Elegant Maintenance Management: Manifesting The Big Picture

Kathy | June 1, 2007

You, as a Maintenance Manager, can enjoy great success with the resources you already have, while leading your management into a new way of thinking. In the process, you’ll be changing into an “Elegant” Maintenance Manager. This type of transformation shifts the playing field—and calls for real strength on your part. As you “go for the gold,” you’ll need to challenge and overcome many misconceptions dotting the Maintenance arena. You’ll also need to embrace a number of proven management principles with which you may or may not be familiar.

Misconception #1:
That predictive maintenance (PdM) is a necessary part of a world-class Maintenance operation…
It is, but only when principally used in post-maintenance or equipment startup testing. If you need to use PdM in routine monitoring because of high equipment failure potential, your equipment is not being properly installed, maintained or operated. Your resources can be more effectively utilized in addressing those dysfunctional areas that cause unreasonable failures instead of collecting data that is not nearly as good as other readily available information, e.g., bearing temperature data gathered as part of a material condition inspection program.

0607_maintstrategies1Misconception #2:
That spending time to prepare a case for upper management in support of additional funds for the latest maintenance technologies is effective…You cannot simply apply organizational development (OD) methods to justify substantial increases in resources. How does a Maintenance Manager become an OD Specialist overnight? The reality is that if one cannot do a reasonable job with current resources, upper management, behind closed doors, will question granting more resources to a manager who they perceive to be ineffective.

Misconception #3:
That overhauls because of excessive wearout and/or obsolescence and modifications to existing systems and equipment are largely Operations and Maintenance (O&M) work (a misconception that is compounded when there is a complete absence of an in-house Engineering function)…This type of work actually has major engineering components in it (design, startup and testing) that go far beyond the nature of the O&M function. Failure to accurately understand the impact of modifications, obsolescence and extreme wearout on the Maintenance function leads to surprises that impact reliability and cost and result in puzzling failures of new equipment. Note, also, that modifications, obsolescence and extreme wearout are always present in industrial facilities and must be part of the ongoing maintenance plan to ensure reliability. When they are not, the net result is a pigin- a-poke for the O&M teams.

Misconception #4:
That the use of performance indicators is always effective… This is related to the “content approach to data collection” fallacy. The latter is the concept that if you collect as much data as possible, you always will have the data you need, when you need it. This is not true. The same applies to the use of countless performance indicators for gauging maintenance management effectiveness. The name of the performance indicator game is to select a handful of indicators that deal with the core areas of maintenance, which can be taken in snapshot fashion to provide self-assessment when needed. These include preventive maintenance/ corrective maintenance (PM/CM) program performance, CM backlog, supervisory performance, planning performance and materiel management to name one set of very useful indicators, especially for self-assessment. The Elegant Maintenance Manager always does self-assessment to better understand the advice and criticism of others, especially the stakeholders in his organization.

Misconception #5:
That your management systems work and that managers know how to manage, i.e., they know the nature of managerial work…This is the biggest misconception of all. Furthermore, it is the root of virtually all dysfunctional, reactive Maintenance programs. There is, of course, any number of other misconceptions. Many of them will be examined in detail in future installments of this series. Here, though, let’s begin laying
the groundwork for becoming an Elegant Maintenance
Manager by discussing basic principles.

Developing your game
If your management style is based on command and control, you’re really a supervisor. Get a new way of thinking about things.

Managers chart the strategic course for their organizations and lead them to the vision at the end of that strategy. In order to do this, the management system must communicate the requirements to achieve the vision and provide the means of implementing the series of decisions embodied in the strategy to achieve the vision. Communication takes place through the organizational structure of the management system that defines how information flows in the organization. This provides management and supervision with an operating structure that will support the effective, efficient functioning of the Maintenance organization. The “means of implementing” is the removal of roadblocks and allocations of resources at the right place and time in the right amount to the right person. In concise terms, this is what the management system must support, and the manager must have the vision and leadership qualities (leave the command and control qualities to the supervisors) that provide the driving force for the management system.



