Asset Management Management March

Making Sense Of Plant Maintenance

EP Editorial Staff | March 13, 2013


Despite growing acceptance, SAP’s Plant Maintenance (PM) function remains misunderstood and under-used. Here’s how to change that.

By Daniel Van Wyk, Quadro Solutions

SAP® R/3 (real-time data processing, 3-tier), or ECC (Enterprise Central Component), is an Enterprise Resource Planning tool that provides facilities an integrated solution for managing business operations and customer relations. The SAP PM (Plant Maintenance) module is a subset of SAP EAM (Enterprise Asset Management). SAP PM contains the key Maintenance Planning and Scheduling functionalities to support successful asset or equipment maintenance. The ultimate challenge for a maintenance department is how to optimize and integrate SAP PM/EAM system functionality for the planning and scheduling of repairs, inspections and STO (shutdown, turnaround, outage) activities that support effective asset management.

When an industrial organization runs SAP, it typically includes the SAP EAM program, which encompasses the SAP PM module that supports Maintenance and Reliability. Based on this arrangement, users typically expect that they will be able to effectively manage maintenance planning and scheduling to track and analyze “repairs and inspections.” 

Management, for its part, usually will be expecting something else: It desires powerful reporting that can help to control and possibly reduce the amount of reactive work, while at the same time maximize proactive work. Despite such high expectations, however, most SAP implementations never reach their hoped-for business objectives. Consequently, SAP users are often unhappy—to the point that many consider their implementations to be failures. Common complaints involve the improper setup of SAP functions, which can lead to system misuse; under-utilization of the system due to its complexity; and the belief that the system can’t support the organization’s needs. 


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Fig. 1. Manufacturing and maintenance organizations typically go through multiple phases of implementing, improving and maturing their SAP PM/EAM functionality before they reach acceptable or advanced business benefits. Typically, the initial core functionality that’s implemented does not give the expected maintenance and reliability benefits because of the focus on the ‘system’ implementation. With every implementation comes increased workloads and steep learning curves due to SAP’s extensive functionality. This challenge, along with high cost and other distracting priorities, means about 70% of organizations implement SAP’s core functionality only, roll it out, then leave the users to their own devices. Around 30% are unhappy with the limited ROI they realized, and start post-go-live improvement efforts to capture additional benefits. About 10% of all implementations mature to the point where full benefits are realized.

Is it the system or the people?
The many years I’ve spent implementing and optimizing SAP PM for organizations around the globe have led me to conclude that perceived implementation failures and successes need to be carefully evaluated. It’s important to understand the exact circumstances and criteria used to make such evaluations. For example, is it possible that many successful implementations of SAP PM/EAM were once “failures” to some extent? Figure 1 offers an explanation. (Note: Table I supports Fig. 1 with additional details on the four typical implementation and improvement phases.)


Many factors can work against an SAP implementation from the very beginning. These include not only each organization’s unique history and culture, but also specific experiences with various CMMS/EAM systems prior to SAP, their use of different maintenance and reliability initiatives and varying preferences in how a company approaches improvement and optimization. Based on my own experience, use of SAP PM/EAM prior to any business-focused optimization effort normally varies between 5 and 60%, with an average of 10 to 20%. Small facilities typically use very little of SAP after an implementation; larger sites tend to use more of the system functionality. In general, 70% of implementations leave maintenance and reliability in poor shape, and without well-defined work processes, systems or documentation in place.

Exceptions to do exist—usually where business-driven organizations learned how to implement SAP PM/EAM correctly from the start. SAP is a very structured and robust system, with enough functionality to allow organizations to successfully manage maintenance planning and scheduling and the related work processes. But to operate successfully requires creative thinking, an in-depth knowledge of SAP and a good understanding of how maintenance works. The following case study explains how a company running SAP PM launched a post go-live business-driven initiative to improve maintenance and reliability, and, in the process, also optimized its SAP PM/EAM system.

SAP PM on the job
The referenced company owns 30+ specialty-chemical manufacturing sites around the world. Its well-established improvement culture encourages continuous-improvement efforts by individuals and groups. Prior to implementing SAP PM/EAM, the organization successfully implemented and rolled out a couple of CMMS systems globally. In addition, a maintenance and reliability improvement initiative was started, with limited results. The company was not new to improvement initiatives and, in time, established a good internal knowledge base and understanding of best practices in maintenance and reliability.

The company strived to increase its OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) and understood that the Maintenance Planning and Scheduling work process was the core of maintenance execution. Without improving and establishing a proficient maintenance execution vehicle, it would have been impossible to realize meaningful results, and the organization would have remained reactive with limited OEE and lowered product quality. Management knew it was important to form an internal improvement team comprised of operations and maintenance personnel, which would lead to development of broad-based, practical solutions. They also recognized the importance of having team champions who could help promote acceptance.

Still, the company lacked the in-house knowledge of SAP PM/EAM to maximize system integration in support of its work processes. They needed professional support to optimize existing data standards and structures, transactional execution and reporting. My consulting group provided them the in-depth SAP PM/EAM knowledge, and helped design, document and implement a drastically optimized SAP system. Subsequently, the company launched a pilot implementation that was followed by global rollouts to multiple sites. The approach was to first implement maintenance improvements, followed by reliability improvements. Optimization of SAP PM/EAM formed a very important and major part of both improvement phases. 

