Positioning maintenance as a competitive advantage

In these days of just-in-time, supply chain management, lean manufacturing, capacity assurance, and global competition, it is essential that production is available to meet customer demands. Key to meeting this goal is maintenance support.
By Stephen T. Desirey , CFPIM, Manager, DuPont Consulting Solutions, Wilmington, DE May 1, 2000

In these days of just-in-time, supply chain management, lean manufacturing, capacity assurance, and global competition, it is essential that production is available to meet customer demands. Key to meeting this goal is maintenance support. Viewing maintenance as simply a “burden and services” entry on the ledger sheet is no longer adequate.

The days when effective preventive/predictive maintenance practices were hidden from the daily production highlights are rapidly ending, and maintenance is being recognized as a vital investment, not just a cost.

But the question remains: How can maintenance be integrated into today’s rapidly changing production environment?

Organization alignment

In many businesses, bringing maintenance into a larger organization labeled as operations will have a profound effect. Generally, operations will include production, purchasing, engineering, logistics, and maintenance.

This one, simple step begins a natural teaming of similar skills as interdependent cooperatives instead of the internal competitors that had existed in the past. Just think about the word effective as you visualize the power of common thinking by having this group closer together in their goals rather than disconnected.

Alignment of effort

Now that the strategy is aligned with the internal partners of the business (marketing, sales, operations, technical, and finance) the continuous improvement of the business and the natural work of delivering the products and services can proceed in a focused and orderly approach.

First on that list is how maintenance can provide an advantage in routine production. Maintenance has long been a powerful source of know-how and when to best schedule production. Maintenance needs time for key preventive and predictive maintenance work. Production needs to comply with customers’ schedules. How can the inevitable conflicts be prevented?

In DuPont we are learning that having maintenance engaged as a full participant in the business resource planning process best meets this need. Business resource planning provides the necessary input that allows maintenance to have a voice in improving the operational effectiveness of the plant.

The process works this way. Once the demand from the marketplace is determined, production and maintenance can use the plant’s capacity as a playing field to best fit the resources of people, machine time, ingredient deliveries, and necessary maintenance work in the formal process that will allow meeting the required customer delivery schedules.

This process works, because within the formal disciplined process of business resource planning, business planning is the driver of the time-phased operating process. Production is making what the customer needs when he needs the product. This approach requires a formal freezing of the demand plan, and appropriate measuring policies are formalized to run by this single plan. Freezing should not be confused with inflexibility or rigidity; it is, rather, an agreed process to operate on a single plan. Cooperation, time commitments, and forward planning are key to making this work and to being able to draw upon the vast knowledge base of the maintenance organization.

Improvements in asset productivity

Given that the business will follow the demand signals, the mission of operations is to provide this level of output. This output is to be accomplished in continuously improving, faster, better, and less expensive ways while maintaining the foundation of product consistency.

The objective is to produce the planned quantity with nothing less than first-pass, first-quality product. Maintenance is a key player in establishing the process capability and consistency that allow continuing improvement in the high confidence of production on-aim, every time.

This work is followed by documentation of the highest capable, demonstrated production throughput allowable that will permit the on-aim requirements noted earlier. Note the word demonstrated is not a theoretical number, but a rate that has been accomplished and has a high probability of being achieved. This task must involve the production partners of maintenance, technical, and production. The highest rate is used, as this becomes the goal for sustainable operations. The concept of continuous improvement is to continually raise performance as high as possible. So, the demonstrated throughput level does not become minimal or guaranteed, but it continually pushes the operations team to strive for higher outputs of production capability.

Given that the demonstrated throughput is documented, a measure of “uptime” is used to drive a continuous improvement process. Uptime is defined as the percent of time a facility can operate at its maximum demonstrated rate while making first-pass, first-quality product as required by the production plan.

The question should constantly be asked: “If uptime is not 100%, then why not?” This questioning will result in a Pareto Analysis that will list all of the reasons (not excuses) why 100% of available production throughput at the demonstrated rates was not achieved. This list becomes the prescription, or game plan, for the maintenance, production, and technical groups to improve asset productivity.

