Four Unique Maintenance Challenges We All Face

September 30, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

We must remember that “Maintenance is forever!” No matter what we do, we always remember that maintenance plays an essential part. Maintenance of our bodies, minds, souls, cars and homes and the entire infrastructure that makes up our daily environment all require maintenance. We can outsource many things to other countries but it is really hard to outsource maintenance of our physical assets overseas.

For many maintenance operations, they must face these four challenges without additional craft resources. They are challenged by continuously trying to find ways to convince top leaders that additional resources to meet growing maintenance requirements are needed. And they are challenged by having to continuously improve their maintenance business process to keep up with growing maintenance requirements. Zero craft labor growth plus More Challenges 2, 3 and 4 and nor Craft Productivity gain equals more requirement that can exponentially grow you deferred maintenance and long cost. Pay me now or pay me more lately as we all have heard about.

Challenge One: Often the appropriated (or budgeted funds) fail to meet existing facility needs for basic facility maintenance or for plant maintenance requirements in a manufacturing operation. This is compounded even further when overall deficits in state budgets occur (as in North Carolina in 2001-2004). So what is cut first (or never adequately included to begin with) it is maintenance and repair. The vicious cycle continues year after year until the taxpayers have to pay up for government’s addiction to the “high cost of gambling with maintenance costs”. Then as in North Carolina we all pitch in and help out on Challenge One with our tax dollars.

Challenge Two: Periodic determination of basic maintenance requirements and regulatory compliance issues can be determined relatively easy. They can validated and reinforced for budgeting by periodic facility and asset condition evaluations by qualified professional engineering staff. Facility condition evaluation of existing facility components/system are important to benchmark actual condition of primary and secondary electrical systems, major facility HVAC systems, elevators, roofing system, fire protection systems, other life safety and American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance along with energy management opportunities. Condition assessment of production assets to perform primary function with quality output likewise is a valuable exercise.

Challenge Three is Good News/Bad News: For Challenge Three; the receiving of capital funds, funds from the tenant/customer to enhance/renovate or adding new production processes is both good news and bad news for the maintenance leader. The good news is that significant other special non-appropriated funds can and does evolve. Needed additions, renovations and often major/minor tenant/customer funded construction and facilities enhancements can be achieved. Non-appropriated funds in NC may even fund new craft positions or if there is a large tenant population (college student and football fan revenue can fund crafts positions. Others having deep pockets with continuous research grants, trust fund gifts by alumni, etc, etc. New production processes provide new products, greater throughput, improved quality for more profit and hopefully better profit optimization choices. Profit optimization is good for all in a production environment.

Challenge Four: The last but certainly not the least of the challenges for all types of Maintenance Leaders is major additions of production assets and new construction. Here the commissioning and the forever maintenance and operations of new assets and facilities systems without adequate technical craft additions is a common practice. I have personally witnessed this all across the USA, Canada and the World. Often plant maintenance is faced with startup of new production assets without adequate short and long-term engineering support. To continuously assume increased scope of work to maintain new assets or new construction plus be prepared to assume more work from Challenges One, Two and Three requires every bit of maintenance business process improvement that can be mustered. Top leaders must understand and see that all available resources are being maximized (if they truly are) and that the new maintenance requirements are valid. These added requirements can come from any of the above four challenges. It is very important here for the plant maintenance and facilities manager to have in place a way to document true requirements and to have an effective performance measurement process in place that we will discuss later in Part V.

Do Not Kill the Goose: Budget cuts often fall in the one place they can hurt the worst and that is cutting of craft people, the technicians within all of the necessary trade’s areas who are out there doing the real work, the PMs, the emergency responses and week end service calls. The indiscriminate cutting of these scarce craft resources is a failed business practice of the 20th Century. Indiscriminate cutting is killing the goose that lays the golden egg. If an organization is not; a) doing continuous improvement and b) defining true maintenance requirements and achieving them, then cutting craft positions to meet budget is exactly like using blood letting as a new cure for a heart attack. It just will not work as effective maintenance management.

When maintenance management consultants view maintenance operations as a profit and customer-centered process, we must view the cost of making improvements as an investment in maintenance not as a traditional cost. Maintenance leaders must understand that investments require a return on investment and they must be prepared to define potential benefits and put in place methods to validate the results of improvements. Maintenance and physical asset management operations within your organization can be true contributors to profit generation or increased service levels. The cost of external resources and internal support services can be a very good investment. The opportunities for measurable results in almost all organizations are significant as can be evidenced by the growing number of contract maintenance providers.

maintenance management, maintenance management consultants

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