Managerial functions and practice
In the early 1970s, Dr. Henry Mintzberg identified three functional areas comprised of 10 practical areas that defined the essence of managerial work. Up until that time, elaborate management theory, command and control and groupthink traps had been dominating the management mindset in the United States, becoming especially forceful after the Korean War. Mintzberg’s thorough research on the matter clarified the work of managers, and provided the basis for the guiding principles that a manager must understand and embrace in order to do his/her job. Mintzberg got it right. Thus, more than 30 years later, his principles still apply.

But, what’s the purpose of having managers? If we organize and structure operations in a logical manner and write administrative procedures to guide the conduct of business, and if we hire personnel who have the functional capabilities that we need to execute the action plan of the organization, why do we need a manager at all? There are four primary purposes:

  1. The turbulent, changing environment will necessitate change in the organization and the person that controls that change is the manager. This person develops the strategy for controlling change in the organization.
  2. The manager is the person who provides the unprogrammed interaction to address imperfections and random events that affect the organization’s operations.
  3. The organizational growth can be transient and transitional in nature giving rise to a big-picture thinking that leads to strategy development and program implementation. The attendant internal changes that occur in an organization as it goes from inception to maturity require the input of a manager to make sure things happen correctly.
  4. Human cognitive problems, the psychological types and the varying degrees of ability of individuals give rise to the internal human conflict. It is impossible to program the handling of the human element by procedure or by checklist. We can do it to a certain extent, but the essence of managing the human resource requires an entity that can handle the unprogrammed, complex problem situation. Again, this is the manager.

Now that we understand the purposes of having managers, what might we expect from them? Based on Dr. Mintzberg’s research, we can look forward to the following:

  1. Managers ensure that their organizations serve their prime purpose and efficiently deliver products and services. We would expect the manager to deliver the basic mission of the organization.
  2. Managers must maintain the stability of their organizations’ operations to control the effective and efficient execution of the basic mission and to relieve anxiety in the workforce.
  3. Managers focus on the big picture, taking charge of strategy-making systems and adapting their organizations, in a controlled way, to changing environments.
  4. Managers ensure that their organizations serve the needs of the principal stakeholders and handle public relations. In so doing, a manager also must shield his/her organization from the external environment so as to prevent distractions to it and misrepresentations of it.
  5. Managers serve as the key informational link between their organizations and their environments. He/she establishes information flow within the organization and provides information about it to the outside world and vice versa. A manager guarantees that the information flow network, including all feedback networks, is functional in the organization.
  6. Managers ensure that personnel within their organizations know their jobs and how they’re supposed to do them. A manager also ensures that personnel understand that their goals and objectives must be linked to the goals and objectives of upper management.

The preceding lists reflect somewhat conceptualized purposes and expectations regarding managers. These four purposes and six expectations lead to the identification, based on actual observation, of three functional areas made up of 10 activities that define the essence of managerial work shown in Table I.

In Table I, we see the coalescing of the purpose and expectation concepts into actual functions that are observable in the day-to-day activities of managers. This is the nature of managerial work.



Developing the foundation
Is there a key part of Maintenance management that can be addressed to make the overall task cleverly apt and simple? I found the answer to this question while preparing my doctoral dissertation in business administration and management and providing advice, consultation and program development and implementation services to a number of industrial staffs. I later validated this answer during several tenures as a hands-on O&M Manager. The essence of the answer is information. Isn’t that what we might expect? The manifestation of the answer is in an information flow network. Let’s define this information flow network so we can establish the basis for “Elegant Maintenance Management” straightaway, then address a variety of Maintenance management tasks—cleverly and simply.

In the O&M assignments I’ve had over the past 15 years or so, my staffs and I have achieved production reliability levels in excess of 98%—and for the last four years in my current assignment, our production reliability level has been 100%. Interestingly, these levels have been achieved while meeting all schedule and budget requirements. In my current assignment, that means having to effectively manage the significant obsolescence and extreme wearout challenges one would expect to find in a 900,000-sq. ft., 24/7 production facility that is 16 years old. Yet, our site still has not had to resort to detailed, formal RCM, RCA, PdM or staff training programs to heal a formerly poorperforming O&M function.

