Benchmarking maintenance organization effectiveness

At what level are the best maintenance organizations performing and how do they compare to the average maintenance operation . . . or to the worst? How well would your company score? These are the kinds of questions maintenance people ask themselves every day in plants across the country. The way to find the answers is to conduct a maintenance effectiveness assessment.

By Ricky Smith and Bruce Hawkins, Life Cycle Engineering, Charleston, SC December 10, 2003
About The Data
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At what level are the best maintenance organizations performing and how do they compare to the average maintenance operation . . . or to the worst? How well would your company score?

These are the kinds of questions maintenance people ask themselves every day in plants across the country. The way to find the answers is to conduct a maintenance effectiveness assessment.

Maintenance assessments provide the basis for prioritization of improvement efforts on the path to improvement, even excellence. In addition, a maintenance assessment will define the improvement potential for the maintenance operation, which in turn can be used to define the dollar-value potential for maintenance-related cost reductions.

Maintenance organization effectiveness assessments should be performed in two phases. The Phase I assessment is an initial study to define a plant’s baseline position or starting-point status. Following that, typically by 18 mo to 2 yr, a Phase II followup assessment should be made to evaluate progress and to redirect, if necessary, continuing improvement efforts. Assessment scores will correlate the maintenance operation to its position on the “World Class Maintenance Achievement Bar” depicted in Fig. 1.

About The Data

The data in this article come from more than 170 assessments of maintenance organization effectiveness across a broad spectrum of plant and facility types. The assessments evaluated 21 essential elements, which are the building blocks of the “Maintenance Arch” shown in Fig. 2, by objective scoring of more than 650 individual characteristics and factors, or data points. The data results of these assessments are compiled in Table 1 by highest, lowest, average, and median scores. No assessment scores were excluded.

The lowest and highest scores are not necessarily from one plant but are the composite scores specific to each element of the maintenance arch. A few maintenance organizations scored high in some areas but low in others. There is, however, an overall trend toward higher scoring in all elements by the more effective maintenance organizations, while the less effective organizations tended to score low in all the elements.

Figure 3 illustrates a typical distribution of the scoring ranges of the assessments. As the keystone of the maintenance arch, preventive/predictive maintenance is chosen to illustrate the distribution of scores because it also represents how sound the basis for improvement is. With 76 evaluated data points combined to yield the total element score, the Preventive/Predictive Maintenance assessment element is also the largest element relative to the number of data points.

The trend toward all-low or all-high scoring is due, in part, to each organization’s overall philosophy towards maintenance. It is also due to the interdependency between many of the elements. Thus, the compiled assessment results demonstrate the pitfalls of trying to focus improvement efforts on one area and expecting good results. Limiting your focus on one element of maintenance will not provide the full results expected. You must focus on a group of elements with interdependency.


Preventive/predictive maintenance is the keystone of the maintenance arch. Ensuring that the keystone is totally effective requires a strong maintenance engineering effort using as one of its resources a reliable equipment history database.

Preventive/predictive maintenance effectively requires competent and adequate craft staffing with proper attitude. Therefore, proper organization and a high level of pride and quality assurance are other elements linked to PM/PdM.

Pride and quality assurance awareness are directly related to supervisory skills and operating practices along with adequate facilities and equipment .

Control of the work performed by maintenance forces is instituted through a strong work order system . Interactive elements that are a large portion of any successful work order system are work planning, scheduling and coordination as well as work measurement .

Effective work planning and work execution will not result without proper material support and control . Execution of various preventive maintenance tasks is dependent on parts and supplies availability, which constitutes another linkage between the elements of the arch.

A well-defined relationship exists between the elements of management reporting and control, cost distribution and budgetary control . Budgetary control can exist without the others, but by itself it does not achieve the control level desired. Cost distribution, management reporting, and control are most effective when linked to a strong work order system . The management cycle must be completed by reliable information feedback on which managerial decisions and direction can be appropriately directed.

Training is linked to virtually every one of the elements discussed above and is the key link in the “educational process” previously emphasized. Management’s commitment to, and support of a strong, on-going training program for crafts and supervision (particularly foremen) cannot be overemphasized.

To assure that progress is being made in many of the elements of the arch, objectives, goals , and targets are established, monitored, and reported on a regular basis.

The foundation for all of these elements is the establishment of governing principles and concepts that are set by facility and department management with input from members of maintenance supervision. Accordingly this element is linked essentially to all the others.

A master plan establishes the action steps, necessary resources, and time requirements to close the gap between current status and established objectives. The master plan element contains those action items determined to be necessary during implementation and progress towards “total maintenance integration” and maintains direction for the effort.

Finally, there is status assessment. This element defines the degree of maintenance effectiveness including strong points as well as areas which need to be improved.


The average scores in Table 1 show that maintenance organizations do relatively well in the elements of Organizational Structure , Supervision , and providing craftsmen with adequate Facilities and Equipment . They also do well at Materials Management . These are all elements that don’t necessarily require a well-integrated process.

The average scores are much lower in the elements of Status Assessment , Master Planning , Work/Job Planning, Work Measurement , and Scheduling/Coordination . These elements require a more sophisticated, well-designed process with the appropriate level of discipline to follow it.

Table 2 presents the lowest, average, highest, and median total aggregate scores — that is, the total score for all 21 elements divided by 21 to yield the percent of maximum possible score — for all of the assessments. Figure 4 is a graphic illustration of the distribution of total assessment scores.

Comparing the total score distribution (Fig. 4) to the distribution of preventive/predictive maintenance scores (Fig. 3) makes it apparent that overall maintenance organization effectiveness is not as readily achieved as effective PM/PdM. However, PM/PdM is an excellent starting point on the path towards maintenance excellence and world class recognition.

Where would your maintenance operation stand?

Compiled scores, by element, of maintenance assessments

Scores Governing principles Status assessment Objectives Master Plan Budgetary Control Management Control Organization
Lowest 0.000 0.000 0.040 0.000 0.100 0.033 0.160
Average 0.468 0.273 0.388 0.279 0.526 0.471 0.614
Highest 0.925 0.900 0.880 0.960 1.000 0.900 0.950
Median 0.475 0.200 0.360 0.160 0.500 0.433 0.580

Scores Training Supervision Pride & Quality Facilities & Equipment Work Order System Cost Distribution Computer Support
Lowest 0.020 0.114 0.150 0.100 0.000 0.000 0.000
Average 0.494 0.654 0.585 0.648 0.458 0.438 0.476
Highest 0.950 0.929 0.875 0.982 0.883 1.000 0.943
Median 0.440 0.657 0.600 0.673 0.467 0.450 0.500

Scores Equipment History Maintenance Engineering Preventive/Predictive Maintenance Work Planning Work Measurements Material Support & Control Scheduling & Coordination
Lowest 0.000 0.067 0.050 0.006 0.000 0.130 0.000
Average 0.444 0.436 0.514 0.355 0.267 0.589 0.395
Highest 0.900 0.857 0.865 0.850 0.717 0.890 0.880
Median 0.475 0.414 0.500 0.280 0.233 0.595 0.390

Score Total scores
Lowest 0.181
Average 0.485
Highest 0.838
Median 0.459

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Author Information
Authors Ricky Smith and Bruce Hawkins have many years of experience in maintenance management as well as in training and consulting. They can be reached at 843-744-7110 or and , respectively. The Life Cycle Engineering web site is .