Best Maintenance Practices

Methods, strategies, and actions that can make maintenance operations more efficient, reduce maintenance and operating costs, improve reliability, and increase morale.

Best Practices. These two words represent benchmarking standards—nothing is better or exceeds a Best Practice. The words are most often applied to the quality of management. There is a broad range of opinions from executives in successful companies regarding what constitutes the best business practices, management styles, and corporate philosophies. Unfortunately, in some people's minds, Best Practices conjure up some obscure, ever-changing, and unachievable goal.

The following discussion will outline real, specific, achievable, and proven standards for maintenance management and show the expected results from targeting and reaching the performance levels of best maintenance practices. It also will provide methods, strategies, and actions to help develop a plan for executing best maintenance practices that can make maintenance departments more efficient, reduce plant maintenance and operating costs, improve reliability, and increase morale.

If everyone at a facility is satisfied with the existing maintenance program, why should they be interested in best maintenance practices? Studies show that most maintenance departments in the United States and Canada operate at between 10 and 40 percent efficiency and that nearly 70 percent of equipment failures are self-induced. These statistics should not be acceptable—not to upper management and certainly not to maintenance managers.

These facts should generate some amount of interest. Where does your maintenance department stand in relation to these figures? Do you measure and track maintenance efficiency? Do you accumulate and analyze data on equipment failures? If not, then you probably have no idea if you are the same as, better, or worse than these averages.

What are best maintenance practices?
Best maintenance practices are defined in two categories: standards and methods. Standards are the measurable performance levels of maintenance execution; methods and strategies must be practiced in order to meet the standards. The combination of standards with methods and strategies provides the elements of an integrated planned maintenance system. Achievement of the best maintenance practice standards (Maintenance Excellence) is accomplished through an interactive and integrated series of links with an array of methods and strategies.

Before defining the standards for best maintenance practices, it is a good idea to make sure that there is common agreement on the definition of maintenance: To keep in its existing state; preserve; continue in good operating condition; protect.

Surprisingly, there are a number of people who do not know the meaning of maintenance—at least the way they practice maintenance would indicate this. In practice, the prevalent interpretation of maintenance is to "fix it when it breaks." This is a good definition for repair, but not maintenance. This is reactive maintenance. Proactive maintenance is the mission.

To change the organization's basic beliefs, it must identify the reasons why it does not follow these best practices in maintaining its equipment. Two of the more common reasons that a plant does not follow best maintenance repair practices are: Maintenance is totally reactive and does not follow the definition of maintenance, and the maintenance workforce lacks the discipline to follow best maintenance repair practices or management has not defined rules of conduct for best maintenance practices.

Proactive or reactive
The potential cost savings of best maintenance practices may be beyond the understanding or comprehension of some managers. They do not believe that repair practices directly impact an organization's bottom line or profitability. More enlightened companies have demonstrated that, by reducing the self-induced failures, they can increase production capacity as much as 20 percent. Other managers accept lower reliability standards from maintenance efforts because either they do not understand the problem or they choose to ignore this issue. A good manager must be willing to admit to a maintenance problem and actively pursue a solution.

How can you actively pursue a solution? Be proactive, disciplined, accountable, manage to maximize available resources, and manage based on information. Adopting a proactive approach to maintenance will improve its effectiveness dramatically and more rapidly than instituting an aggressive program of maintenance effectiveness improvement within the confines of the organizational and cultural environment of an existing, predominantly reactive maintenance program.

Equipment level best practices
The standards for best maintenance practices at the maintenance management level flow down to equipment-specific practices that are benchmarks for performing preventive maintenance. You may find that these practices are not achieved in your organization, and they are not targeted as maintenance department objectives. In order to fix the problem, you must understand that the culture of the organization is the cause.

Changing the culture is a major challenge; it is basic human nature to resist change. Salesmanship plays an important part in moving from a reactive to a proactive maintenance organization, which is essential if you are to succeed at the best maintenance practices strategy.

There has to be shift in mentality to allow the planning and scheduling process to work. It has been shown that when maintenance is planned and scheduled, a 25 person maintenance force operating with proactive planning and maintenance scheduling can deliver the equivalent amount of work of a maintenance crew of 40 persons working in a reactive maintenance organization. Selling this concept before making the needed changes can go a long way toward easing the transition. The compelling aspects of the proactive approach to maintenance include improved employee effectiveness, fewer "extended" work days, increased personal pride, and the resulting improvement in employee morale.

Strategic attributes of proactive maintenance
Planning for the implementation of best maintenance practices is essential. Timelines, personnel assignments, documentation, and the other elements of a well-planned change must be developed before changes begin to take place. Proactive maintenance organization attributes fundamental to success include:

  • Maintenance skills training
  • Work flow analysis and required changes (organizational)
  • Work order system
  • Planned preventive maintenance tasks/procedures
  • Maintenance engineering development
  • Establishment, assignment, and training of planner-scheduler
  • Maintenance inventory and purchasing integration
  • Computerized maintenance management system
  • Management reporting/performance measurement and tracking
  • Return on investment (ROI) analysis
  • Evaluate and integrate use of contractors

An amplification of each of these considerations follows.

