For companies whose work depends on physical assets, such as manufacturing machines, heavy equipment, vehicles, and even tablets and computers, maintenance management is essential for success.
In this article, we discuss how maintenance management techniques and software can help improve the way your business works.
Table Of Contents
Maintenance Management Defined
Maintenance management is the process of maintaining and preserving your company’s physical assets and resources with the goal of improving asset availability and reliability, maximizing the efficacy of core services, and controlling and reducing costs.
Businesses reach those goals by concentrating their efforts on six key objectives:
- Planning the maintenance activities
- Minimizing equipment failure
- Avoiding production downtime
- Controlling maintenance costs
- Ensuring regulatory compliance
- Creating a safe and productive work environment
If a business ignores maintenance management in the short term, it can experience a long-term ripple effect in the form of repeated safety risks, lost production hours, and higher energy costs — all of which can negatively affect their profits and their bottom line.
Types Of Maintenance Management
Maintenance management typically falls into one of two distinct categories:
Reactive maintenance is the older of the two, having dominated since the beginning of the Second Industrial Revolution (the Technological Revolution) in the early 20th century. The premise of this type of maintenance was simple: run the equipment until it breaks and then fix it.
Businesses, however, quickly realized that this “no maintenance” approach wasn’t sustainable over the long run because equipment downtime tended to cause problems in other parts of the workflow (such as supply chain backups and quality control issues).
As a result, maintenance management strategies evolved through various forms into the second option mentioned above: proactive.
Proactive strategies involve regularly inspecting and maintaining important assets — rather than waiting for them to break down — in order to preserve their usefulness and efficacy.
That said, proactive maintenance is not a one-size-fits-all process. It’s made up of various sub-strategies that range from relatively cheap and simple to more advanced and complex.
We discuss those proactive options below.
Preventative Maintenance (or PM for short) is the most basic strategy, and, therefore, also the cheapest and easiest to implement.
With PM, businesses schedule maintenance work at regular intervals throughout the year or when the asset reaches a certain number of hours or miles.
The next step up from Preventative Maintenance is Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM).
CBM is a methodology where teams monitor the status of the equipment and perform necessary upkeep when certain conditions arise.
For example, on a given machine, a certain joint may wear out faster than other parts. Periodic monitoring reveals when said joint is starting to experience issues and when it is time to perform repairs on that part so the impending joint failure doesn’t affect other parts of the equipment.
The third step up the cost and complexity scale of maintenance management is Predictive Maintenance (PdM).
PdM uses a combination of condition-monitoring sensors and machine learning to predict when a machine is likely to fail.
PdM works as an early warning system that provides maintenance personnel with notifications of impending issues and plenty of time to plan and schedule repairs or service before the equipment fails.
The most expensive and complex maintenance management strategy is Prescriptive Maintenance.
Prescriptive Maintenance is an advanced form of Predictive Maintenance that uses sensors and analytics to perform self-diagnosis and provide technicians with potential solutions for whatever issue the asset is experiencing.
Components Of Any Maintenance Management Strategy
While the process of maintenance itself improves equipment performance, availability, and longevity, it can also add significantly to the operating cost of said equipment.
An effective maintenance management program can balance the competing issues of performance and cost by gathering, tracking, and analyzing data with an eye toward improving the budget and aligning activities with strategic financial needs.
With that data in hand, managers may be better positioned to:
- Create an accurate and effective budget
- Allocate funds for specific maintenance activities
- Create more cost-effective processes
- Identify areas where costs can be cut
Of course, more data also helps busy managers create and generate more accurate reports and more accurately track total maintenance costs through the life of the equipment.
The administration of the asset itself is a big part of the maintenance management process. A good maintenance program runs parallel with — and adapts to — the distinct stages of the equipment’s life cycle.
Those stages are:
The acquisition stage involves identifying the need for a particular piece of equipment and then planning, purchasing, and implementing it into the workflow.
The operation stage involves using the equipment to generate value and includes the biggest chunk of the maintenance needs.
The disposal stage begins as the maintenance costs begin to build to the point that it becomes better for the business to retire the equipment than to keep trying to make it run.
Throughout the lifecycle of an asset, maintenance plays an important role in getting the most out of your investment.
In many cases, the assets you purchase include more than just the machinery itself. They also come with a process that surrounds, permeates, and dictates everything that those assets do.
What’s more, the process needs to be managed and maintained as well.
Perhaps a piece of equipment you need runs at a certain speed but needs to be shut down after a certain amount of time in operation (requiring wind-down and wind-up time).
In that case, an integral part of maintenance management is coordinating those two variables so that the asset provides the maximum return for your investment.
