Assessing Maintenance Performance

EP Editorial Staff | November 2, 1997

Experience of large multiplant company serves as model for developing a benchmarking process and turning the findings into a strategy for improving maintenance and reliability practices.

A growing number of industrial plants are expending considerable effort reviewing their relative competence in maintaining reliable equipment at a competitive cost.

Some are using the traditional approach of consultant-provided surveys or audits; some use a benchmarking approach to help quantify capabilities and compare with other plant data; others are quite comfortable to use their own cost and equipment availability measurements.

DuPont, driven by a global maintenance expenditure of $1.5 billion, has been involved in benchmarking and other forms of assessment since 1986. The concept of “Best Practices” surfaced at DuPont in the late 1980s as it distilled the beliefs and activities of numerous world class benchmarking partners.

Rohm and Haas has similarly been involved with benchmarking partners for the past 3 years, and has used the results to develop its own view of world class practices with a two-tiered assessment process.

The first tier provides an initial assessment that is more subjective, but provides an in-depth look at a site’s practices. The process is team-based and develops a consensus of priority issues that the team can use to drive strategic planning. The second tier process is more quantitative, scoring the site against a more rigorous excellence model.

The observations that follow reflect the benchmarking experience of the authors.

Linking assessments and strategies
When teams are involved in the assessment process, they typically invest a lot of energy and emotion in the critical investigation of their maintenance practices. One way plants have successfully harnessed this energy has been to involve the same team (or parts of it) in developing a future strategy for the plant.

The assessment processes will deliver an enhanced (and often quantified) view of the maintenance practices most in need of improvement. This understanding, combined with the fresh energy of the team, provides an excellent launch environment for developing the strategic plan. Perhaps the most important issue in commissioning a strategic planning team is setting a clear objective and an aggressive timetable. The best strategies are usually the ones developed most promptly after completion of the assessment. If development drags on for 6 months or more, strategies are often superficial and half-hearted.

The strategic planning effort is intimidating because the task list and the resources required are substantial. It takes most team members time to understand that the strategic plan is a long-term process, usually covering 2 to 3 years, sometimes more.

Even if the resources were readily available, many aspects of an improvement plan will involve shifting the plant’s culture and will take several years, regardless of available resources.

Experience suggests that the longer the current culture has been in place, the longer the time required to shift the culture. Some plants never make the shift.

The strategic plan must begin with a clear statement of objectives reflecting the key business benefits of having a strategy.

The objectives should clearly describe a vision of the improved maintenance activity and the impact it will have on the enterprise. Performance measures are a necessary tool for tracking the plan’s progress and its evolving benefits. While some of the measures may be those used in the benchmarking or assessment, the strategic plan measures serve a much different purpose–tracking local improvement progress. They are usually fewer and more focused measures than those used in benchmarking to compare the plant to other sites.

Strategic plan measures are accompanied by goal levels representing the improvements being sought by the plan.

Essential parts of a strategic plan
A well-developed strategy needs more than just action steps. While action items in the plan represent activities that ultimately will change or improve maintenance, they are not sufficient by themselves.

To be successful, the strategy must be fully supported by management. It can obtain that support only by demonstrating a tangible benefit to the business. In most cases, the business contribution is related to equipment reliability, equipment maintenance costs, or both.

A complete maintenance strategic plan should include the following elements:

  • A clearly stated objective for the plan
  • An executive summary that briefly describes the scope of the plan and the benefits
  • A listing of the assumptions related to the plan
  • A calculated stake or payback from the strategy
  • A summary of any risks associated with the plan
  • The task items (action steps) representing the actual change effort
  • An assessment of the resources necessary to carry out the task items
  • Estimates of elapsed-time requirements for each task
  • Charts and diagrams as appropriate to track progress
  • A selected set of tracking performance measures for the plan.

Executing the strategy
Perhaps the most difficult part of the improvement process is carrying out the strategy. There will be continuous competition for the time and resources necessary to execute the plan.

The long-term commitment from site management will be acquired through a compelling and persuasive business case presented as part of the plan. Sustaining the commitment will require regular progress reporting, clearly showing performance measures that support the strengthening capabilities.

Successful strategies have clearly defined tasks with clearly defined accountabilities. Nothing has proved quite so effective as the following sequence:

  1. Encouragement from management
  2. Expectations set by management (goals)
  3. Clearly stated task descriptions
  4. Single-point accountability for task completion
  5. Periodic progress reporting.

