By Michael Cowley
Maintenance & Operations Article Use Policy
The maintenance world is full of myths, and the biggest myth goes all the way to the top of your organization. Corporate management often does not understand the value of the maintenance and engineering function in many companies.
Many top corporate executives still believe the maintenance and engineering function is a necessary evil and should always be housed in the back of the building or in the basement — out of sight and, hopefully, out of mind.
What these executives fail to understand is that the maintenance and engineering team is the one component of all organizations that is in 100 percent control of 100 percent of assets and buildings. This means the maintenance team is in control of an organization’s revenue and profits.
If you disagree, ask yourself who in your organization is responsible for the maintenance of electrical systems, boilers, HVAC systems, building structures, life safety systems, communication, and on and on. The answer is the maintenance technician — the person most building occupants hardly know but think is overpaid, underworked, and nowhere to be found when needed.
Top executives also tend to believe maintenance is part of the organization’s cost problems, and they are constantly looking for ways to lower the costs associated with maintenance and engineering. In reality, they constantly try to nickel-and-dime to death the group of employees that have the greatest control of a business’s success and, ultimately, profits. The solution is to change attitudes and management cultures from one that sees maintenance as only a cost center to one that treats it as an important profit center.
How do we debunk the myth? How do we change the culture that has been around for years, one that to executives your customers have accepted as fact? Managers can use a number of tactics to transform the image of maintenance to that of a profit center.
In order to demonstrate your department’s true value to the organization, you first need something to demonstrate. You need to be able to show the contributions your team makes to the organization’s success. You need to be able to show the way things have improved with the positive and proactive actions your team has taken.
Most managers do not take enough time to sell the accomplishments of their departments. I don’t mean bragging about the emergency repair your staff made at 2 a.m. — the one that might not have been necessary if you had an effective preventive maintenance (PM) program. Instead, you need to be able to sell the good things your department accomplishes, such as fewer emergencies, longer asset life, lower life-cycle costs, higher customer satisfaction, better work quality, less deferred maintenance, and more effective PM.
The first conceptual tasks for management to do is develop a vision of where you want the department to be in three-five years. Assess your organization, and develop a road map of all the tasks needed to accomplish and achieve your vision. It might take some time to gather these items and them put on paper, but they are critical for success.
The key here is develop a concrete plan, just as you would if you were managing a project to replace a major piece of equipment or expanding one of your buildings. Develop a plan and a schedule, and assign a champion to manage the progress of the entire process.
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