During my first few attempts to evaluate performance of the previously mentioned Maintenance management functions and the Operations interface, I found that organization charts and administrative procedures were of little value in understanding the functional performance of the Maintenance organization. Theories as to what makes for a well organized department based on admin practices, span of control for supervisors, command and control performance and other assumptions from conventional thinking were of little or no value in most instances involving programmatic assessments. As a performance evaluator, I needed to come up with a methodology, or model, to help determine what areas of the Maintenance function were performing satisfactorily and which were dysfunctional. As a result, I developed the following information-based approach in the context of the information flow network.

First on the to-do list was the facility material condition inspection. This was a walk through the facility, observing everything and logging all deficiencies; it typically would require one full day at a singlestation nuclear facility. I augmented the deficiency data from the inspection with a printout of all of the PM and CM records for the previous year, along with all the open CM records for the past year. From these records I was able to determine the CM backlog as a function of time, the PM/CM ratio, and CM work that resulted from PM work (maintenance induced failures). This required an additional 4-8 hours. As the patterns of equipment and system failure emerged, I applied the information flow network (operating structure) concept shown in Fig. 1 to determine dysfunctional management system areas. Now, I was ready to chat with the Maintenance Manager—and the topic was not going to be his organization chart.

The applied information flow network
The information flow network concept, detailed in Fig. 1, is based on a logical structure that begins with a clear statement of what decisions need to be made. This requires a great deal from the manager since he/she must make the first move. It is a difficult task to specify the future for an organization, but it is a necessary part of the job for every manager. This is a manager’s principal leadership role, and much depends on it, as can be seen by what follows.

If the decisions to be made are specified, the alternatives the organization needs to develop can be better understood. The responsible groups will have sufficient direction to begin their complex analysis task. When alternatives are specified for development, the analytical methods and processes are easily identified, and hence, the information needed to support the analysis becomes known. Once the information is known, the minimum data set is specified. Accordingly, it should now be possible to provide management and supervision with a decision-support strategy. The problem is this: “By the information flow network, we know what to do to create a decision-support capability, but what does its operating structure look like?” It looks much like the one detailed in Fig. 1.

Operating structure overview
The operating structure (OS) is based on the idea that problem identification and corrective action occur at the OS functional level. This is defined as the level at which the organization’s information circulates, where information is used in the broad sense to also include information in forms as needed and used by managers and supervisors. For example, alternatives are needed by managers in decision-making. Therefore, alternatives would be considered as information.



Since supervisors and managers need to measure departures from goals and objectives, a performance indicator report would be considered as information for a supervisor or manager.

It is notable that information per se is critical in diagnostics, and information flow is critical in decision-support applications. By comparison, other methods of problem identification and corrective action determination dwell on a functional level defined by the organizational task differentiation. For example, the functions referred to by Accounting, Marketing and Production are simply department- level functions.

Reshuffling departmental organization charts to match the environment will do little good if the OS functions (information circulation level) are ignored. Furthermore, in problem organizations, corrective action that results in reorganizing the department to create a new “seating chart” and redefine formal authority and responsibility succeeds only if the new players recognize the deficiencies in information circulation. The correct thing to do is to revamp the management systems in the department to ensure there is an adequate OS functional capability to implement the organizational directives and make the action decisions to keep operations on track to achieve objectives. As shown in Fig. 1, the OS includes the following six basic functions:

