February Management Work Processes

Plant Manager As Change Agent, Part II: Defining The Maintenance Program

EP Editorial Staff | February 21, 2013


The plant manager can’t succeed without a well-defined maintenance program.
Here’s how to make things happen.

Maintenance-Management-Program-Schematic-thumbnailClick here for an effective flowchart example and legend.

By Paul D. Tomlingson, Paul D. Tomlingson Associates, Inc.

Part I of this article in the January 2013 issue of MT explained two key connections that must be made for improvements to take hold: First, a solid maintenance program is required. Second, the plant manager drives the creation of a solid maintenance program, along with the plant culture needed to support cross-departmental cooperation. In this concluding installment, the author details how to define a world-class maintenance program. There’s much more to that definition than management might think. By sharing it with your plant manager, you can help him/her help you.

Defining the maintenance program requires careful assessment of the audience to which the program applies. Program definition must be presented in a clear, concise way that everyone will understand, because maintenance requires the support of all plant personnel.

Avoid using a 2-inch-thick binder that no one will read. There are simpler techniques, including flowcharts. (A particularly effective one with supporting documentation can be found here.) Finally, remember that the best way for supervisors to explain a program to crew members is by way of commonly understood terminology.

The objective of explaining the maintenance program is to ensure that each person understands how his individual role fits into it. No one can be omitted from this process. Remember that the electrician who fills in when his supervisor is on vacation may be the one who unintentionally fails to follow a critical procedure because he did not get the word.

To best explain the process, our experience suggests that a combination of a schematic diagram and a legend works effectively. For example, consider the preventive maintenance portion of the total maintenance program in Fig. 2 and its explanation.


Fig. 2. Conduction of preventive maintenance (PM) services for fixed plant equipment: (1) The information system prescribes services required when and how. (2) PM services are static (require shutdown) or dynamic services (while running). (3) Static services are integrated into the weekly schedule. (4) Dynamic services are done at the discretion of the maintenance supervisor during the week they are scheduled. (5) The maintenance supervisor assigns services to individual crew members. (6) Crew members perform services according to instructions. (7) Crew members confer with operators to learn of current equipment condition. (8) Operators assist by describing equipment problems. (9) Operations supervisors are advised of equipment deficiencies. (10) Deficiencies are reviewed by the maintenance supervisor with crew member and converted into work as follows: (11) Emergency repairs (supervisor assigns at first opportunity). (12) Work to be planned (supervisor forwards to planner based on planning criteria). (13) Unscheduled repairs (entered in work-order system pending first opportunity to complete). In similar fashion, the additional specifics of requesting, classifying, planning, scheduling, assigning, controlling and measuring maintenance work, and then assessing performance, must be communicated across the total operation.

The information system
The information system is only the communications network that provides information to control internal maintenance activities and inter-departmental actions while also providing information to manage total plant operation. Be aware that the work-order system is part of the overall information system, not just the maintenance department. This system applies equally to work done by any and all departments.

Choose an information system that matches what the plant actually does as depicted in the program. Do not allow the choice process to be overly influenced by accounting, and be aware that some maintenance departments may need substantial help to transition to a modern information system. Also, be careful that the maintenance team leader does not assume that a new CMMS will be the single, long-sought solution to all of his problems.

The critical information required to manage maintenance consists of five elements:

#1. Control of labor is the most important indicator of maintenance performance. The only way maintenance can control the cost of the work they do is the efficiency with which they install materials. They have no control over equipment damage caused by improper operation of equipment, for example. Maintenance cost control is accomplished primarily by maximizing the amount of work that is planned. Preventive maintenance (PM) services, such as inspection, testing and condition monitoring, find equipment problems in advance of equipment failure. The lead-time gained allows sufficient time to plan work before new work can degenerate into emergency repairs and equipment failure. Planned work assures higher-quality work and longer periods before similar repairs are required. This extends equipment life and reduces the rate of material consumption. Planned work is completed more efficiently, using less labor and more productively in less elapsed time. As a result, planned work, when compared with similar unplanned work, is completed with less labor cost and significantly reduced down time. The quality of labor control is verified by measuring worker productivity.

#2. Work-order status is an overview of the cost and performance of individual major planned and scheduled jobs, from inception to completion.

#3. Backlog is the estimated man-hours by craft required to complete all identified but unfinished planned and scheduled work. The backlog is represented by a series of formal work orders whose labor, material and equipment resources have been identified and the work is ready to be scheduled when operations can make its equipment available. The backlog determines the degree to which maintenance is keeping up with the generation of new work, and allows adjustment of workforce size and composition as workloads change. Figure 3 illustrates how the backlog can be used to determine staffing needs.


Fig. 3. Over an eight-week period, backlog has increased. During this time, estimated man-hours of Craft 1 have grown significantly, pointing to a need for more personnel. Craft 2 has too many people, indicated by a backlog decrease. Craft 3 has enough personnel, as backlog is constant. These trends indicate a need to adjust workforce size and craft composition.

#4. Repair history is the chronological list of significant repairs made on critical equipment. It is used to identify and correct chronic, repetitive problems and failure trends. It also identifies the life span of critical components so future replacements can be forecasted and components replaced at optimum times.

#5. Cost summaries are descriptions of actual costs versus budgeted costs by cost center on a monthly and year-to-date basis. Detailed cost reports identify the cost of labor and materials by unit (truck) and component (engine) on a monthly and year-to-date basis.

Use of KPIs
KPIs—key performance indicators—are often used to identify performance trends, but care must be observed in their meaning and use. Any performance index requires that complete, timely and accurate information be available to correct the inadequacies identified by the indices (see Fig. 4).


Fig. 4. In this illustration, the KPI indices appear at the apex of the information triangle. They permit the plant manager, upon seeing inadequate performance, to pose questions to maintenance. With quality information, maintenance can examine cost summaries to identify the offending cost center or area, consult cost detail to identify the unit and component at fault, and scrutinize repair history and work-order detail to pinpoint and correct underlying causes. Then, after formulating proper corrective actions, maintenance can respond to the plant manager with the actions taken to improve performance. The cycle repeats as the plant manager continues to observe the indices to confirm actual improvement.

Plant managers should always verify that the information system can provide the data from which KPIs are developed. Then they must ensure that the information system provides the actual information necessary to correct or improve the problem identified by the indices.

Use of the above procedures will enable plant managers to ensure the existence, development and effective utilization of a quality maintenance program. And, as shown in Part I, this is a fundamental contribution to long-term plant profitability. MT

Paul D. Tomlingson is the Principal of Paul D. Tomlingson Associates, Inc., based in Denver, CO. Eighty-two years young, he’s been working as a worldwide maintenance consultant for almost 45 years.  Email: pdtmtc@msn.com.






View Comments

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