Maintenance Management: 6 Steps for Scaled Production and Growth

Maintenance Management 6 Steps for Scaled Production and Growth

This is a guest post by Bryan Christiansen from Limble CMMS – a modern and easy to use mobile maintenance software. Over the years Bryan evolved from a simple software engineer with a spark of entrepreneurial spirit into a confident leader that manages a whole team of people, moving the maintenance industry forward.

When production is expanding, it’s great news for the business. However, this rapid expansion brings many challenges. Properly preparing for each challenge will be important so that production processes run smoothly.

The maintenance department is no exception. As your operation grows, there will always be some difficulties adjusting to the increased maintenance load. This is where maintenance management as a discipline comes in.

Despite its importance for efficient expansion, a HubSpot survey found only 6% of respondents considered their maintenance department well-established.

Maintenance management looks at the steps you can take to prepare and scale your maintenance capacity.

In this Process Street article, we will present to you our 6 top strategies you can implement for efficient maintenance management.

Click on the relevant subheaders below to jump to that section. Alternatively, scroll down to read all we have to say regarding the topic of maintenance management.

Let’s begin!

What is maintenance? The importance of more efficient maintenance processes

Maintenance means preservation. Maintenance work during production means to maintain production conditions through change. In this article, we are talking about the change that comes with scaling production processes.

As you expand production, you will need to increase the efficiency of your maintenance department’s processes to meet extra demand. If your maintenance department is not using tools and methods like Six Sigma, DMAIC, CMMS software and does not have an all-around proactive mindset, then the scaling of production may cause huge problems down the road. You may not be able to handle the increased workload without adding significant resources.

Maintenance strategy continuation
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Studies have shown that weak maintenance strategies can reduce plant capacity by 5-20%. This clearly contradicts your aim to increase capacity. Unplanned downtime is a killer to productivity, costing manufacturers $50 billion every year.

The idea behind this is simple. Every small maintenance problem you have right now is likely to become a significantly bigger issue as you scale. Be it a maintenance backlog, spare parts inventory issues, poor communication, technicians that lack needed skills, etc, all of these problems will grow when you introduce new assets and more workload into the mix.

Ideally, what you want is to ensure that you have a well-organized maintenance department before you start to scale up the production.

There are several modern maintenance concepts that can raise the ability of your entire maintenance department. By implementing them you can take your maintenance to the next level.

In this next section, we will review some of these concepts.

Maintenance management concept #1: Using a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)

A Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) is a software package that stores and maintains information about an organization’s maintenance operations. A CMMS is an essential component of a modern maintenance department. Without it, you risk poor control of your assets when your operation expands.

Scaling production usually means:

  • You need more assets to remain operational
  • You need a bigger maintenance team which needs to be managed
  • You need to withstand a bigger turnover of spare parts
  • You need to schedule and track more maintenance tasks

Keeping on track is borderline impossible without a digital tool like a CMMS.

Additional benefits of a CMMS include; standardization, scheduling, database, report generation, and add-on capabilities. Let’s expand on them.

CMMS benefit #1: Process standardization

Work instructions are standardized in a CMMS so that maintenance techs are all on the same page and following the same procedure. Standardization is a core tenet to modern lean principles.

With standard procedures:

  • The efficiency of the process is increased.
  • The outcome (quality) of the work is improved.
  • Training and onboarding are simpler.

The CMMS will also allow comments and updates to the procedures as your techs will naturally find more ways to be efficient and improve the standard processes.

CMMS benefit #2: Scheduling & managing maintenance work

A CMMS reduces your administrative work around maintenance. It allows you to automate the scheduling of preventive maintenance tasks. If a task does not get completed on time, the CMMS can store that information and the schedule can be adjusted. As you move to a more preventive and predictive state of maintenance, the CMMS is mandatory for administrative tasks.

You can set up checklists in Process Street to manage, schedule, and automate reminders of your maintenance work. To exemplify how, why not check out our Scheduled Maintenance Notification checklist embedded below.

You can access this checklist for free today. Edit and refine the checklist to suit your specific needs.

Click here to access our Scheduled Maintenance Notification checklist.

CMMS benefit #3: Data & report generation that fuel continuous improvement

An effective CMMS also offers a ton of great data that can be used for continuous improvement opportunities. You can use many Six Sigma measurement tools to find these potential projects. In employing the CMMS, and tracking maintenance information, it can be easy to find methods that drive down costs.

First, look at equipment downtime. Which is the biggest culprit in terms of breakdowns? How can you avoid some of these breakdowns by moving to preventive or predictive maintenance methods?

Next, consider the maintenance time spent on assets. Which assets take the most labor time, and can the procedures be optimized? Look for inefficiencies in labor and asset importance.

Another area to explore is spare parts inventory data. Do you have the right level of spares on hand for your critical processes? More information on this will be given later.