Maintenance skills training
Performing a job task analysis (JTA) will help define the skill levels required of maintenance department employees. The JTA should be followed with a skills assessment of employee knowledge and skill levels. Analyze the gap between required skills and available skills to determine the amount and level of training necessary to close the gap.

Instituting a qualification and certification program that is set up to measure skills achievement through written exams and practical skills demonstration will provide feedback on training effectiveness. It also will assist in resource allocation when scheduling maintenance tasks.

Work flow
One element of the transition planning process that can be a major stumbling block is analyzing existing work flow patterns and devising the necessary work flow and organizational changes required to make use of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). This process can be difficult for the employees involved. When work flow shifts from a reactive to a proactive posture, planned and scheduled maintenance will replace the corrective maintenance style. The CMMS will provide insights into organized, proactive work flow arrangements through its system modeling.

Although you can tailor work flow and organizational attributes to match your plant's requirements, they still must work within any constraints imposed by the CMMS. Of primary importance is keeping focused on the ultimate objective—a proactive maintenance organization that will assist in reaching the standards of best maintenance practices.

Work order system
There probably is an existing work order system that is at least loosely followed. Again, the CMMS will help in defining changes to, or complete restructuring of, any existing work order system. The work order will be the backbone of the new proactive maintenance organization's work execution, information input, and feedback from the CMMS. All work must be captured on a work order—8 hours on the job equals 8 hours on work orders.

The types of work orders an organization needs will need to be defined. They will include categories such as planned/scheduled, corrective, emergency, etc. The work order will be the primary tool for managing labor resources and measuring department effectiveness.

Planned, preventive maintenance activities
Developing maintenance task documentation most likely will be one of the most time-consuming requirements of the proactive maintenance approach, unless the procedures are already written and in-place. Procedural documentation should include standardized listings of parts, materials, and consumable requirements; identification of the craft and skill level(s) required to perform the task; and stated frequencies (or operating time-based period) of performance. Categories of maintenance procedures that will be included in planned maintenance documentation include:

  • Routine preventive maintenance (lubricate, clean, inspect, minor component replacement, etc.)
  • Proactive replacements (entire equipment or major components, time-based or operating hours)
  • Scheduled rebuilds or overhauls
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Condition monitoring/performance based maintenance

Maintenance engineering development
If your facility or plant does not have a Maintenance Engineering section, one should be established. The functions and responsibilities of new or existing maintenance engineering groups should be reviewed and revised to integrate and enhance the proactive maintenance organization. One of the alarming statistics mentioned earlier indicated that up to 70 percent of equipment failures are self-induced. Finding the reasons for self-induced failures, and all failures, is a responsibility of maintenance engineering.

Reliability engineering is the primary role of a maintenance engineering group. Its responsibilities in this area should include evaluating preventive maintenance action effectiveness, developing predictive maintenance techniques and procedures, performing condition monitoring, providing planning and scheduling, conducting forensic investigations of failures including root cause analysis, and evaluating training effectiveness.

Establishment, assignment, and training of maintenance planners
Whenever maintenance is performed, it is planned. It is a question of who is doing the planning, when he is doing it, to what degree, and how well. Separation of planning from execution is a general rule of good management and good organizational structure. The responsibilities of the planner-scheduler are diverse, and although he must be familiar with the maintenance process, he also must be a good administrator and have the appropriate level of authority to carry out his role as labor usage scheduler and interface between many departments within the organization. The following are typical responsibilities of the planner:

  • Establish equipment numbering system and number all equipment
  • Develop PM program for each piece of equipment
  • Ensure accuracy of equipment bills of materials
  • Maintain equipment history in the CMMS as detailed and complete as possible
  • Review equipment history for trends and recommend improvements
  • Provide detailed job plan instructions (PM procedures)
  • Determine part requirements for planned jobs
  • Provide necessary drawings for jobs
  • Ensure drawings are revised and kept current
  • Arrange for special tools and equipment
  • Coordinate equipment downtime with production
  • Inform production of job progress
  • Provide cost information from equipment history
  • Assist with development of annual overhaul schedule
  • Publish negotiated weekly maintenance schedules

The function of the planner-scheduler is a pivotal position in a successful proactive maintenance approach and therefore vital to attaining the standards of best maintenance practices. The planner-scheduler assignment must be critically evaluated, and specialized in-depth training should be provided if required.

Maintenance inventory and purchasing integration
The cost of (parts) inventory is almost always an area where cost reduction can be substantial. With the help of suppliers and equipment vendors, purchasing usually can place contracts or basic order agreements (BOA) that guarantee delivery lead time for designated inventory items. It just makes sense that your facility should shift the bulk of the cost of maintaining inventory to the suppliers.