  1. Strategy–The ability of management to convert the goals and enabling objectives into detailed action plans (This helps visualize what management wants the operation to look like in the future.)
  2. Data Collection–The types of data that are acquired by the organization, their accuracy, their relevance and methods of acquisition (This is, largely, a key responsibility of supervision in the form of implementing the record-keeping aspect of control of maintenance activities.)
  3. Data Processing–The manner in which data is arranged, manipulated, summarized and formatted to develop relevant management reports and indicators of performance (This often is confused with analysis; it is not.)
  4. Analysis–How decision-makers use the information to compare actual performance to predicted/required performance and what analytical methods must be developed and applied to support decision making
  5. Feedback Networks–The ability to measure deviation from objectives and report this to management and supervision for resolution. (Coordination among departments is also part of the feedback network. Note that feedback consists of at least three separate loops. First, there is the day-to-day loop for supervisors to keep operations on track. Second, there is the longerrange loop for supervisors to adjust communication and implementation methods to ensure proficiency of the workforce. The third loop applies to the longer time frame that is required of managers to evaluate and revise strategic elements. Each of the feedback loops is unique with different analysis support requirements, different time horizons and different distribution requirements.)
  6. Control–Activities that are used by the decision maker to communicate goals and enable objectives, and to determine if management directives are being effectively implemented. The effectiveness of the control function is related to the organization’s historical ability to meet its objectives. Often defined as part of managerial work, it is in fact the dominant activity of supervisory work. When managers inject themselves into the control
    function (sometimes referred to as “hands-on” management)
    micromanagement results, and supervisors may
    lose interest.

The OS is an approach to organizational diagnostics based on information flow networks that can support management problem solving. It is used to identify problems and to determine what decisions need to be made to solve those problems including what information is required to support decision making. This OS concept is based on the information flow networks in the organization’s management systems. The OS concept is the notion that problem identification and corrective action can most effectively be performed at the functional level.

The OS has two application modes. First, it can support organizational programmatic assessment and evaluation. Second, it can be used as a tool to support organizational and programmatic development or upgrade. Both applications are related and are generally applied in the sequence given.

In the following discussion, the OS emerges as a problem identification tool (diagnostic) in organizational and programmatic applications.

As in any diagnostic, success depends on the experience and expertise of the evaluator and the extent and depth of his/her analytical skills. The reason for this, especially with OS, is that OS is not a checklist, expert-system type diagnostic. The evaluator will be challenged in diagnosing organization and program problems in the true sense of analysis. Consequently, he/she will need to decompose the organization and programs into the elementary OS functional levels, then develop and choose problem solutions to synthesize into a new organizational and programmatic whole. To do this, the evaluator must categorize each organizational and programmatic element as one or more of the six OS functional elements. Where OS deficiencies exist or OS functions are non-existent, he/she can characterize such problems in terms of OS functions. Problem solutions in terms of OS functional development or upgrade follow directly.

Elegant Maintenance Management starts with the fundamental understanding of managerial work and the operating structure to manifest the big picture of organizational strategy, structure and process. With a basis in information and an information flow network in the organization, ignorance does not have to be an option or default for anyone associated with the organization. With information comes the power of effective delegation, so decision-making can occur at the operator level in the organization as desired (empowering your staff).

Elegant Maintenance Managers also are always mindful of appearance. They focus on two behaviors in all they and there subordinates do. These behaviors are:

  • Businesslike–Always act with a sense of concern and responsibility about your organization’s mission and your specific assignments.
  • Professional–Demonstrate experience, expertise and intellectual skills in all you do. Be respectful of the opinion of others. Never lie, tell stories, blame others or make excuses; simply tell the truth.

Or, to sum it up in a more colloquial sense, never argue with an idiot. Observers may not be able to tell the difference.

Dr. Huzdovich is the service contract manager for Raven Services Corporation at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Western Currency Facility in Ft. Worth, TX. He directs the O&M and engineering work performed by the Raven staff of 58 employees, which is responsible for the 24/7 operation and maintenance of all stationary and production support equipment in these operations, including their 850-ton chilled water units, 800 hp low-pressure steam boilers, 3600 KW of diesel generator capacity, the environmental management system and currency mutilation destruction equipment. He also is the principal engineer and consultant providing maintenance and reliability services and expert witness services for Forensic Action Services, LLC, in Denton, TX. E-mail: jhuzdovich@verizon.net; telephone: (817) 847-3674.






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