You need to look at your data and determine where you can improve. A CMMS enables this exploration and leads to further gains in your maintenance strategy.

Maintenance management concept #2: The proactive maintenance approach

A proactive maintenance approach identifies the root causes of failure to avoid future breakdowns resulting from underlying equipment conditions.

The best type of maintenance is proactive in nature and stops problems before they occur. This is what you should strive for – but it’s not easy.

Going from a reactive to a proactive mindset can be challenging as it requires a shift in culture, thinking, and procedures. This can be difficult for some employees to adopt, especially the older part of the workforce that are set in their ways of doing things.

The two most common proactive types of maintenance strategies are preventive and predictive maintenance.

You can see a quick comparison of these two strategies in the image below.

types of maintenance strategies
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Potential ROI
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Proactive maintenance approach: Efficiency through preventive maintenance

Maintenance teams have traditionally focused on responding to the emergency of the day – for instance, equipment break downs, working to get apparatus back up and running as quickly as possible.

This is known as reactive maintenance and is an inefficient use of your assets!

So naturally, we want to avoid this scenario as much as we can. One way to do this is through preventive maintenance measures.

Preventive maintenance moves your organization into a proactive approach to maintenance. To move further in this direction, you may consider predictive maintenance – if you have the resources available.

Predictive maintenance is where we start to act on actual conditions rather than prescribed schedules. With predictive maintenance, real-time machine data is used to accurately predict when a breakdown may occur. Data is collected via sensors (temperature, vibration, pressure, etc,) and fed into a software package – typically summarized in a dashboard.

The maintenance staff can monitor the health of the machines this way and respond to real-time issues before they become catastrophic breakdowns. When you can predict a problem a week out, you can plan appropriately with minimal effect on production and little cost to the operation.

Proactive maintenance approach: Proactive approach as a part of ERM

What usually happens when you scale production?

You have more assets running at the same time and you have more people moving around the facility.

The combination of new assets people are not familiar with; older assets being pushed beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations; new people joining the team, and significant workflow changes accommodating increased production volume means that:

  • The number of potential safety risks has increased.
  • The potential for human error has increased.
  • The chance of not meeting planned production volume has increased.

What a proactive approach to maintenance does is minimize the chance that your machines will be the cause of safety incidents or delayed production. When you have that covered, you can concentrate on improving your onboarding process and fleshing out your workflow to decrease the chance of human error.

This will play an important role in developing/updating your Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) strategy. After all, risk management should be a continuous process that accounts for the changes happening in your organization.

Maintenance management concept #3: Continuous improvements with a DMAIC Process

A DMAIC process is used to improve, optimize and stabilize business processes and designs. Using the DMAIC process can help maintain a culture of continuous improvement. DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. It is a method that can be used to improve a process – especially processes that need attention.

DMAIC - learn six sigma
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In a general sense, the DMAIC process identifies a problem and a clear method to measure the effect of the problem. Once something is measured and brought to everyone’s attention it becomes natural to find improvements. These improvements are implemented and the results are measured for effectiveness.

In a case study, DMAIC implementation focused on a preventive maintenance program that led to a 79% reduction in customer callbacks and a 30% increase in customer satisfaction. For more information regarding the DMAIC process read: DMAIC: The Complete Guide to Lean Six Sigma in 5 Key Steps.

Maintenance management concept #4: Cleaning out your deferred maintenance backlog

Deferred maintenance is a practice of postponing maintenance work because you lack resources (be it time, knowledge, people, or spare parts) to complete it.

As you can imagine, having a big backlog of maintenance tasks waiting for your attention as you are trying to scale is a recipe for disaster.

Below are some strategies to help you deal with a large deferred maintenance backlog.

  • Regularly review the backlog and prioritize the critical tasks.
  • Commit resources to reduce the backlog and keep moving on the path from reactive to preventive or predictive.
  • If your deferred maintenance workload becomes too large, your maintenance costs can skyrocket, and your production numbers will suffer.

Here is a great resource on how to manage your deferred maintenance backlog if you want to learn more.

Maintenance management concept #5: Setting up proper inventory management practices

Spare parts management is a critical component of your maintenance strategy as you expand. When production is growing rapidly, you want to hold critical spares on hand for emergencies. At the same time, you don’t want to tie up precious capital in spare parts that may never be used. So how do you strike this balance?

  1. Fit spare part management into your overall maintenance plan. As previously discussed, do your best to move from reactive means to preventive and predictive means of maintenance.
  2. Ensure your work order process is standardized and parts inventory is kept up to date. If your maintenance techs are not keeping track of the parts used in their work, the inventory will not be accurate. This will lead to future problems. An inventory management checklist, for example, can help with this.
  3. Develop a list of spare parts deemed critical. Use data from your maintenance system to define this clearly. Periodically review this list and update it as necessary.
  4. Understand lead times for spare parts and how this can affect your production. Critical spares with long lead times should be stocked. Keep this information with the critical spare info – perhaps in a matrix that is reviewed periodically to keep everyone’s memory up to date.

