6 Tips to Attain Maintenance Management Success in 2021
Equipment maintenance is a challenging job. It becomes even more challenging as the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled immense changes to the workplace, field jobs, facility management, and equipment maintenance. Here are six tips for maintenance teams to break out of their rut and achieve maintenance management success in 2021.
1. Invest in preventive maintenance
The golden rule for maintenance management success in 2021 is preventive maintenance. The guiding philosophy of late is to prevent a problem from occurring in the first place instead of resolving it. The approach makes sense, as pre-emptive efforts spare the enterprise from downtime and a more costly fix.
IoT sensors and data analytics make it easy to predict when the equipment is likely to fail. IoT sensors, for instance, warn when the equipment is running low on fuel. Data analytics alerts when a critical reading goes outside the ideal range.
- Adopt proactive maintenance strategies as part of the business plan.
- Have a plan for equipment under the annual maintenance contract. Use production data to identify the problems associated with the equipment.
- Use data analysis to determine the mean time between failures.
2. Enable remote maintenance
Remote maintenance is gaining ground in 2021. The COVID-19 triggered social distancing norms forces activities online. Customers are increasingly seeking contactless services, and providers want to reduce site visits to prevent the pandemic’s spread. Maintenance teams do so by investing in remote support technology and maintenance software.
- Offer FAQs and step-by-step tutorials to enable customers to perform small fixes. Make it accessible through the portal or a smartphone app.
- Enable remote support. Structured collaborative options allow technicians to instruct customers and enable seamless maintenance remotely.
- Invest in drones with cameras. Drones already help technicians access hard-to-see and hard-to-access parts. Now, drones also aid remote maintenance by offering visibility to a technician stationer afar. The enhanced bird’s eye view by drones enables better diagnosis.
In today’s data-driven world, everyone seeks to quantify data, right from the C-level executives to business analysts and line managers to customers. Quantification offers greater clarity and measures the ROI of any spend.
Smart maintenance teams use metrics to evaluate the present position relative to the ideal state. Success depends on deploying the right effectiveness metrics that focus on continuous improvement. For instance, if preventive maintenance compliance is 99%, but the equipment fails repeatedly, it shows an anomaly, which requires closer scrutiny.
Consider the following generic metrics to gauge the effectiveness of maintenance management:
- The ratio of emergency labor to regular labor, to see if preventive maintenance works or the maintenance activities are always in a fire fighting mode.
- Wrench time, or “hands-on tool time,” as a metric to measure productivity. This metric makes explicit the time an employee works compared to the total time spent at work. Overall, the average wrench time is 55% to 65%.
- Schedule compliance ratio or total labor hours completed to total labor hours available every day or a week. A low ratio signifies low workforce utilization and could mean many things, such as too many employees taking sick leaves, customer dissatisfaction, or delays. A high scheduled compliance ratio ensures work completion on time.
A maintenance dashboard that offers a live comparison of specific metrics enables supervisors to enforce greater control.
Many maintenance planners are aghast to close a work order to see the same request crop up again next week. Low first-time fix rates result from inefficient maintenance management practices.
One common manifestation of poor maintenance management is the maintenance team always chasing parts. Another tell-tale sign is not having enough staff to complete all the daily work. Conflicts, such as production blaming maintenance for equipment problems, are also commonplace. Many maintenance teams remain in firefighting mode, rushing to tasks that cannot wait any longer.
The effectiveness of maintenance depends on the extent to which all provisions are in place for planned work.
- List out standard work procedures and estimated time. Draw up standardized procedures for routine repairs. This offers flexibility to assign any crew to any process.
- List equipment specifications and standards, with warnings and potential hazards. Have clarity on required and spares for each piece of equipment.
- Have quality control checks to validate completed work. Use the maintenance software to conduct inspections. The inspection management module allows creating and uploading checklists, collecting data electronically, and subjecting it to analysis.
- Develop clear protocols for communication and documentation. It will pre-empt mix-ups.
Deploy maintenance software to ensure effective implementation of such provisions.
Maintenance software makes it easy to provision resources and conducts seamless maintenance. The latest maintenance software leverage automation, Artificial Intelligence, and other emerging technology to improve accuracy, streamline processes, and speed up things.
- Automate dispatching. Assign jobs to technicians, and issue reminders through push notifications. Allow customers to track technician movement.
- Sync the maintenance software to the inventory. Make provisions for the required spare parts when a new work order comes in. Else, commit to a new work order only after ensuring the availability of adequate spares.
- Offer technicians a repository for equipment specifications and instruction manuals. Enable communication with a remote expert senior to get help and resolve complex troubleshooting without having to schedule a re-visit.
In the current challenging business environment, maintenance teams do not directly contribute to the bottom line. As such, they are invariably in the first line of budget cuts. Even without staff cuts, there is a talent crunch as the Baby Boomers workforce retires, and the new Gen Z is not too captivated by field maintenance jobs.
Maintenance management companies must improve people management by following these trends:
- Maintenance management needs to increasingly focus on improving the existing workforce’s skill levels in the coming years. A survey conducted by the Technical Training Corporation, USA, reveals 80% of the workforce scoring less than 50 percent in basic technical skill proficiency.
- Proactive maintenance requires investing in skill-enhancing technology. Automation and emerging technology aid even novice technicians in delivering an effective first-time fix. For example, Augmented Reality Goggles allow technicians to get annotations on machinery parts.
2021 promises to be a watershed year as the world emerges from the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Effective maintenance management, focusing on emerging technologies and proactive maintenance strategies, will allow maintenance firms to get ahead.
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