A key safety switch is also in place in this process, since it is connected to the business resource planning process. The process assures that the game plan has the sponsorship of the business team and verifies that the work is going to the right assets for meeting the projected demand.

The payoff

Becoming a competitive advantage to the business is much like bringing the diversity of musical instruments together to make beautiful music. Each instrument brings it’s own uniqueness for style and quality. The functional groups of maintenance, production, technical, quality, sales, marketing, etc., all have critical skills. When maintenance is brought into the business resource planning process, it takes on its rightful role as a competitive advantage.

-Edited by Rick Dunn, Chief Editor, 630-320-7141, rdunn@cahners.com


Maintenance should be teamed with production in the business planning process.

Maintenance brings know-how to production scheduling.

Maintenance is a major contributor to asset productivity.


The author is willing to answer questions regarding this article. He can be reached at 302-992-3591 or Steve.Desirey@usa.DuPont.com.

For more information on maintenance management, visit the “Maintenance” channel of Plant Engineering Online at www.plantengineering.com.


The following set of statements will provide a quick diagnostic for determining if your plant is ready to position Maintenance together with operations to become a competitive advantage. To achieve the readiness required for becoming a competitive advantage for the business, the scores from this self-assessment will be in the

“Excellent” and “Good” columns. If this is not the case for any of the statements, then these are areas where your continuous improvement programs will yield the highest returns.





Not doing

Not applicable

  1. a.Maintenance technicians understand and apply the business vision, mission, and strategic intent in their everyday work practices.

    1. b.Personnel safety is always first priority over production issues.

      1. c.Maintenance technicians take initiative in identifying, acquiring, and applying needed skills.

        1. d.All maintenance spare parts are maintained at an inventory record accuracy of a minimum of 95%.

          1. e.Critical maintenance spare parts are maintained at an inventory record accuracy of a minimum of 98%.

            1. f.There exists an extraordinary awareness of the quality and stability of feed streams (ingredients, air, electricity, water, etc.) that are integral to the overall quality of production.

              1. g.All scheduled production outages are measured by cause and by time of duration.

                1. h.Process-related rate reductions are measured for both time and throughput losses.

                  1. i.There is a process in place to have documented production rates, and theoretical yields for standard measurements for all products.

                    1. j.A Pareto Analysis is used to analyze the reasons and magnitude of the losses of valuable production time.

                      1. k.Action to prevent recurrence follows the observations from Item j.

                        1. l.Operating, maintenance, and technical personnel are fully involved in doing root cause analysis to prevent recurrence of the chronic rate loss factors from the observations in Item j.

                          1. m.Uptime or increasing valuable operating time is recognized as a business-wide improvement process with business-wide accountability and benefits.

                            1. n.There is a formal alignment to improve production capability synchronized with existing product capacity and the demand signals from the marketplace.

                              1. o.The plant has a formal program to improve asset productivity, and it is sponsored by the business.

                                1. p.Potential gains from improved production capability are a routine “what if” scenario-planning process prior to deciding to invest in additional production capital expenses.

                                  1. q.Production capability programs are directly connected to existing process capability and the business strategy.

                                    1. r.There is a process to schedule maintenance time into the production schedule.

                                      1. s.Production is able to produce on-aim to schedule a minimum of 95% of the items planned and within the volume tolerances.

                                        1. t.Critical maintenance assemblies are documented with a bill of materials that is maintained at 98% or better accuracy.

                                          1. u.Suppliers (with lead times) for critical maintenance assemblies are documented.

                                            1. v.Fabrication quality (workmanship, tolerances, cleanliness, etc.) is managed effectively and nearly defect-free.

                                              1. w.A system exists to learn from suppliers and also teach them how to best meet the demands of the operation.

                                                1. x.Safety, occupational health, and protection of the environment are team commitments based on care for each other.

                                                  1. y.Operators and maintenance technicians receive cross training to increase their equipment and process knowledge.

                                                    1. z.Principles rather than rules are used to hold people accountable for consequences of their actions.