Combining this information with your production data, you can determine the overall risk to your business. Using downtime costs, for example, you can help to justify certain levels of inventory. Removing the risk to the operation will help to keep costs down as you grow.

Maintenance management concept #6: Adding resources through hiring

An inevitable fact of expansion is an increase in human capital. Though you want to remain lean and efficient, at some point, you may need to add people to the maintenance team. How do you know if you have the right size of maintenance staff and when is the time to expand your maintenance team?

Determine if more people is the right solution

To right-size your maintenance organization, you will need to appropriately gauge the cost/benefit of adding people to your staff. Below are some rules of thumb for benchmarking your maintenance costs:

  • Method #1: Size your maintenance staff by the number of assets. This is perhaps too simplistic as it doesn’t account for the number of maintenance tasks for each asset.
  • Method #2: Size your maintenance staff by replacement value. A rule such as 2% of replacement value for total maintenance costs can be employed. The problem with this method is the difficulty in determining replacement value in some plants.
  • Method #3: Look at the number of hours of maintenance work and compare it to available hours for the department. A drawback of this approach is the data and type of work. Is your team accurate in their time reporting? If not, you cannot trust the data. Additionally, if most of your work is reactive maintenance, it may not be a good predictor of future needs.

Ideally, method 3 is a preferred way assuming that your data is relatively clean. If not, use method 2.

What to look for in modern maintenance techs

Once you do decide you will need to add people to your maintenance team, make sure you hire the right kind of technician. Today’s demands on maintenance are more complicated than ever.

It is likely that new assets added to your production floor can connect to IoT networks and can be automated in different ways. Thus, it might be advantageous to look for technicians with the skillset that allows them to work on these types of machines. They should understand some programming and control logic, for example.

Furthermore, they should all have the capacity and willingness to add to their skills. A culture of continuous improvement is central to a good maintenance department.

Outsourcing versus in-house additions

Depending on your maintenance needs, expanding your in-house maintenance team isn’t always the best option. You may consider outsourcing part of your maintenance work. There are several reasons why you would turn to this solution.

As previously discussed, your maintenance could mostly be reactive, and you want to work on changing that. These changes can take some time to implement. But in the meantime, you need bodies to work on your backlog. For this, try contract maintenance.

Another need that a contractor may fill is a knowledge gap. If you have installed several new machines and have no experience performing maintenance on them, you may want to bring in some veteran technicians to assist your team.

Contractors could provide cost savings to your operation, as you do not necessarily need to take on the full responsibility of hiring new staff. Contractors can then adjust their workforce up and down quickly to meet your needs.

Use Process Street for the management of your maintenance processes

Process Street is superpowered checklists. With Process Street you can create any checklist for the management of your maintenance processes, allowing you to scale production.

Our checklists are machines, that when implemented, have big positive outcomes for your business. By utilizing a checklist approach to manage your maintenance processes, you will see:

You can incorporate the following features into your Process Street checklists:

With these features, you will create dynamic, interactive maintenance management processes.

For more information on how to create checklists using Process Street – for free – watch our below video.

Invest in an optimized maintenance strategy today to scale up your production process

When you are part of a rapidly growing organization, the changes can be overwhelming at times. A sound strategy will help you navigate the troubled waters of expansion. This is certainly true for the maintenance department.

The ability to build your maintenance capacity will depend on your overall maintenance strategy. Prioritization of operational maintenance needs will be critical. Inventory must be managed appropriately. If you do have to add people, make sure you add the right kind of talent to your team.

Lastly, a focus on preventive and predictive methods will be critical in allowing you to add capability without adding exorbitant costs to the bottom line.

How do you manage your maintenance work as you scale up? What problems have you faced? Please comment below as we would love to hear from you. Who knows, you may even get featured in an upcoming article!

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Jane Courtnell

Hi there, I am a Junior Content Writer at Process Street. I graduated in Biology, specializing in Environmental Science at Imperial College London. During my degree, I developed an enthusiasm for writing to communicate environmental issues. I continued my studies at Imperial College's Business School, and with this, my writing progressed looking at sustainability in a business sense. When I am not writing I enjoy being in the mountains, running and rock climbing. Follow me at @JaneCourtnell.


3 Comments

Thank you for the great article on maintenance management, Jane. A quick question here, does the proactive maintenance approach supersedes the DMAIC process?

That’s an interesting question, Jason. I’d say that the two can be reconciled – maybe DMAIC is applied at specific moments on controlled data, and as such the proactive maintenance doesn’t apply during those stated controlled periods. But the proactive maintenance continues outside of that scope. What are your thoughts?

a very informative article about your product and a nice six sigma DMAIC info-graphic, looking forward to trying this tool in future .., regards, Kamal Chopra (Founder and CEO – ProSigma)


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