T.A. Cook Consultants
In world class organizations, the maintenance program can be broken down into three benchmarked categories: Base work (where the right work is done at the right time; Non-value-added work (involving too much too soon); and Deviation work (where too little is done, too late). The ideal amount of time that should be spent on each should be 80%; 15%; and 5%; respectively. In reality however, those ideals are rarely reached by maintenance departments and a 20%; 20%; 60% breakdown is a better reflection of the truth.
Considering an average of 40 – 50% of a capital intensive industry’s operating budget is consumed by maintenance expenditure, striking the right balance of what work gets done and when is vital for maintenance departments to reach a stage of continually reducing costs and improving reliability.
When maintenance work is unplanned and carried out reactively, it is largely a result of organizational issues, and sometimes financial and personnel cutbacks. Consequently, work is not being completed as planned. Emergencies take place regularly and much of Maintainers’ and Operators’ time is spent in fire-fighting mode repairing failed equipment. This can result in fitters being called away from their planned work to make repairs, creating a backlog and disrupting delivery dates and part inventories.
Non-value-added work can have an equally negative impact on maintenance effectiveness. It tends to occur when too many tasks are performed and the majority of workers’ time is spent on jobs that are not well-timed or essential to the operation of the plant. Wasting valuable resources on work that is not necessary means that requests that are important or even urgent, will not be completed efficiently and instead will add to the backlog and costs will escalate.
Both deviation and non-value-added work can be addressed through the proper identification and prioritization of maintenance work. High priority requests which are more than six months old should be considered questionable and closely examined as to why the work was either not carried out or not recorded properly. Recording the exact status of existing requests and analyzing whether they can be combined into a single order will help to reduce demand and increase the efficiency with which work is carried out. New requests for work should be then examined as to the level of urgency and scheduled accordingly.
Setting up a review team to evaluate the status of maintenance work is vital to ensure that work is prioritized properly. The team should include operations, planning, scheduling, maintenance supervision and engineering professionals, who are all able to contribute and provide expert input as to how important each work order request is. A review team meeting which uses a computerized maintenance management system must be held on a regular basis to assign the right priority level to maintenance work, and ensure that work is kept relevant and current.
Maintenance by design
The above processes must be in place for problems to be mitigated before they arise. Instead of simply running equipment until it fails and then repairing it, employing a high level of forethought as to how much support is required for the plant will help to bring maintenance programs back into the right balance. Empowering a review team of experts to properly assess priority will provide some clarity as to how many people, how much equipment and how much time is needed for an efficient maintenance operation. Based on that, maintenance departments can then comfortably forecast what level of resources is needed and plan them accordingly. Any unnecessary cost expenditure – whether craft or material based – will become much easier to identify and then remove.
It is critical for the maintenance organizations to define, as accurately as possible, the right work to be done at the right time. Actively designing how and when maintenance can best be carried out means that every maintenance dollar will be used as well as possible, and go a long way to establishing an effective, sustainable maintenance program that can reach world-class benchmark levels.
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