At a certain level of growth, organizations can’t be governed without strategies. This does not imply that a strategy is not needed for small scale of businesses. Because the strategy is the framework around which the business is running. Even if you don’t have a written strategy, you have one in your mind while running your business.
Elements of a strategy:
Those are the elements that either you keep in your mind or you write on a piece of paper while setting up your business. Those elements are your business strategy. They include the goals from the vision and mission i.e. your north star (s) and plans and tactics to achieve them.
- A description of your product, service or both and a description of your customers, how to acquire and retain them.
- An understanding of the regulations through which you are running the business. And, an understanding of your finances and the economic environment. Then, how to cope with them.
- How to achieve the vision of the business? Simply, how do you reach your dream of your business after 5 years from now?
- Your plan from a helicopter-view together with some milestones to denote that you are on your track.
How these strategy elements are related to maintenance?
Maintenance keeps an asset performing to the standard that is required by the business to achieve its objectives (1). So maintenance is a core unit of the business because it maintains the assets used to produce revenue usable.
- Maintenance product is the asset availability. Maintenance end customers are all the stake holders and the final user of the organization’ product or service.
- While, the Maintenance direct customers are the other business units or silos in its business environment.
- The regulations of safety, environment and wastes are to be followed by every business unit of the organization including maintenance.
- The maintenance vision can’t be different from the organization vision but it should support it. If the organization vision is to expand production locations, Maintenance vision needs to focus on building a system that can be inherited by other locations, have autonomous groups or acquire a digital maintenance management system that work across different locations. And under this corporate strategy, maintenance strategy can’t be expenses reduction by 5% yearly.
- Mission, that’s the maintenance tactics. Preventive, predictive or corrective.
Do we call it Maintenance Tactics or a Maintenance strategy?
Some refer to the maintenance tactics as the Maintenance Strategy. The maintenance team selection to adopt any of these tactics or a mix of them is its strategy to cope with the business strategy. So it is not a wrong approach because the organization vision, mission and environment will guide the selection of those tactics.
Examples of Maintenance Tactics that cope with organization strategy:
- When there is a cost reduction strategy, maintenance focus on doing the right activities and doing them right without new investment to minimize rework and overtime costs.
- When the business strategy calls for a leading position in the market, maintenance strategy should focus upon the best in class bench marks.
- If the best quality is the main business target, maintenance strategy should focus on eliminating any failure or partial failure that compromises quality
- If the company proclaims the efficiency of resources usage in its vision, maintenance strategy should focus on reducing wastes from the maintenance process or from the raw material due to failures.
Life Strategies in study and vacation
Just a side note, you generate a strategy for your self in every thing you do. During school time we had a studying strategy that might be tough. However we were never taught the meaning of a strategy at that time. Either the bare minimum score satisfied you because you had other hobbies where of higher priority for you. Or, you were targeting the best in class seat even this labelled you as a nerd. You have some benefit from each scenario that motivates you to adapt and accept it.
It appears clearly when you make a strategy -a plan based on your goals- for your vacation trips. The context or the environmental factors whether internal or external inject some influences on your strategy. Example when you aim the minimum cost for your trip, the reason can be one of the following:
- You want to travel, have the time, companion and energy but limited with the budget
- May be you challenge your friends or colleagues for the minimum cost trip
- You don’t enjoy the formal dressed hotel receptionist and guest, you don’t consider this a vacation. So, you look for a hotels and transportation with fewer star ratings.
The end target is to enjoy your trip and achieve your targets from it. Same as maintenance and business your strategy need to be guiding you for the end target.
The strategies we set for maintenance need to resonate with the team and company strategies. If there is no supporting computerized functioning maintenance management system, we can’t aim for analyzing all maintenance feedback specially for large organizations i.e. big number of assets. In case that the national regulations calls for time based maintenance for overhead cranes parts, it is not wise to include overhead cranes for the condition based maintenance and result in a fluctuating maintenance cycle. We can’t also target RCM – Reliability Centered Maintenance approach- for all maintenance activities. RCM is mainly for high priority assets. Even the definition of high priority is doubtable. The asset may have a high priority due to safety risk, business risk, cost, or many other factors. Which one was your point of focus?
Why Maintenance leaders need to be aware of the business strategy and pass it to their teams?
The QMS (Quality Management System) ISO 9001:2015 update mandated that the organization leadership team to be accountable and actively participating in maintaining the business context. And, the business strategies and context to be aligned all over the organization business units. It also shouldered them the investigation of internal and external issues affecting the business context. Followed by evaluating the risk of each issue and planning actions to eliminate or reduce high risks. This new trend was backed by researches and studies for years before the ISO 9001 adopted it in its 2015 update.
Understanding the strategy of the company or business you are providing services for is helpful for the employees and the organization. Because, the organization will have all the physical and mental efforts of its team streamlined. When all the efforts are synchronized in one direction, it is like all the atoms of an element, when they are aligned in one direction, you start to feel its magnetic powers. On the other hand when the employees are not aligned to serve a bigger target, they feel isolated. Isolation creates friction and unrest. Those emotions prevents the work place from being attractive and supportive for the improvement of each individual team member.
The bottom line
To be fair about it, not every piece of the strategy would be of interest to all levels. In other words, the workshop mechanics won’t be interested in the marketing strategies or the financial strategy. What is more important are the company general or overall strategies. Why? Because they include the vision of the company and its mission. This means that each business unit need to generate its strategy in alignment with the company strategy and at the same time make it relevant to its team members. We shall elaborate more on how to align and harmonize strategies in a coming chat.
- (1) UPTIME, strategies for excellence in Maintenance, John D Campbell & James V. Reyes-Picknell
- (2) Maintenance and Reliability Best Practices, Ramesh Gullati
There is a strategy behind every action we take in life or at work whether you are aware of it or not. There is no intention to annoy the employees by enforcing strategies. However strategies are not to be placed on the shelf till an auditor ask you about. Strategies work best when they are understood by employees, employers and all middle management. Strategies are meant to streamline the efforts of all the team and to be a reference point to return to.. Enjoy your coffee however you like it, it is a bless.