Maintenance Audits Improve Maintenance Business Performance

Kathy | April 1, 2007

Knowing the true sources of contamination in compressed air systems and what to do about them can lead to improved operating efficiencies for the equipment and far fewer maintenance headaches for you.

What is 1%, 2% or even 5% increase in uptime worth to you? Can it improve your bottom line? Of course it can. Improving the performance of the Maintenance function and equipment reliability has a direct link to plant uptime and company profitability. Past experience, however, has shown that getting “there” isn’t always easy. That’s because so many of the “breakthrough” techniques and technologies that companies hoped to use as “roadmaps” over the years have failed to consider the Maintenance function in its entirety. That no longer has to be the case.

Industry challenges
In today’s competitive environment, industry is constantly under pressure to reduce costs and improve performance. The challenges it faces can be categorized as either external or internal.

The external challenges include:

  • Market Globalization. Whether we like it or not, it is a fact of life and we all have to adapt to it.
  • Competitive Market. Some may say “we always faced competition,” but now it has reached a new level.
  • Wall Street. As with all publicly traded companies the market expects positive results quarterly. This may not lead to a long-term vision required to sustain the business. Management must be committed to improve business performance while making smart business decisions when it comes to any improvement programs. Sometimes short term indiscriminate cost-cutting measures can have a long-term effect on the business.


Every corporation and plant site also faces internal challenges. Quite often, these are even more difficult to deal with than the external type. Internal challenges include:

  • Management changes. A frequent occurrence, these don’t lend themselves to long-term improvement programs. The issue was identified almost 50 years ago by W. Edwards Deming, who mentioned it as one of the factors detrimental to American industry. Each management change introduces another “program of the month” variation. Personnel quickly learn this and try to “outlast” the program.
  • Cost-cutting culture. We all understand that costs need to be controlled, and it is important to manage them well. All too often, however, maintenance budgets are reduced arbitrarily without consideration to the impact on equipment, systems and plant performance.
  • Skills. This is something that a company actually can control. There might be shortages of skilled personnel on the market as a result of personnel retiring, but a company can and should develop a comprehensive employee development program.
  • Personnel Involvement. There needs to be a common culture established among all departments that will drive the improvements, and not simply be “us and them.” Personnel on all levels should work toward a common goal-improved and sustainable plant performance.


Silver bullets?
Analysis of past decades of American industry and Maintenance organizations reveals an interesting behavior-the “in search of a silver bullet” mode. Instead of performing an in-depth analysis of the Maintenance function, its structure, inter-relations and interactions with other plant departments, too many times, arbitrary decisions are made as to the direction of the Maintenance organization. Furthermore, these decisions are sometimes made by a single person-perhaps the Maintenance Manager or Plant Manager-who merely happens to read a paper or article or attend a technical conference. Thus, because an author or presenter is able to make a plausible case as to the benefit of a specific technique or technology, it suddenly can become a “program of the year.” Examples of such “programs” or innovations include:

  • Predictive Maintenance (PdM)
  • Planning & Scheduling
  • RCM (Reliability Centered Maintenance)
  • TPM
  • PM (Preventive Maintenance)

All of these listed “programs” can be effective-and all of them have the potential to deliver real benefits to a plant or a company when properly integrated and executed. To illustrate the point, let’s look at Fig. 1. It shows the expected benefit from implementing various methodologies and programs. Sadly, in most cases, the real result is suboptimal.


Refer, now, to Fig. 2, which illustrates what frequently happens in the real world. A relatively short period of improvement is quickly followed by performance deterioration.

Why do some companies make incremental improvements that are not sustainable? There are many reasons-and no single “universal answer.”

The most common mistakes
While most companies try to improve plant performance and effectiveness of their Maintenance function, the results are not always sustainable. The most common mistakes made during implementation seem to be:

  • Approaching maintenance as a cost center culture
  • Not taking a techno-commercial approach to resolve manufacturing losses
  • Always searching for a “silver bullet”
  • Not addressing “people issues”
  • Not creating a “plant reliability” culture
  • Short-term goals take over
  • No long-term commitment
  • Team environment not created
  • Departments work in isolation
  • Too many Management changes
  • Lack of understanding of the Maintenance business function
  • Going with current “trends
  • Continuous improvement is not realized

This is, by no means, a comprehensive list-and it is not intended as such. Based on past experience, though, it can be said, with a high level of confidence, that these are among the most important
and most frequently experienced influencing factors
impeding long-term success.


