Maintenance at Large

By Thomas A. Westerkamp  

A maintenance manager of a large university told me this story: “My preventive maintenance program was getting further and further behind, due to an increase in regulatory compliance work and projects. I took a large box of deferred preventive maintenance work orders to my boss and said, ‘This is why I need more staffing.’ He said “I only need to make one staffing change and that’s to replace you because you can’t get your work done.”

What we have here is a lack of communication. The two management levels have different points of view and little common ground for decision making. How can managers get on the same wave length as executives? Case studies of operational assessments indicate that very few executives at different levels communicate well because there often is no plan to effectively link the mission to the business process.

Mission statements are largely conceptual, while business processes are fairly practical. Yes, there are job descriptions with specific responsibilities. But the missing link is a clear, detailed policy statement that links the mission with the business process. This statement includes responsibilities, as well as metrics that spell out management expectations and a reporting system that regularly updates all levels about tasks completed compared to goals, costs incurred and savings resulting from investments.

A good policy statement is very clear about the circumstances that must occur before staffing changes take place. The policy states the amount of backlog that is acceptable and the expected rate of work-order completion. If the work-order backlog exceeds that level, if work orders are completed at an acceptable rate, and if this condition is seen as a continuing not temporary one, then staffing can be adjusted with overtime or an appropriate staffing increase.

Another advantage of this approach — there are no surprises. It is decided in advance, and the accurate records that drive it give management lead time to make the right decision in a timely manner.

Making the Connection

Getting management approval for investments is always more likely to succeed when all parties use the same game plan. In a typical situation, the maintenance mission might be described as “to provide the optimum quantity and quality of maintenance service, on time, safely and at a reasonable cost.”

The policy describes the management and departments responsible for achieving each mission components, the metric that will measure success, and the acceptable ranges for each metric.

For example, quantity and quality are measured using standard practices and times. Jobs are planned using these standards, and actual results are measured using the performance metric. The policy states that performance is acceptable if standard divided by actual time is 95 percent or better for the week, and the quality and completeness of the work are acceptable to the requester and maintenance supervisor.

Using the mission-policy-process linking approach offers several advantages. Everyone knows what the boss expects and when they have achieved the target. Goals offer a unique motivational tool for each job when the performance target is shown on the work order, along with an accepted standard method or job plan. And supervisors can use these results to determine ongoing training needs and tailor training appropriately.

Conversion from performance improvement into dollars saved gives management a tool to show the value received for dollars paid, the return on the investment versus the cost of implementing maintenance improvements, the break-even point, and the justification for past and future expenditures.

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  posted on 3/1/2003   Article Use Policy

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