Forge a path to data-driven maintenance excellence

And then use metrics to track the progress being made.

By Paul Lachance October 8, 2019

The path to maintenance excellence can go many ways. Some never start the journey and suffer the consequences. For others, it can be a long and winding road – sometimes one that dead ends. For the most profitable organizations, the road is straight and clear.

Following along with the above analogy: Imagine you need to drive somewhere. You’re late and not exactly sure how to get there. You jump in your car, anxious to get to the destination, and look at the dashboard – it resembles that of a 1920s Ford Model T. No speedometer, no GPS with directions, just a steering wheel and windshield. Now, imagine being in the same predicament in a brand-new Tesla. The dashboard is set up with meaningful information – speed, engine alerts, detailed mapping. In which case are you more likely to get to the destination efficiently and safely?

The journey to maintenance excellence is also far more likely to be achievable with the right data to help along the way.

[subhead]First things, first

Does your organization understand the value of what the maintenance people do?

If you have been around the manufacturing world for a while, you may remember earlier stereotypes of maintenance people: blue-collar men who are called only when things are going badly ─ to put out fires, then run back to their basement office. They were undervalued, and profitability suffered as a result.

Today, maintenance women and men are just as valued as any other critical part of a manufacturing organization. They can impact profitability in many ways. For example, say business is good: Sales are going well and the demands on production increase to the point where decisions are needed on expanding production lines, adding another shift or some other expensive method to keep up with demand. Or the same results could be achieved by moving from 87% uptime to 94% uptime. Maintenance can help profitability as much as anyone.

If the organization does not understand this value, then communicating that to them should be the first goal. Communication and transparency around the important work that the maintenance department does is the first step. Start automating reports to go to supervisors or even executives. Include data points that show work completion rates, what’s been accomplished, the time or money saved, as well as areas that may need more resources to get the job done.

Map out the path

It starts with a plan.

It helps to have a map to where things are going. At minimum, a destination. Otherwise, how are you going to get there?

Make sure the right team is involved in the plan, which includes:

Management Operational, financial and information technology departments, among others.

Maintenance team Rather than force a plan on the maintenance staff, involve them in the process. They will have excellent advice (although it may need filtering) and they will support it when it comes time to implement.

A CMMS partner It is significantly easier to have professional resources to help organize thoughts, create a plan and ultimately see it gets implemented within a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

Improvement starts with recognizing your goals, objectives and pain-points. Use a whiteboard and jot down what is keeping you up at night, hurting efficiency and ultimately profitability.

  • Is unexpected downtime hurting production schedules?
  • Are you not able to keep up with the work orders in front of you?
  • Are missing key spare parts contributing to the issues?

Make a list and debate – these will ultimately be tracked and remedied in a CMMS solution.

Your CMMS provider will be able to help organize your needs and make sure that the software is configured to help make that pain go away. You should be able to easily see your progress and course correct when needed. Often, your CMMS provider will have data experts on hand to guide you in your path to better entering, extracting and using your operations data.

Find your most effective metrics

There are no magic metrics.

The CMMS can harness lots of data and demonstrate with metrics and analytics that measure where the organization is today, where it needs to be and what progress looks like. These could be in the form of simple single number values, charts, reports or key performance indicators (KPIs).

There are literally hundreds of possible metrics that could be tracked. They vary from role to role and can even change over time as progress is made or as plans change. One thing is for sure: Unless you have a solid handle on what the goals and objectives and ultimately an idea of where the path needs to lead, it won’t be possible to have an effective list of the metrics, data and analytics needed.

Here are three common areas of metrics that manufacturers might want to regularly look at:

1. Backlog

“Backlog,” roughly speaking, is how much work is sitting around – typically in the form of work orders, corrective or preventive. Backlog is often described in days or weeks (i.e. “We have 6 weeks of backlogged PM”). The goal is to reduce the backlog to an efficient level. While there will always be some level of backlog, there needs to be the right balance.

For some, it’s possible to have too small of a backlog, or at least it needs to be verified if that’s true. Some possibilities include: Is the plant over-staffed? Are enough preventive maintenance word orders (WO) being generated? Shorter backlog is typically always better than longer. Just make sure it is accurate.

