It seems that I am constantly being asked about innovations in maintenance thinking and perceived panaceas to enhance maintenance.

Typically, these include the bandying around of such phrases as…

Predictive maintenance
Performance driven maintenance
Critical maintenance
Industry 4.0
Condition Based Maintenance
Restorative maintenance
Total Productive Maintenance
Planned Preventive maintenance
Preventive maintenance
Planned maintenance routines
Failure Modes and Effects Analysis
Reliability Centred Maintenance
Root Cause Analysis
Critical Spares
Etc, etc

With my customer care head on, I always ask ‘Why do you want this? Some seem offended at my question and insist (as has happened on more than one occasion) ‘We want an FMEA on all our lines – can you do it and how much will it cost?’

Others (the majority I am pleased to say) enter into a conversation and sooner or later we get to the crux of the request.


The reason for their approach is usually under one of half a dozen topics…

  1. They have an underperforming or underdeveloped Planned Maintenance Regime that they feel they need to improve – usually because they are getting too many breakdowns or reliability issues.
  2. They have a team of technicians who appear to be busy all the time, but they are still getting repeat breakdowns and (often) are not completing their PM routines on time (backlog issues)
  3. Other initiatives are happening in the organisation (Lean, 5S, Industry 4.0 etc) and they have been told to get on board the continuous improvement drive but don’t quite know where to start.
  4. They hear and read about maintenance regimes that are having great success and want to know how that is being done – some will have picked up a key phrase (see above) from the article and decided that’s for them.
  5. They as a maintenance team feel that production/operations are pinning poor production metrics on them and need to do something about it.
  6. They have tried to set out on the Continuous Improvement path, they know where their production colleagues want them to be but don’t see how they can get there/where to start.

In fairness, it is not necessarily a purely maintenance issue, it is often cultural, both organisational and the ‘traditional’ maintenance.

What I refer to as the ‘Traditional Maintenance Culture’ is where Maintenance as a department is isolated or siloed. Initiatives to improve production or operational performance often pass the department by because ‘that’s maintenance and they take care of themselves’. This has been the case for so long that both sides see it as the norm, challenges to the norm are often dismissed with ‘What’s that got to do with you?’ This can be perpetuated by maintenance within an organisation if they continuously seek only engineering solutions to problems that may well be process orientated. At its extreme I have seen a unilateral approach by maintenance to rectification, best demonstrated by the following scenario…

Production reports a leaking pump on the day shift, which they have shut down. The Maintenance late shift investigate (without running up the pump) and change the seal. They complete the job card (still without having run the pump) and clear it.

Production come in the following day; they don’t know if the problem has been addressed. They speak to a member of the maintenance team…

Production ‘Have you sorted that leaking pump?’
Maintenance ‘Late shift changed the seal’
Production ‘Has it sorted the leak?’
Maintenance ‘They changed the seal’

Hopefully that kind of exchange is a distant and unpleasant memory for you. If it isn’t you are not just on the wrong page, you haven’t found the book library yet.

Where do I start?

Find out what the customer wants of your service.
Often, I see commendable effort by maintenance but no direction. If the customer wants rapid response and you don’t have a ‘Line cover’ function/capability you are never going to deliver what they consider a good service. OK it may not be what you envisage as a longer term scenario but if its something you need to do in the interim DO IT.
CHECK by initially putting out a simple questionnaire, repeat periodically to ensure you are/continue to be on the right lines.

I once tried to get a client to do this before he initiated a unilateral CI programme. He declined because he thought the feedback would be so poor. I tried to explain that a year down the line if he had been running his CI unilaterally it could be just as poor or worse, as he didn’t know exactly what they wanted or thought the maintenance service was falling short.

How do I start to change maintenance perception/culture?

Do not be a victim.
Attend those CI, Production, Quality, etc meetings you might be being excluded from, you will almost certainly be able to contribute something, if not you will learn something and get an insight into the wider picture. Once you have secured an invitation make sure you, or an appointed deputy attends every time.Understand the bigger picture – make sure your team is aware of it. Do you have a graph of production target v actual displayed for the maintenance team? WHY NOT? They contribute as much as anyone else to its achievement don’t they?
If you use OEE or a similar metric as a measure of the business performance find out how maintenance impact it (typically through improved reliability/availability[less breakdowns]). Once you have worked it out give the maintenance team a Toolbox talk type presentation on it.

I could go on…

However, this is our general approach to maintenance management, if you are along or want to be along this kind of path, like our thinking, and would appreciate the benefit of our experience get in touch.

CS Feb 2021