Begin by identifying your facility's parts, material, and consumable requirements. All the inventory requirements data should be entered into the CMMS. If you do not already have this data, equipment vendors can be very helpful because they usually maintain parts lists by equipment type and model. It may even be formatted such that it can be directly downloaded to your system.

The parts requirements of planned preventive maintenance tasks should then be used (your CMMS should perform this function) to generate a parts list for the planned preventive category of work order. These are items that do not need to be in your physical inventory through your use of just-in-time vendor-supplied BOAs.

Barcoding, continuous inventory, and demand and usage data can be integrated through the use of the CMMS to minimize on-hand inventory and still avoid stock-outs.

Computerized maintenance management system
The discussion to this point has assumed that your facility has a computerized maintenance management system in-place. If not, or if your CMMS does not have some of the capabilities we have discussed, it is certainly time to think about upgrading. A CMMS is critical to an organized, efficient transition to a proactive maintenance approach.

Even if your CMMS has all the capabilities needed, the transition process is an ideal time to validate the completeness and accuracy of the various CMMS module databases, particularly the equipment database. GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) is a phenomenon that can impede or prevent you from achieving the standards of Best Maintenance Practices. It is also a good time to refine your work control system and to determine that the output data (report generator) is adequate to meet each user's individual requirements.

Management reporting and performance measurement and tracking
Hand-in-hand with the CMMS review (upgrade) is the "report generator" function just mentioned. The CMMS output should be providing maintenance, engineering, operations or production, purchasing, and upper management with accurate and effective reports for evaluation and management. The types of reports and data tracking you should obtain from your CMMS include:

  • Open work order report
  • Closed work order report
  • Mean time between failures
  • "Cost per" reports
  • Scheduled compliance report
  • PM overdue report
  • Labor allocation report
  • Parts demand and usage report

Return on investment (ROI) analysis
Justification of anything in business today is based on cost. You will need to accumulate data on productivity (total plant costs per item produced), maintenance labor costs, maintenance material costs, inventory carrying costs, and reliability/availability data for at least 2 years prior to transition to the proactive maintenance organization. Once you begin the planning and implementation of the changes, upgrades, etc., you will need to separate the development costs from the routine and normal operating costs of your facility to determine the total cost of implementing best maintenance practices.

When transition has been completed, accumulate the same cost and performance data that you obtained for the period prior to implementation. Obtaining this information must be planned for ahead of time so that you do not end up comparing apples and oranges and that you determine your real ROI.

Evaluate and integrate use of contractors
A final item to consider when incorporating best maintenance practices is integrating the use of contractors into your facility maintenance and maintenance engineering. Again it is necessary to determine costs for in-house performance and compare them to the costs of contracting out selected efforts. This likely will be a function of total facility size and operating costs.

Some of the maintenance or maintenance engineering efforts that may be considered as potential candidates for contractor performance include performance of maintenance, capital improvements, expansion programs, predictive maintenance, and condition monitoring.

Any maintenance activities that do become a contractor function still must have relevant information and data collected and entered into the CMMS. All requirements that will be contracted to outside providers must be completely defined and should include a listing of the contractors responsibilities and expectations prior to awarding any contracts. Formatting data for direct input to the CMMS is an example of a requirement that a contractor would not routinely provide services for.

Where to begin
Industry not only is failing to achieve best maintenance practice standards but, on the average, is not even approaching acceptable maintenance practices. You should answer two fundamental questions:

  • Where does our facility or plant stand relative to best maintenance practices?
  • Can we accept our existing maintenance effectiveness?

You must determine your acceptance level for performance. If you think it is time to bring you and your facility out of ineffectual practices and into cost saving, reliability enhanced, and recognizable distinction, you will need to establish best maintenance practices as your standards of performance. Hand-in-hand you must make a transition from a reactive maintenance organization to a totally proactive structure.

The process is not an overnight project. It will take time, effort, and planning to accomplish. Above all, the transition requires commitment from all levels of your organization. The tools and planning strategies presented here will help tremendously once that commitment is made. MT


Ricky Smith is executive director, maintenance solutions, at Life Cycle Engineering, Inc., 4360 Corporate Rd., Suite 100, North Charleston, SC 29405-7445; (843) 744-7110

Best Maintenance Practices

The standards for best maintenance practices include:

  • 100 percent of a maintenance person's time is covered by a work order.
  • 90 percent of work orders are generated by preventive maintenance inspections.
  • 30 percent of all work is preventive maintenance.
  • 90 percent compliance of planned/scheduled work.
  • 100 percent of the required reliability level is reached 100 percent of the time.
  • Spare parts stockouts are rare (less than one per month).
  • Overtime is less than 2 percent of total maintenance time.
  • Maintenance costs are within ±2 percent of budget.

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