Optimizing maintenance workflows is at the forefront of every maintenance leader’s mind, but achieving that goal isn’t always a walk in the park. The following best practices for maintenance management will help you understand how to set standards and procedures for your team, how to implement and track these to ensure optimal performance, and how to continuously improve upon these initiatives. Take a look!

1. Identify & discover maintenance best practices

Achieving maintenance management success begins with understanding your entire maintenance process and seeking solutions to improve this process. You should ask yourself what’s working and what’s not working during this discovery phase to gain a better understanding of your facility’s performance. Begin this phase by looking at your facility’s current state.

Benchmark: By benchmarking elements of your processes such as equipment downtime, quality standards, throughput, production rate, and inventory shortages against industry standards, you’ll be able to understand where your team is excelling and where it could improve. This outlines goals and objectives for your maintenance strategy.

Understand your workflows: It’s important to understand if your workflows are optimized for your team and organization’s needs. A workflow is meant to improve asset performance, organize workload for your team, and increase efficiency across the board. If this isn’t an objective or outcome of your workflows, ask yourself why it was put in place and how it can be rebuilt to fulfill a need. Testing these workflows to ensure they are meeting the desired objectives should be a priority in this phase.

Outline key performance indicators: Your key performance indicators (KPIs) should be established based on the company-wide goals and KPIs. If the company is trying to improve efficiency across your organization, your KPIs should be focused on equipment uptime and production rate, for example. Once established, understand where those metrics are today and set goals for where they should be in the future.

Establish company-wide maintenance best practices: For organizations with several plants and maintenance teams, it can be difficult to align on standard processes. During this stage, these maintenance teams should come together to determine best practices for the future.

Without open communication, teams aren’t able to share their problems or their triumphs. While one plant may be struggling to optimize a certain workflow, there may be another plant that had a similar problem two months ago, but has since remedied the issue. These meetings allow teams to openly discuss what’s working and what’s not so that maintenance best practices can be established company-wide.

This should be an ongoing process, where the teams meet on a quarterly or bi-annual basis to ensure these practices are still relevant.

2. Define standards & develop playbooks

After fully understanding your process’s achievements and downfalls, you have to define the standards you’d like everyone to uphold and create playbooks to achieve these standards.

Define standards: How would you like to define “success” for your facilities? That’s what you need to ask yourself when defining maintenance standards. Success for you may be completely different from success for someone else, but it’s important to keep industry standards in mind when defining your own. These need to be challenging, yet achievable by your staff because this is what defines excellence for your department.

Develop playbooks: You can’t ask people to meet certain standards without playbooks in place to achieve these standards. If equipment downtime for a conveyor belt is supposed to be less than 2 hours per month, you need to set up preventive maintenance inspections and step-by-step instruction sets to properly maintain the equipment. These playbooks should be reviewed with each maintenance department thoroughly to ensure the standards you’ve defined are able to be met.

Outline how key systems support your processes: If you have systems or tools that support these playbooks, iterate why these systems are in place, how they help, and how to use them. Oftentimes, technicians or other employees choose to use their own tool because they’re more comfortable with it or haven’t been told the importance of the systems in place. Continuously discuss and promote use of these systems to keep data, workflows, and lines of communication in the appropriate locations.

3. Apply & implement processes

Developing the plan is only half the battle—you also need to implement this plan successfully across your plants.

Use Lean methodology: In short, Lean methodology is a way of optimizing the people, resources, effort, and energy of your organization toward creating value for the customer. It’s based on two guiding tenets: continuous improvement and respect for people. Utilizing this maintenance best practice will create a balance between the customers’ needs and the goals and standards you set for your team. The chart below showcases a Lean methodology technique, DMAIC, you can implement in your facilities to achieve success.

You should balance this method with others as well. Kaizen, TPM, and “just-do-it” are all common methods used by maintenance leaders to effectively run their department.

Train your team: Each person on your team should be delivering consistent, repeatable results that stem from the standards and playbooks put in place. But it’s up to you to ensure they are equipped with the tools and training they need to effectively achieve this goal. Train them on the playbooks, workflows, systems, and equipment they’ll be working with, and most importantly, make sure they understand. Ask them to replicate a workflow, use the system, or fix an equipment item to ensure they have fully mastered these items.

At the end of the day, your success comes down to their execution. An investment in your team is an investment in your organization’s success.

4. Track progress & gauge performance on maintenance best practices

Setting standards, creating playbooks, and training your team is useless if you aren’t tracking progress. You need a system to monitor processes across multiple facilities and technicians to ensure the discussed maintenance best practices and standards are being met.

Consider a policy deployment matrix: Policy deployment sets a framework that encourages everyone’s individual goals to align with the company-wide goals. Developing strategic best practices and standards for your organization is oftentimes not enough. These best practices and standards need to seamlessly cascade down to every employee in the company.

A policy deployment matrix, or an “X matrix”, is any easy way to guarantee this cascading effect. As you can see by the diagram below, strategic goals are set 3-5 years in advance. These strategic goals are each turned into an annual goal, which influences a team’s improvement plan. Improvement plans each have targets or action plans for employees which drive day-to-day initiatives.

Set up a cadence for tracking: Whether it be daily, weekly, or monthly, effectively tracking company performance needs to become part of your routine. Missteps and mistakes can happen at any moment. It’s up to you to find these and correct them as soon as possible, and one of the ways you can do this is by routinely checking on your data and your team.

5. Enable & automate maintenance best practices

The last piece of the puzzle is automating these processes for optimal performance. Manually creating tasks and working toward these maintenance best practices leaves your team prone to errors. The following tips can help you achieve more automated and efficient processes.

Update equipment: Equipment can oftentimes hold organizations back and prevent them from hitting their metrics. Older assets are more prone to breakdowns, quality issues, and slowdowns. You may be thinking that you don’t have the budget to replace some of these assets, but there are other ways to update your equipment.

Advances in technology are now allowing you to enhance old equipment to meet performance levels of newer equipment. This alternative is a great solution for organizations with expensive pieces of equipment that don’t make sense to replace financially.

Adopt technology: There’s technology built for maintenance teams just like yours to help you set, meet, and manage the goals and standards of your company.

Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software has been helping teams automate routine maintenance procedures for decades. From notifying you about upcoming maintenance to alerting you when equipment is out of specification, the technology is proven to help you improve metrics across your facilities while cutting costs and saving time.

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