Communications: The Maintenance Partnership

 

ken_bannister
Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor
Does your maintenance department suffer the blame for ALL downtime and equipment failure? Do you find it difficult to schedule and complete a full repair? Is your department perceived as a drain on the corporate finances? Do you feel there is a lack of respect toward the maintenance department? Do you believe the rest of the corporation just doesn’t understand the maintenance process? Congratulations, if you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you have recognized your negative image and are ready to enter into a true maintenance partnership with your suppliers and customers!

 

According to the Encarta dictionary, a partnership is:

  1. the relationship between two or more people or organizations that are involved in or share the same activity,
  2. cooperation between people or groups working together,
  3. an organization formed by two or more people or groups to work together for some purpose.

0706_communications_img1To function professionally, a maintenance department must set up and manage multiple partnerships on a continual basis. Partnerships are relationships that live or die based on an understanding of the input and output communications required from both sides to make quality management decisions, and enable each partner to consistently deliver on their performance mandate.

Before maintenance can assess each relationship individually and determine suitable input/output matrices, it must first assess and understand what it can and can’t manage on a daily basis. Table 1 depicts major equipment downtimes attributable to maintenance and nonmaintenance causes. Maintenance caused downtime incidences are the direct responsibility of the maintenance department and its maintainers; its programs must be set up to work diligently on reducing / eliminating these types of downtime incidences. The non-maintenance caused downtime incidences are totally out of the control jurisdiction of the maintenance department – even though maintenance is charged with the indirect responsibility of restoring equipment uptime after a non-maintenance incidence has taken place.

0706_communications_img2Unfortunately, many maintenance departments fail to track and distinguish between maintenancerelated and non-related downtime incidences. Thus, they render themselves easy targets of blame for all downtime occurrences.

Through the utilization of good lubrication practices and the performing of effective planning and scheduling techniques, many maintenance- related downtime causes can be managed out with use of an engineered set-up of the computerized asset management system.

While working on these direct control issues, maintenance also must work on its relationships with non-maintenance downtime, causing partners to significantly reduce their impact on the maintenance budget by setting up a report system that classifies non-related downtime incidences and their impact on operations, and deliver these reports on a regular basis to appropriate partners. This is best achieved through the type of effective communication in which accumulated data from work orders, condition monitoring and predictive trending reports are synthesized and converted into management information that can be understood by the partner (outputs). For example, management may only need a conceptual "big picture" synopsis of the situation, whereas purchasing or HR may require a more detailed account of the situation. Conversely, maintenance must also inform its partners what information (inputs) it expects in return, how often and in what form, and validate how the information will be used. Often, many partners are blissfully unaware of their impact until informed by a maintenance department report indicating the consequences of their actions.

On any given day, the maintenance department could interact with up to 12 groups from within and outside the corporate organization. In a manufacturing or plant engineering environment, maintenance can expect to interact most with production, engineering, accounting and purchasing, and to a lesser extent with contractors, customers, vendors, HR, quality, IT and management. Table II shows a sampling of inputs and outputs required with many different partners in a typical day.

Subsequent articles will investigate the input / output relationship of 12 partners with which maintenance can expect to communicate on a daily basis. MT


Ken Bannister is the principal consultant for Engtech Industries Inc., a maintenance management consulting group. Telephone: (519) 469-9173; e-mail: kbannister @engtechindustries.com