Specific SAP PM/EAM gaps that the company experienced prior to the improvement effort included:

  • Incomplete equipment/asset structures
  • Not all maintenance work was processed through SAP
  • Poor communication of equipment/system problems
  • Limited use of SAP bills of material; 
  • SAP Task Lists not used to outline repetitive repair work
  • Unclear on set up of Maintenance Plans for single equipment, complex equipment/system or inspection routes 
  • PM compliance and management couldn’t be executed within SAP
  • Workloads and backlogs were expressed in terms of open notification and order counts, making it impossible to determine if work crew numbers were sufficient to maintain stable workloads, while minimizing deferred backlogged work.

The company subsequently implemented the following work-process and SAP PM/EAM improvements:

  • The site verified its SAP Functional Location and Equipment Structures. This, in turn, resulted in approximately 4000 structural additions and changes to complete and adjust its asset structures.
  • Improved overall work identification quality using SAP Notifications to capture all work within the System, with well-defined standards that enabled clear communication of equipment problems/symptoms.
  • Established advanced job-planning standards for work orders and task lists, outlining every plan to include all resource needs with hours, along with full task descriptions, activities, safety requirements and more. This helped the planners and engineers build complete repair task-list libraries and bills of material (spare parts lists) which, in turn, resulted in faster work turnarounds and reduced planner workloads by 20%.
  • Defined advanced Maintenance Plan standards, with easy-to-use overdue preventive maintenance reports
  • Established a comprehensive scheduling methodology to work seamlessly with the SAP scheduling transactions to publish schedules weekly
  • Added custom reports that allowed for better workload management, KPI-reporting and trending. 

Most of the above improvements were achieved by maximizing the standard SAP PM/EAM functionality, with the exception of the advanced reports. Prior to the improvement effort, overall work-process compliance and system use at the pilot site was measured at 60%. This increased to more than 80% over nine months. These results were achieved through effective training along with numerous coaching sessions.

The optimization process
Optimization of SAP PM/EAM cannot be effectively performed if the project is executed in isolation. It’s necessary to thoroughly incorporate and integrate all key aspects required to improve the Maintenance and Reliability organization. Many organizations make the mistake of either skipping over or rushing through the process of setting clear objectives, and they fail to benchmark best practices. Conversely, others may actually do this work, but never incorporate their findings into the work-process design and system setup. 


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Fig 2. The effective and sustainable optimizing of SAP PM/EAM can only be accomplished if an organization works through and implements the key aspects shown in the Maintenance & Reliability Optimization Wheel.

To achieve a well-tailored set of work processes that is supported by the SAP system and aligned with the organization, it is necessary to be thorough in every step along the way. This will set the stage for high levels of compliance and system utilization, which will yield much higher maintenance and reliability benefits (see Fig. 2).

The best place to start SAP PM optimization is to compare the status of your maintenance and reliability landscape to a comprehensive framework. This will help your organization understand which aspects work well, work only partially or do not work at all. Figure 3 shows a sample assessment overview with Maintenance Planning and Scheduling at the core.


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Fig. 3. This sample assessment is a result of interviews with a plant’s maintenance, reliability, operations and support organizations and a thorough review of SAP PM/EAM functionality, standards and utilization.

The assessment must be performed within the context of business objectives, benchmarked goals, best practices and the optimal use of SAP PM/EAM. It’s important to assemble a small team that understands these areas and how they work together to create synergetic results. This may mean getting expert help from corporate or from specialty companies.

The successful optimization of SAP PM/EAM is always part of a comprehensive Maintenance and Reliability initiative. It is imperative to establish a dedicated in-house team with strong leadership, whose focus is to reach business objectives. It is important that during the optimization project, in-house expertise is developed and expanded to ensure long-lasting results. To achieve high levels of success will mean stepping outside the comfort zone. Assemble the team and take the necessary time to craft high-quality, integrated, practical, yet simplified solutions and engage your organization by educating, training and coaching them on your vision and business objectives. MT  

Daniel Van Wyk is President of Quadro Solutions, based in Houston, TX. He has over 17 years of experience in SAP® EAM (PM) consulting, custom-software development and  training. Email: Website:

Tips For Configuring And Using Your SAP PM/EAM

Most SAP PM/EAM systems are configured with a main focus on only a few key transactions. The remainder of the system is normally set up incorrectly or is overlooked, making it difficult for users to navigate the system and use it efficiently. To successfully configure and use your SAP PM/EAM, consider the following:

  • Hide unused transactional screens and fields.
  • Set up standard “selection variants” for all list reports.
  • Set up standard “layouts” for all list reports.
  • Activate and configure advanced transactional functions to extend current work-process capability.
  • Use the Information System reports in SAP ( “standard analysis” of statistics)
  • Develop and maximize your users’ navigational capabilities.
  • Establish custom reports to allow advanced management and trending capabilities for enhanced visibility and control of the organization.






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