What is the solution? Benchmark your maintenance organization against the best in the industry, set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Time Bound) to improve plant performance by improving the Maintenance function. By performing the comprehensive and structured Maintenance Business Review (Maintenance Systems Audit), you will be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your Maintenance Management Systems, processes and procedures that, in turn, will allow you to develop a detailed roadmap to success.

Maintenance audits defined
A Maintenance Systems Audit (our organization calls it a “Maintenance Business Review” to emphasize business aspects of the maintenance function) can best be described as follows: Objective examination of Systems and Procedures used by an organization in the overall control of managing its assets. It does not involve individuals and their performance, though it does assess training and personnel development needs.

The audit addresses seven Maintenance functions that are further broken down into elements addressing individual maintenance aspects. The audit structure is as follows:


  • Management:
    • Management Commitment and Leadership
    • Maintenance Policy
    • Maintenance Improvement Program
    • Financial Control
    • Quality Assurance
    • Maintenance Review Program
    • Health, Safety and Training Management
  • Spare Parts Management:
    • Spare Parts Procurements
    • Warehouse Management
  • Personnel:
    • Organizational Structure
    • Workforce Involvement and Participation
    • Personnel Development Program
  • Contractors Management
  • Maintenance Planning & Scheduling:
    • Daily Planning
    • Outage Planning
  • Maintenance Process Optimization:
    • Operational Analysis
    • Maintenance Plan & Strategy Development
    • Asset Lifecycle Management
    • Plant & Equipment Condition Monitoring
    • Standard Procedures and Job Instructions
    • Plant and Equipment Performance Analysis
    • Maintenance Management System
    • Document Control System
  • Repair Services

As detailed in the foregoing list, every aspect of Maintenance as a business is addressed, including interdepartmental communication, personnel skills and training, health and safety, modern maintenance techniques and technologies and management practices. Each of these elements is assessed in a structured way on a scale of 1 (Innocence) to 5 (Excellence). The achieved score represents the maintenance organization maturity level on a scale one to five. During the audit, each element is described in detail showing the current state (“as-is”) with an identification of opportunities for improvement. In addition, a target value (“to be”) is assigned based on business conditions and required plant performance for each element assessed.

Fig. 3 depicts a spider chart with the current score superimposed on benchmark data for the industry. Benchmark data is available for the entire industry as well as a particular branch. This allows for an easy comparison with industry
leaders and laggers.

Comparison within an industry or within the customer’s multi-plants is important as it allows for benchmarking- something that will provide management with the impetus for change. This benchmark may, in fact, spark employee openness to change since it leads to a clearer understanding of the current situation and the possible improvements that are available.

As with any improvement program, clear SMART goals must be established. This is done as part of the Maintenance Business Review.

The gap between the “as-is” state and future projected state is defined in terms of cost reduction and improved uptime resulting from the realistic opportunity. This gap can be bridged by implementing the most technocommercial improvement initiatives. The recommendations portion of the audit should contain a detailed road map demonstrating how to bridge the gap with a timeline and proper resource requirements, both in terms of skills and commitment.

Bridging the gap is important as it translates to plant performance improvements in terms of maintenance cost per unit and uptime improvement that will lead to bottomline savings. Fig. 4 shows the positive financial impact of bridging the gap.

Coming next month
Part II of this article will highlight two real-world case studies where this strategy has paid off.

Krzysztof (Kris) Goly has more than 25 years experience in the field of maintenance and reliability. His past experience includes positions of maintenance and engineering manager, reliability manager and, most recently, principal consultant for Siemens Industrial Services, based in Alpharetta, GA. Goly is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional. E-mail: kris.goly@siemens.com







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