Can’t you make better decisions informed by good evidence? If not, it may be that your data isn’t fit for its intended purpose.
In the first part of this blog mini-series, I point out that the data in Maintenance Management Systems are very often “unfit for purpose” and I list several reasons for “why”.
- It can’t help with planning and scheduling if you don’t have trained planners dedicated to planning.
- It can’t help with cost tracking if its asset register and accounting don’t agree, nor if you use various mechanisms to get around the need for a work order to go with every job.
- It can’t help with finding parts if your maintenance planning and stores inventory management processes are not integrated with each other and working well.
- It can’t provide data for reliability improvements if you haven’t tracked failures, failure modes, and their causes.
- It simply can’t manage maintenance for you! That’s your job – the tool better be a good fit for how you manage.
We often fail to set up our computerized maintenance systems properly – we rush the implementation, we fail to invest in training (both initial and refresher), we don’t have (or keep) super-users, we might be using a complicated system when a simple one would be better suited, etc. All this happens because we lose sight of the problems we have and we don’t truly think through the solutions for those problems.
These days we tend to default to technology for “solutions”. Maybe “there’s an app for that” and maybe not. If there is, we had better get the right one. Technical tools should be enablers, not barriers to high performance. If the system ends up being difficult to set up and use, and we fail to train users, then it will only enable people to work around it. If we don’t choose a system to support well-thought-out maintenance and reliability business processes, then we won’t have such processes. Of course, we have to do the thinking up front – and all too often that’s also missing.
Maintenance isn’t there to feed financial data to accounting, nor to sustain inventory accuracy, but it does a role to play in both. First and foremost, and often forgotten, is that it is there to enable us to keep our physical assets running reliably. Doing that requires the skills of highly trained trades (crafts) persons who are good with their hands at doing things. They do things that technology can’t. Interestingly, the technology may know its limitations better than we do.
As a test, my wife asked Siri to repair our broken sump pump. The response was that it didn’t have information for that. We then asked it to rotate tires. The response was a redirection to a contact list (the auto shop). At least Siri seems to know when it doesn’t know. Sometimes our businesses don’t. If we ask our mechanics to do those tasks, they might need parts and tools, etc. but they’ll get on with the job. Until we have robots that can replace maintainers, their insights, their senses, their skills, their natural inquisitiveness, and their ability to solve unique and often difficult physical problems (e.g.: how do I get in to fix that one?), we will need those folks.
When it comes to reliability and maintenance software, we seem to have fallen into the trap of believing the tech can solve our headaches for us. It cannot solve our biggest problems in reliability and maintenance. And we’ve all too often lost sight of that. What it can do is to help us manage that effort more efficiently. For reliability, it can help us with the right data and information, but we really need to think about what we ask our software to be gathering for us, or it won’t do that particularly well.
Both of those will require users who actually care about what they are doing. That’s also very often missing from the scenario. Caring about this needs to happen at all levels in the organization. These days, many companies have completely destroyed any sense of employee loyalty and caring. It’s not because the maintainers don’t care, but they see that their leadership doesn’t care. If you as a leader don’t care that your organization is doing the right maintenance and doing it the right way, equipped with the right tools, parts, etc., and you fail to show it if you do, then why should the maintainer care?
These problems are not easily fixed and you probably can’t do it from within your own organization. Just as a patient can’t cure him or herself of many illnesses, you’ll need help for this one. It’s far bigger and more pervasive than you probably realize.