Key Performance Indicators and Frontline Maintenance Leaders

Key Performance Indicators and Frontline Maintenance Leaders

Christer Idhammar, IDCON INC

You can develop, document, and preach your improvement plans as much as you want, but if those plans do not result in better frontline maintenance performance, you have just wasted money and time.

Frontline maintenance includes supervisors, planners, craftspeople and operations; all others in the maintenance organization exist to support the frontline.

Good frontline maintenance leaders, combined with organized work and good processes, are the only way to achieve sustainable results.

Maintenance managers cannot produce expected results without the help of others, especially the frontline.

Those organizations that have experimented with autonomous teams lacking frontline leadership often fail to deliver sustainable results. If you believe this statement is wrong, I am very interested in hearing back from you.

Maintenance Actions vs. Maintenance Results

What do I mean by “results?”

A common mistake organizations make is mixing up actions with results. Actions are the things we do to produce results, but if these actions do not generate results worth more than the cost of these actions, the whole effort is a waste of money and time.

Results can include (this varies organization to organization) improved competitiveness, productivity, and overall production efficiency (tons made/tons that could have been made, etc.).

A real life story of actions without results

Five years ago, I visited a company that had formed improvement teams to re-engineer the maintenance function. Eight people worked full time with two outside facilitators to draw maps of existing maintenance processes and then proposed improvements. They found that planning, scheduling, and preventive maintenance could be improved, a fact that was identified in several days.

This effort took a total of no less than 16 weeks for eight people (5,120 hours), plus the cost for two outside facilitators.

I recently met with members of the original improvement team. They reported that (after five years!) some improvements had started in one area, but most areas had done nothing.

This example is not an exception. It is very common, and I can give many more examples of wasted efforts than of true success stories. I always wonder how management can get away with such wasted initiatives. On the other hand, it helps me understand why most organizations don’t show enthusiasm for new improvement efforts. They have seen too many wasted efforts.

How do you make sure your actions (efforts) translate to results in the frontline?

The first step is that top management down to middle management demonstrates long-term dedication for the improvement effort. Good advice: do not call the effort a program because there is no end to the improvement effort, and there is nothing revolutionary about it. Most actions are to improve the basics in preventive maintenance and work management so don’t complicate it.

Successful organizations decide what they need to do then execute it. This is the only difference between the best performers and the rest.

Frontline maintenance includes supervisors, planners, craftspeople and operations; all others in the maintenance organization exist to support the frontline.

Frontline Key Performance Indicators

Again, do not mix up actions and results. Results include improved competitiveness (e.g. tons/cost), productivity (egg. tons/hours worked), and overall production efficiency (tons made/tons that could have been made, etc.).

Actions include better alignment, balancing, lubrication, planning, scheduling, etc. The outcome of all these actions can be measured, and the indicators used should be as closely related to the action as possible.

Action indicators should be used to drive continuous improvement and necessary change of behaviors to deliver expected results.

Front line key performance indicators include:

  • Break-in work within weekly and daily schedules.
    To use this indicator, you must have weekly and daily schedules. You also need a clear definition of break-in work—for example, work added to daily schedules less than 19 hours before start of the working day or shift. Best performers have less than 10% break-in work, often achieving only 5% break-in work within daily schedules.
  • Combined trends of overtime, contractor usage, and backlog hours;
  • Average vibration level trend;
  • Average life of select components.

If you don’t measure selected frontline key performance indicators, you won’t know if you truly improve. If you measure them and see improvements, then you can also expect results indicators to improve.


Christer Idhammar

Christer Idhammar started his career in operations and maintenance 1961. Shortly after, in 1985, he founded IDCON INC in Raleigh North Carolina, USA. IDCON INC is now a TRM company. Today he is a frequent key note and presenter at conferences around the world. Several hundred successful companies around the world have engaged Mr. Idhammar in their reliability improvement initiatives.


  • He received the coveted EUROMAINTENANCE Incentive 2002 award during the biannual EUROMAINTENANCE 2002 conference in Helsinki in June 2002. Among 19 member European countries he was nominated and received the award from EFNMS – European Federation of National Maintenance Societies – for outstanding achievement and worldwide accomplishments in the field of reliability and maintenance.
  • In 2008 he received the Salvetti Foundation Best Speaker all categories award among 154 speakers at Euromaintenance 2008 in Brussels, Belgium
  • In 2013 he received the “Best presentation award” among 120 speakers at Reliability 2.0 conference in Las Vegas.
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