While the asset management component is fairly obvious because it involves a tangible object, the process management component is often overlooked until the equipment is installed and the power is switched on.
At that point, you may already be behind the eight ball and may have to play catch up to implement a process that works for the machine and those running it.
To prevent that, during the planning stage of the acquisition process, research how the asset operates and begin building a process to keep that asset in good operation and producing for your business.
Any maintenance management program is only as good as the employees implementing it.
Those employees will be tasked with executing the essential programs that keep the equipment running smoothly. Because of that, labor management becomes just as important as the asset and process management mentioned earlier.
Surrounding an expensive piece of equipment with an effective support staff involves many activities, including:
- Hiring and onboarding new team members
- Implementing them into the organizational hierarchy
- Establishing clear responsibilities
- Scheduling resources and employees
- Assigning and managing tasks
- Providing training as needed
- Managing the workload
- Keeping the maintenance staff motivated, accountable, and engaged
And that’s just the tip of the labor-management iceberg. You may also need to consider such variables as federal law, payroll, overtime, benefits, and time tracking as they apply to your maintenance team.
Just as your assets need a support team of trained technicians to keep them running at their best, your assets will also need a supply of parts, tools, and other products to support their operation.
This supply is known as Maintenance, Repair, and Operation (or MRO) inventory. Examples of MRO inventory include lubrication oil, nuts, bolts, screws, replacement parts, light bulbs, and cleaning supplies.
One of the issues that many maintenance managers face is that MRO inventory is often unique to each type of asset in operation.
That may mean that your business needs different types of lubrication oil, nuts, bolts, screws, replacement parts, light bulbs, and cleaning supplies for each piece of equipment.
If not organized and managed correctly, such inventory can quickly become expensive and occupy a lot of physical space in your facility.
That introduces a whole new set of variables that your maintenance management program will have to contend with: overstocking and understocking.
Overstocking can put a drain on your bottom line and tie up space that could be used for other purposes. But understocking can cause work disruptions and slowdowns if parts and supplies aren’t available when they’re needed.
Finding the right balance between too much and not enough MRO inventory can have a significant impact on the way your business runs.
To make this task easier, many businesses use digital tools such as tracking software, barcode readers, and other specialized products to optimize, and even forecast, their MRO inventory needs.
Because MRO inventory plays such a big role in any maintenance management program, the suppliers that provide the parts for your inventory also contribute to your success.
This highlights the importance of developing long-term relationships with maintenance and facility management suppliers — in addition to perfecting the use of the digital tracking and optimization tools mentioned in the previous section.
As a whole, inventory and supplier management includes such processes as:
- Tracking inventory consumption
- Forecasting future needs
- Negotiating supply price
- Discussing changes and problems
- Tracking and managing costs for each supplier
The combination of human relationships and computerized monitoring solutions makes those inventory and supplier management activities much easier.
While some businesses do all their work in-house, many businesses outsource at least one part of their maintenance management workload.
This may happen for any number of reasons, including:
- Lack of time
- Lack of manpower
- Lack of specialized skills
- The need to reduce maintenance costs
- Outsourcing makes it easier to manage the overall operation
Lack of specialized skills is one of the main reasons that a business may choose to outsource its maintenance activities.
The equipment may require skills and knowledge that even your most highly-trained technician may lack (e.g., advanced coding skills, fluid management, or temperature regulation).
Because of that, you may find yourself involved in the typical activities of contractor management, such as:
- Locating contractors for necessary specialized tasks
- Negotiating maintenance contracts
- Sending out work requests
- Tracking compliance
- Tracking performance of repairs
- Communicating changes and problems
- Tracking costs associated with outsourcing
Make it a part of your planning process — before you purchase a new piece of equipment — to consider whether or not you will want to, or even need to, bring in an outside contractor to service a certain asset.
In some cases, it might be better for your business to train an existing employee (or employees) to do the work instead of hiring it out. It all depends on the needs of your company.
While you might choose to tackle all of the components of maintenance management discussed in this section yourself, doing so can be extremely overwhelming.
That’s why most programs of this type implement a support staff to help get everything done. That’s where people management comes in.
People management (a.k.a. staff management or workforce management) is a set of interrelated processes and practices that you can use to help your team perform to the high standards of your business.
For example, your business may task its support staff with the following activities:
- Scheduling work time for maintenance personnel
- Scheduling maintenance for each asset
- Establishing and perfecting process clarity
- Tracking time and costs
- Training technicians in new skills
- Keeping technicians motivated
- Maintaining the managerial hierarchy
- Conducting regular performance reviews
- Dealing with problems that arise
- Implementing and monitoring task management
- And much more…
The benefits of incorporating people management into your maintenance program can be felt in all corners of your operation.