The Rohm and Haas experience
In the early 1990s, Rohm and Haas began to question its deployment of capital for the creation and modification of its manufacturing assets. The company developed its “50/50” initiative for capital deployment aimed at reducing capital by 50 percent and time expenditures by 50 percent.

This stretch goal put pressure on the company to evaluate its construction plans and asset utilization. Instead of only building new facilities, a new focus on the hidden (underutilized) plant began.

This new focus, originally called Maintenance Excellence, assigned the lead role of asset availability to maintenance. It also wanted to change the traditional view of maintenance as firemen called out to fix things and who then returned to the firehouse.

After benchmarking for maintenance best practices in several industries, the focus quickly changed. The company’s maintenance excellence initiative became a reliability improvement initiative. Benchmarking quickly showed the importance of maintenance, operations, and engineering working together to uncover the hidden plant at each site.

The Reliability Initiative started in 1994 focused on deploying the best practices developed from benchmarking. The company’s manufacturing leaders agreed to endorse this initiative.

The reliability policy and two critical business measures, asset utilization (AU) and the ratio of maintenance cost to replacement asset value, were established. The policy was dedicated to improving the reliability of the company’s process plants as a critical part of an integrated strategy to improve business results.

Best Practice Manual
Information gained from the 1994 benchmarking effort became the basis for the company’s Maintenance and Reliability Best Practice Manual, called the Blue Book because of the color of its cover. The book contained seven sections: Leadership, Planned Maintenance, Reliability, Human Resource Development, Maintenance Material Management, Contractor Administration, and Effective Information Management. Each section contained the associated best practices followed by key elements (tactics and implementation).

Blue Book practices were aimed at moving a site from reactive maintenance to proactive maintenance. The book was widely distributed prior to the rollout of the improvement program which involved site-specific strategic plans developed through an assessment process done by the corporate maintenance group.

Modifying the assessment process
The word “assessment” strikes fear into most people, especially when it is being conducted by corporate staff. This barrier to being assessed was overcome through some modifications prior to the first assessment.

The assessment was designed to be qualitative. The concepts of reliability were new to most sites. If the assessment was quantitative (including scoring), the concepts would not be understood because the participants would worry only about the score and its meaning.

In most cases, the site treated the assessment as a way to showcase its progress in maintenance practices. This qualitative assessment involved tours, data reviews, interviews, and the discussion of business objectives in order to develop findings (current practices that are best practices) and opportunities (gaps between current practices and best practices).

The assessment was performed only at company sites to which the corporate group was invited. The corporate group directing the assessments used members of the company’s maintenance community as assessors.

Most assessors were known to the various sites; however, site residents were permitted to assess only sites other than their own.

The process was directed by a steering team that demonstrated management support of the process and tied it to business goals and objectives. The steering team typically was composed of the corporate maintenance manager, business manufacturing manager, and the plant manager. Two cross-functional teams were used to perform the actual assessment.

The four-member visiting assessor team was schooled in the Best Practice Manual. Sets of questions were developed to aid the process to determine a site’s progress. The early assessments included an outside consultant as a team member to explain reliability concepts that were not understood by the participants. In addition, the consultant could probe when the visiting team began to sympathize with the home team.

Setting the agenda
One member of the visiting team acted as the facilitator and prepared the agenda and the data requirements with the home team 4 to 6 weeks prior to the assessment. The agenda is outlined in the section “Rohm and Haas Agenda for Reliability Assessment.” The remainder of the team was made up of maintenance managers from other company sites, preferably from previously assessed plants. This involvement provided a learning opportunity for all participants.

The function of the home team was to provide the required data for the four-day assessment. The data presentation format is outlined in the section “Information Book for Reliability Assessment.” The team also accepted ownership for the findings and opportunities and presented them to others at the site on the last day of the assessment. This ownership required the creation and implementation of a strategic plan for the site.

The home team was composed of four site representatives, typically the maintenance manager, mechanical foreman, production manager, mechanic, and/or operator. Every attempt was made to match the cross-functional needs of reliability with team composition.

Early assessments did not include plant management, but as pressure increased to improve business results, later assessments included area managers.

Assessment process
The assessment begins with a kick-off and site orientation meeting followed by a tour of the facilities. Other activities include data review and interviews with operators and mechanics. The visiting team has a prepared list of questions such as those outlined in the section “Typical Assessment Questions.”

