The awareness gap results from management having limited or no knowledge of the maintenance function and its ability to contribute to the manufacturing process; and maintenance personnel, managers included, having a limited understanding of the business side of manufacturing. The result is that management and maintenance are often unsure about how they together contribute to the company’s success.
Your Company’s Maintenance Attitude
When I ask managers or hourly workers what their organization’s perception of maintenance is, I tend to get the same types of responses. I hear things like:
- Maintenance is a cost center
- Maintenance is a necessary evil
- Maintenance is the cost of doing business
- Maintenance personnel are firefighters
When asked to define maintenance, they offer words such as fix, restore, replace, recondition, patch and rebuild. I’d say these are reactive definitions of the word. What is maintenance? Maintenance is to maintain or the act of maintaining. The basis for maintaining is to keep something in a specific state or condition – that is, to keep it (the asset, in our case) in an existing state or preserve it from failure or decline. There is a world of difference between this definition and the words and functions normally recalled by most people who are “knowledgeable” about the maintenance function. The best way to change the perspective is to show the entire organization how it is that maintenance provides value. To keep things simple here, let’s focus on three types of value: convenience, process improvement, and financial value.
- Convenience is sold through a demonstrated or statistical approach to prove that a plant will be safer and will produce a higher-quality product, resulting in less rework. Greater production efficiency means lower costs; lower costs gives us marketing advantage; marketing advantage and enhanced competitiveness can promote job security. You empower people to do what they know to do by providing the proper tools and removing obstacles to their getting it done.
- Process improvement is sold through less downtime. This means running to plan, which makes the production manager look like a superhero. Better asset use improves capacity, which means more volume, more profit, and more recognition. Also, less downtime results in less frustration, raising morale and helping to drive culture change.
- Financial value is sold through the freeing of cash flow, reduced costs, and higher profits. These all translate into two things: higher stock value and more capital for reinvestment into the company.