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Maintenance and Reliability Maturity – 1

Maintenance and reliability maturity provides an understanding of both how well we do maintenance and how good is our maintenance program. One delivers a major business result, the other is a big part of how you get there. Doing maintenance with precision and care, so the job is done once and done well by the right people and without delay is what maintenance organizations strive for. Some achieve it, some struggle to do so. If they can achieve that, then they are being efficient.

That achievement pays for itself in completed work at the lowest cost to the organization in terms of spending and time to execute. On the graph below, that takes them up the vertical scale.

Yet the graph has 2 dimensions – efficiency on the vertical scale, and effectiveness, the horizontal.  With high efficiency, they will be moderate level performers achieving some benefits of lower costs but missing out on what is usually a much bigger prize.

EvEFor maximum benefit, they also want to move to the right on the horizontal scale – become more effective with the work that they are executing so well  As a former mentor told me, they also need to focus on doing the right things, not just doing things the right way.

Maintenance organizations all over the world have a primary focus on work and its efficient execution. The very name of the department encourages this focus on the activity, not the results. However, high performing organizations also sustain a focus on what it takes to achieve the levels of reliability those assets they are maintaining can achieve. They go for both efficiencies of execution and effectiveness of what they are doing. They want more than a work result, they want a performance result. Both have value, the latter usually outweighing the former, particularly in organizations that produce products and deliver services.

The focus on maintenance is a focus on the activity not the result – consequently, I would argue that we should change the emphasis and reflect it in a new name – Reliability Department, not Maintenance. That’s a topic I’ve mentioned in a few conferences in the past two years. The response from the practitioners – some of whom are reading this, has been cautiously positive, but that’s another topic for another day.

Efficiency in maintenance can result in some impressive cost savings. Planned and scheduled work averages about 1/3 the cost of unplanned and unscheduled work. If an organization is constantly repairing what broke, it is in a very costly operating mode and there will be a big opportunity for easily measured cost reductions. This focus gives many organizations a decent reduction in costs, initially using it to catch up on deferred work, eliminate or reduce overtime and contractors. But there is more money on the table – often much more, but it is less easily measured because most of it doesn’t come out of someone’s budget, it shows up on the top line as revenue and bottom line as profit.

As an example, excellent execution of shutdowns, heavy in intrusive preventive work, often results in unexpected interruptions at startup or failures shortly thereafter. Those “infant mortality” failures are a result of having done work that disturbed what was otherwise working just fine. Many times, even with excellent execution, the wrong work is done and it leads to more work.

An effective maintenance program is fairly easy to spot. It is far less reactive. There’s less break-then-fix type work happening. Much of the work (roughly 50% or more) is proactive – preventive, predictive, and detective in nature. That work will identify the need for minor repairs in degrading equipment so they can be taken care of before they completely break down, require big repairs and impact substantially on production, safety, and environmental performance. Shutdowns tend to be smaller and less frequent. Equipment that is still allowed to fail in service all has one thing in common – those failures are tolerable. They have minimal consequences that you can live with. There’s no need to treat their failures as urgent work and disrupt the proactive work that is going on to correct them. Overall asset availability and utilization are higher, production output is higher as is profitability.

The organization is “under control” and has stable, predictable performance, easily dependable for delivery promises and other commitments. The surprises are good ones – you met production quotas, made deliveries on time, had fewer accidents, didn’t risk breaking any environmental regulations, costs of maintenance are way down, overtime is down, there are fewer contractors around and there is even peace among operations, maintenance, and supply chain.

To assess where you are on that scale of efficiency vs. effectiveness, we have created a simple assessment – only 10 questions that evaluate how far along with the two scales you are today. You want to be in the upper right quadrant, anywhere else is costing you money – in the form of higher operating costs and/or lower revenue potential. It may also be increasing other risks to safety, environmental performance, and stability of your production. The assessment tool will be launched soon here on our website.