For example, your business may see an increase in employee productivity, a decrease in labor costs, a lower risk of non-compliance, and an improvement in workflow efficiency.
All of that from establishing a people management system within your maintenance program.
In essence, maintenance management is a microcosm of your company as a whole — you might think of it as a business within a business — and requires that you consider everything from payroll and labor budgets to inventory and asset procurement.
Tips For Effective Maintenance Management
1) Divide And Conquer
No single maintenance management methodology will cover every business or every asset within a business. The best strategy is to divide and conquer as necessary.
For example, a company may use preventative maintenance for secondary and tertiary assets, but use the more advanced predictive maintenance for critical primary assets.
Or, if capital is an issue, a company may choose to use a mix of preventative and reactive maintenance to cover its equipment.
The most important thing is to ensure that all the equipment gets the right amount of attention to prevent breakdowns and production holdups.
2) Hire Qualified Employees
Hiring qualified employees to handle your maintenance management is like investing for the future. When it comes to building the best team for the job, focus on hiring individuals who are more likely to stick with your business for the long term.
Yes, hiring highly skilled employees is important, but if those employees are volatile — meaning they’re here one day and gone the next — they can cause more problems than good.
Find a balance between experience and willingness to work, and then train those long-term employees to move your business forward.
3) Build A Proactive Company Culture
As you train your teams for successful maintenance management, promote and build a proactive company culture to supplement the maintenance crew.
In a proactive company culture, equipment operators serve as the first line of defense against breakdowns and asset failure. Train them to watch out for irregularities in the tools they use and to inform their supervisors (or necessary personnel) so repairs come sooner rather than later.
That’s what being proactive is all about: creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.
4) Standardize The Work
Many of the types of maintenance management we discussed earlier in the article require a set schedule of monitoring and repairs to be successful. And that’s really for the best.
The more you can standardize the work, the better off your business will be.
How does standardization manifest in most companies? As operations manuals, as standard operating procedures, and as checklists that your team can follow.
These tools ensure that, no matter who is performing a specific task, it will always be done the same way and with the same level of accuracy and attention to detail.
5) Provide The Right Tools
It’s one thing to have a maintenance system in place. It’s an entirely different thing to have the right tools to put that system into practice successfully.
To ensure that all your equipment, vehicles, and other critical assets remain in good repair, provide your teams with access to hardware that makes monitoring and fixing your infrastructure as easy as possible.
For example, asking your employee to drive a 12-inch-long screw with a screwdriver is a waste of time and energy. Instead, supply them with a battery-powered driver so they can finish the work in a fraction of the time and move on to the next task.
6) Track KPIs And Metrics
Another essential practice for successful maintenance management is setting and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that give you insight into the condition of your equipment.
One of the most basic examples of a KPI to monitor is the hours of activity a certain asset is subjected to. Monitoring that metric as part of a preventative maintenance program tells you when certain repairs are necessary to prevent a breakdown or a drop in productivity.
The Best Tool For Maintenance Management
If you’re looking for the best way to perfect your maintenance management, Inch is the app for you.
What is Inch? It’s a suite of voice-operated task-management, time-tracking, communication, and scheduling tools all rolled into one. It’s also available for smartphone, tablet, laptop, and desktop computers.
The software incorporates task management and time tracking in one powerful solution and is designed to make it easier for managers and employees to get aligned on their to-dos, ensuring that all tasks get completed on time.
Inch also simplifies communication. Employees can perform a wide variety of tasks from their tablet or phone, including:
- Working from a shared task list
- Getting clarity on work that needs to get done
- Receiving voice-assisted reminder notifications
- Clocking in and out of tasks at different locations
- Completing work assigned to them
- Communicating with managers and each other
All of that and more without having to touch a mobile screen or report back to the office.
For managers, Inch makes it easy to distribute tasks manually across their teams or populate tasks automatically based on preset conditions.
This unique feature ensures that all work is covered and keeps employees accountable and clear on their specific responsibilities, expected outcomes, and deadlines.
Managers can also assign work to the employees that are closest to the jobsite or have tasks generate automatically as the need arises. And they can follow work progress and task completion in real time.
Inch helps eliminate frustration for employees, headaches for managers, and inefficiencies for the business.
Whether you need help setting up when each team member will work during the week or what tasks they will perform, Inch gives you unprecedented control over an inherently complicated process and makes it easier than ever to streamline the maintenance management side of your business.
For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit TryInch.com today.