On the second day, mechanics and operators are followed through their work assignments and various practices are reviewed in detail.

On the third day, the teams develop the findings (current practices which are best practices) and opportunities (practices which could be improved to become best practices).

This is the most difficult day for both teams. At this point, the home team has figured out that the visiting team’s mission was not to praise all their efforts. The visiting team endeavors to provide helpful input designed to sell reliability to the home team. This input is the basis for the opportunities that the home team puts into its presentation.

At the end of the third day, the assessment typically generates more than 30 recommendations covering the 11 chapters in the Blue Book. The recommendations are prioritized to facilitate implementation after the visiting team leaves. The AU measure is used for the prioritization. The visiting team identifies which opportunities provide the greatest impact on the site’s AU This typically includes a “bad actor” equipment analysis. If such data is not available, the visiting team utilizes some rules of thumb to assist the home team to prioritize the recommendations.

On the fourth day, the home team presents the findings and opportunities to all the participants, including the steering team. The home team is then directed to prepare a strategic plan (if one does not exist for the site) incorporating the assessment’s results. This plan will be used by the site and business management for implementation. It also provides a baseline for a yearly follow-up assessment.

Sample assessments and strategies
Results from a typical assessment for the category of planning and scheduling follow:

  • Findings (current practices that are best practices)
    • Planner/scheduler in place, and scheduled for formal training
    • Only area assessed that is using CMMS scheduling module
    • Good teamwork between team managers and planner/scheduler
  • Opportunities (gaps between current practices and best practices)
    • Unit is losing significant wrench time due to lack of good planning and scheduling practices by all area personnel
    • Area needs to define a planning protocol and work flow process
    • Agree and adhere to defined work priority system
    • Better coordination with production for ensuring equipment readiness for maintenance intervention, e.g. use the permit request
    • Planner should develop pick list for all anticipated part requirements
    • Mechanics must be given a completed work order which includes a job plan.

Selected strategies from a recent assessment include the following points for an objective to reduce break-in work to less than 10 percent:

  • Strategy 1: Review of measures at area manager level
    • Amount of break-in work, percent
    • Amount of preventive and predictive maintenance work (by day, by schedule), percent of total work
    • Amount of overtime spent on preventive maintenance, percent of total work
    • Amount of call-back for uncompleted items, percent of total work
    • Amount of repeat repairs, percent of total work.
  • Strategy 2: Efficient deployment of permits by day and off-shifts.
  • Strategy 3: Reduction in the number of jobs given to contractors for maintenance work.
  • Tasks for strategy implementation:
    • Develop critical equipment list
    • Area manager sponsors a planning team
    • Area manager lays out expectation to do planned work
    • Form a planning team
    • Develop a planning meeting
    • All work requests come from planning team
    • Establish a permit procedure for planned work
    • Develop, steal, or write repair procedures for critical equipment.

Next steps
The corporate maintenance group completed over 30 reliability assessments in 1996 covering North American and European plants. A similar target is set for 1997. The company’s businesses are utilizing the asset utilization and the ratio of maintenance cost to replacement asset value metrics to guide decision-making on capital deployment. Resources have been deployed to two sites to assist them in becoming company models in reliability. The company has identified “pockets of achievement” in reliability in various facilities. Business results are showing improvement in the two metrics established for this initiative.

The corporate maintenance group reviewed its Best Practice Manual in 1996. A new edition was issued in 1997 (called the Red Book), reflecting the learnings from assessments and advances in the reliability methodology and practices. The Red Book is more specific with practices and was expanded to include chapters on Reliability Centered Design, Measurements, and Assessments. The reliability network within the company is expanding and a training course for first line leaders is being implemented.

This initiative started from a desire to improve the company’s financial performance. It will continue to be driven by the needs of the businesses. MT

Edwin K. Jones, PE, was part of a corporate team that helped E. I. DuPont Co. refine its maintenance practices. He retired from DuPont in 1993 and formed Edwin K. Jones, PE, Inc., 28 Quartz Mill Rd., Newark, DE 19711; (302) 234-3438.

David Rosenthal, PE, is a consulting engineer for Rohm and Haas Co., Bristol, PA; (215) 781-4024. He is responsible for the deployment of reliability best practices throughout the company’s North American facilities.




View Comments

Sign up for insights, trends, & developments in
  • Machinery Solutions
  • Maintenance & Reliability Solutions
  • Energy Efficiency
Return to top