Is your maintenance strategy a profit center or a profit eater?

Set up a maintenance checklist to ensure your program is on the right track


While I’m not addressing the issue of plant maintenance from the profit center aspect, I’m in actuality addressing this from a profit center aspect. Before you start thinking I may be better served by a career in politics and not maintenance, let me explain my statement.

If through existing maintenance practices you initiate catastrophic failure, wouldn’t that impact company profitability? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate profit eater of any company or organization?

Every organization claims it has procedures or checklists to eliminate self-induced failures or missed steps, but are they followed? Are they accurate? Are they written to a sufficient level of detail? Have you ever reviewed them? As a maintenance craft, maintenance supervisor, or maintenance manager, perhaps you should since the profitability of your company may depend on them. In maintenance both checklists and procedures are utilized. There are appropriate places to use either, but let’s start with a quick review of what each is by definition and example.

A checklist is a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention. It helps to ensure consistency and completeness in carrying out a task. For example:


Checklists are appropriate for vehicles, mobile equipment, equipment setups, equipment or line starts and stops, etc.

A procedure specifies a method for performing a task; it is written to a specification. A procedure is designed to describe who, what, where, when, and why by means of establishing accountability in support of the implementation of that specification. The "how" is further documented in the form of work instructions that aim to further support a procedure by providing a greater level of detail.

For example:  

Procedures are appropriate for preventive maintenance (PM), predictive maintenance (PdM), equipment rebuilds, refurbishments, overhauls, corrective maintenance activities, etc.

Both checklists and procedures can only be utilized successfully if the individual(s) executing them have the fundamental skills (tools, safety, etc.) necessary to accomplish the activity and have been trained on the specifics of the equipment.

The most important aspect to ensuring successful utilization of checklists and procedures is to ensure that they are in fact utilized. This requires supervisors and managers to routinely conduct audits so a “culture of discipline” becomes ingrained within the maintenance workforce to always utilize them. Additionally, the checklist and procedure content must routinely be audited to ensure they stay current with the equipment operating environment, configuration, and safety regulations.

To summarize, can checklists and procedures help you establish your maintenance organization as a profit center? I don’t think they alone can, but they can ensure your maintenance organization isn’t a profit eater. Or think of it this way: The next time you get on an airplane, is the pilot using a checklist or just winging it from memory? 

Dave Bertolini is a managing principal for People and Processes, Inc., a firm that specializes in changing cultures from reactive to proactive though the optimization of people and processes.

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