Yes & No. How ? let us talk about it a little today. Maintenance in its simple definition is maintaining the equipment performing as required while shouldering the business the minimum possible costs. Maintenance has two folds: Maintenance as a function which involves the execution of the activities and the executers. The other fold looks after managing the maintenance process. The maintenance process includes the initiation, planning, coordination, scheduling, execution, feedback, analysis and upgrading. Managing the maintenance process looks over the availability of spares, skills, tools, feedback recording window and analyses that leads to performance upgrade.
The bottom line of every maintenance track is to execute a repair action that would maintain the equipment condition healthy. There are many ways that would lead to the initiation of the need to a maintenance action. Those initiation triggers include: Proactive triggers as calendar, operation hours and condition. And, it also includes Reactive triggers; that’s the efficient response to a failure.
What is common between the maintenance tasks across different work locations?
The repair activity is common wherever the same machine is used. Those activities come originally from the manufacturer of the machine. Even those activities that originate from experience they have some deep root source from the equipment manual. Lubrication and lubricant quantity and type are almost never changing. Calibration procedure, filter changing steps, field sensors replacement and settings, all these are done almost the same way in most work locations. That’s regardless of the size of the workplace, the language or the culture. But,
What varies when we are executing the same maintenance task in different work locations?
Almost everything else differs. starting from the quality of spare parts and tools to the skills and to the task initiation point and the afterwards analysis-if any. The major influencer for those different routes are the culture of the workplace i.e. the internal environmental factors. The second most important influencer are the maintenance team leaders or the maintenance manager based on the organization hierarchy. Actually the management team is usually a reflection of the workplace environment. Yet, we had always seen exceptional managers who perform far better than what is expected in such a work place and others who are exceptionally incompetent with their workplace.
Comes third are the external environmental factors. That’s the bigger picture outside the boundaries of the factory. This bigger picture includes in its elements the target customer sector needs, the national regulations-if any-, and the team culture.
There are many routes that you can take to reach your goal in any anything you want not only in maintenance. Just you need to know where you start from and what is your end target. Each route will take you to a destination. Focus on your targets and the routes to them will unfold gradually.
Where do the different routes come from?
First, The manufacturer or the maintenance manual are not routes. They only provide the activities which are milestones on the road. The steps that will be taken to initiate and prepare for performing the activity those are the different paths that you may take. If we assumed a reasonably mature maintenance process, it surely include daily inspections for the equipment. The design of those daily inspections include:
- Route of the inspection
- Who will do it?
- inspections grouped by area, equipment or specialty
- Checklists, how mature? General or include specific data collection
- Analysis of the checklists results
- Actions taken based on the inspections
- Shuffling and updating of the checklists
If we used the daily inspection checklists as an example and what it should include, then what are the source of those decisions needed to well craft it?
Actually any maintenance team is usually built around some experienced team members. Those experienced team members carry with them what they had learnt from their previous workplaces. They have good will when they try to enforce those collected knowledge in the workplace. They can do it best and they had seen it in action. However, when there is a diversity between the backgrounds of the experienced team members i.e. they came from different previous industries, this will enrich the pool of inherited knowledge. Moreover, when they are blended together in a new work place, they will storm, norm then perform and stabilize.
The Business Environment
The internal and external business environment shapes the performance of maintenance. Just consider the difference between an organization targeting the minimum cost vs an organization targeting the best quality of the product and a world class management. The business environment and the culture of the workplace can be very intimidating that there are no time allocated for routine maintenance. The maintenance team can only access the equipment when there is a failure. Some of the perceptions that affect the maintenance process:
- Maintenance takes from the operation time. Actually it adds to it the saved time from failures.
- Cost of maintenance is reducing the profit. Actually it saves the drain of lost quality, production rate, extra fuel or lubricants usage and prevents multiple sudden failures.
- Equipment is never the same again after maintenance. Actually it is better after maintenance unless the provided parts or the team skills are not adequate for the job requires or the equipment are deteriorating due to misuse.
- On the other side, the maintenance team maybe stocking too much spares or, they are not properly handing over the equipment to operations or they are missing the proper planning and coordination for the stoppages.
That’s a Great source to close the gap between where you are now in maintenance and where you want to do. However it is never a magic bullet. Everyone is speaking and writing about his own best practices. Whether the ones he practiced or those he monitored or studied as a consultant. Best practices is a very wide avenue. Every successful organization has its own set of best practices that might not be directly applicable to your case. However, surely they will be inspiring and eye opening to alternative ways of doing things. Exposing your maintenance team to new ways of doing things will inspire their creativity but adopting a complete package from another workplace needs a cultural change.
All the best practices examples share common things:
- They document the as is or what they are doing now. That’s to create an awareness of the now situation.
- Some SMART targets are in place and known by all team members.
- There is a vision of how we may achieve the targets
- They are open to learn, upgrade and change. Otherwise they will stay at square zero as they can see no other ways of doing things.
All of us in the maintenance field share the core repair activities. Yet the road to the point when we execute this activity and what follows the execution varies a lot. Even though many work locations share the same titles of Proactive maintenance, condition monitoring, daily inspections, checklists, maintenance program, maintenance planning, Performance indicators and so on. How these items are executed and why? vary a lot based on the collective experience and business environment of the workplace.
Be open to all routes and select what fits in your case, don’t spare efforts, be mindful so you can change, expand your knowledge and learn.