance.
It might seem difficult to believe that most managers or owners are clueless about the details of the scope or statement of work for the existing job or workers, but it's true, Cowley says. Then they hire a contractor to do the work and expect that company to understand the organization's needs or wants, based only on a one-hour bid meeting and a 10-page document.