Maintenance & Operations Coordination
In world class organisations the relationship between maintenance & operations will be a partnership in a joint venture to produce quality products. Maintenance will deliver equipment reliability and operations will provide process reliability. An admirable philosophy, but how does this work out in your organisation?
In most organisations we find that operations is very much the customer and maintenance is very much the supplier. Reactive work is recognized and rewarded by operations, where praise is given for a fast response time or a quick fix rather than for reliable plant and machinery. This often reinforces the idea within the maintenance department that they are there to minimize downtime when it occurs rather than prevent the failure in the first place.
There is often a ‘them and us’ attitude, despite the fact that both departments are working towards the same goal of greater reliability and productivity. Without a close working relationship with operations our maintenance efficiency is never going to rise above average at best. So what can we do about it & where do we start?
The first thing is for maintenance and operations to agree on the goal. We have to understand the needs & responsibilities of the other department and agree to work together towards greater reliability and productivity. Once we are agreed on our objective we must then decide on a relevant way to judge where we are now and how to measure improvement. The obvious measure is Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which is measured as a factor of Availability, Performance & Quality and is something into which operations and maintenance have input and by which both can be measured. However, OEE is often measured by department so it’s crucial that the figures are used constructively and not to lay blame or for finger pointing. If Overall Plant Effectiveness (OPE) is a measure used in your organisation it is better to utilise this, as it gives a much wider perspective of reliability and productivity so avoids the blame laying and finger pointing. Any improvement target you agree on must be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Targeted. What you agree on as a SMART objective is going to vary from organisation to organisation depending on industry type, current practices and maintenance maturity but at the outset it’s essential that we know where we are, where we would like to be & when we would like to be there.
The next area to address in this new partnership is maintenance work management. This is often something that operations are left out of but if real improvements are to be made they must be included in planning & scheduling jobs as well as being part of the review when we close out the current maintenance scheduling period. By including operations in planning & scheduling we can get an agreed time to carry out maintenance, whether that means working around planned down times or operations agreeing a time to release the equipment to maintenance for preventative work. Be realistic about this – don’t ask for 3 hours if you know the job usually only takes 2ÃÂ½ hours. When given a time to start maintenance ensure staff are there, ready to go with all the tools and spares needed to do the job. Nothing will undermine the relationship faster than operations freeing up the equipment on time and maintenance rolling up 10 minutes late and then having to go and get tools and spares. It is equally important that equipment is released by operations for maintenance at the agreed time as this is one of the biggest causes of friction between the two departments.
Engagement between maintenance and operations to execute work should begin with communication between maintenance and operations staff prior to maintenance taking place. There may be some minor preparatory tasks that can be performed by the operators during their daily routine. For example; non-invasive cleaning, spraying fasteners with penetrating oil, moving equipment for access and so on. Any tasks that can be performed safely while the equipment is still operating will minimize the disruption while maintenance takes place and will minimize downtime. More importantly, this simple collaborative approach is the first step towards fully coordinating maintenance & operations
Once the job is complete ensure maintenance stay around while the plant is run up to speed and the operators are given an opportunity to provide feedback on whether the maintenance performed on their equipment was at least what they asked for.
Agreeing on shared goals and a way to measure them and including operations in the maintenance work management process is the first step towards full coordination between the departments. Our ultimate aim is to have operations and maintenance working as a partnership towards greater reliability & productivity. This isn’t going to happen overnight though and we have to work hard at building trust & cooperation between the departments. Maintenance maturity moves through 4 distinct phases from reactive to preventative to predictive and ultimately to pro-active. If we can’t build that relationship we will struggle to break out of being reactive but if maintenance and operations can work closely & cooperatively then we can reach new heights in reliability and productivity.
Colleen Russell is the manager of Skills4work Maintenance Excellence programme. You can contact her on 027 434 0193 or firstname.lastname@example.org