For most, their WO backlog is too long, often for the following reasons:

  • Unable to get to preventive maintenance WOs
  • Understaffed or possibly inappropriate allocation of staff to WOs
  • Inability to find and correct reoccurring issues or other profit-killing patterns.

Here are some tools you can use to balance out your backlog:

Simple work views on a shareable dashboard What’s needed is a clean and simple way to see and share with others (like technicians, foremen, supervisors and others) what work is taking place.

A prioritized list of work This should be more than just a simple list of open WOs. Work should be organized by “calculated criticality” – the idea being not to just rely on priority but take into account the criticality of the assets being worked on. An extreme example would be someone making an emergency WO because the coffee machine is broken.

A balanced team A CMMS job planner/scheduler can show metrics on which teammates are overloaded or underloaded, allowing for a properly balanced workload. This leads to less burnout and more efficient advancements on reducing backlog.

2. Stock-Outs

“Stock-outs” are the dreaded situation where there is a WO (PM or corrective), and a part isn’t available needed to finish the job. We have all been there: it’s a big production run, timing is tight, and then, wham – downtime. That stings enough on its own, but when you go to get the part you need, you are out. Worst yet, it will take a while to get the part and cost a fortune to get it. That’s the general pain of a stock-out. Stock-outs can be a profit killer and should be avoided.

Reducing stock-outs really speaks to the ability to manage inventory and purchasing processes. Is it know what parts will be needed? Are the right parts available, at the right price and the right time? Get this right and stock-outs will go down. Get it wrong and lots of issues can occur, including the extending of the work order backlog.

Here are some tools to help with stock-outs :

A solid list of parts Capture the parts in proper locations and associate them with the right assets, like a bill of materials (BOM). PMs should have the parts associated with them, including part reservation or just-in-time ordering.

Easily searchable inventory The ability to look up parts where they are located, levels and related, on a desktop or mobile device.

A dashboard that shows when parts are low – The ability to see what parts there are shortages of and have an automatic email notification when that’s the case.

A way to see future needs See upcoming PMs o as to better understand what parts/kits will be needed.

3. 80/20 Rule

The Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) call for 80% of work orders to be preventive and 20% be corrective to be considered “stable.” Beyond that, 90%/10% is considered “world class.”

Do you even know your ratio? How is it trending?

Even if you are on the other “firefighting” end of that ratio, it should be possible to measure it and to have a solid plan and CMMS to improve that ratio. This process takes a lot of work beyond the metrics. It requires a proactive maintenance culture and dedication to working productively and efficiently while demonstrating outcomes. Assuming the organization is dedicated to this, there are numerous metrics that should be tracked.

Here are some metrics that can be used to help balance preventive and corrective maintenance :

Ratio of PMs/CMs This should be seen on the dashboard, because it indicates how work is trending.

Visibility into the future PMs Everyone should be able to see what work is coming up daily, weekly and monthly.

A job planner This CMMS tool can support efforts to optimize the balance of work throughout the team.

Analysis on sources of downtime Be able to pinpoint what is causing downtime (with problem codes, cause codes, or other) and identify chronic issues so that PMS can be set to avoid them in the future.

Move forward together

With the right vehicle, path and destination, or as it would be said in the maintenance world, the right tools, plan and metrics, maintenance excellence is achievable and rewarding. Make sure the organization understands how critical the team is to overall success – and that’s where data, metrics and KPIs come in to make numbers more visual and actionable.

To build a solid plan, have the right team and technology, as well as defined goals and objectives. Align metrics to coincide with those objectives. It’s then possible for everyone to work toward a stronger future, together.

Author Bio: Paul Lachance has spent his entire career devoted to optimizing maintenance teams by enabling data-driven decisions and actionable insights. He wrote his first CMMS system in 2004 and has since spent his professional career designing and directing CMMS and EAM systems. A regular speaker at national tradeshows, he’s been featured at IMTS, Fabtech and SMRP as well as several industry magazines. He is a manufacturing technology consultant on behalf of Brightly Software.