Effective Benchmarking in Pursuit of Better Maintenance Operations

by David Berger
Posted 1/3/2010

Interfacing with Core CMMS Modules

Determine which functions hold the greatest opportunity for improving your maintenance operations, and look around for companies that show excellence in each target function. Summarized below are four of the more common functions that are of interest to modern maintenance operations, as well as sample target industries for benchmarking.

01 Service

The maintenance department provides service to the operations department – somewhat analogous to McDonald’s providing service to the general public. Maintenance could learn a great deal from the fast food industry with respect to attitude (smiles are free), manpower and capacity planning (demand is somewhat unpredictable), and order taking (fast food companies provide quick response times on their ‘work orders’).

The courier industry is also a good target for benchmarking. Large courier companies have excellent dispatch and mobile tracking systems for parcels, which are analogous to the tracking of maintenance jobs. Furthermore, they spend a great deal of time and effort in developing engineered work standards to improve the productivity and predictability of their processes. Some of the techniques used by the courier industry may be transferable in developing standards for repetitive maintenance tasks.

02 Supply Chain Management

When it comes to tight control of inventory from one end of the supply chain to the other, maintenance shops can learn a lot from pharmaceutical companies. Drugs must be carefully tracked such that if a bad batch is detected in the field, the entire lot can be recalled and the root cause of the problem found quickly.

Large retailers like Wal-Mart move a lot of material very efficiently. Retailers have developed world-class techniques for managing their suppliers, keeping inventory at an absolute minimum despite uncertain demand, expediting critical orders, ensuring constancy of supply, and utilizing warehousing space efficiently – a lot could be learnt from them.

03 Reliability Management

What should you do with the endless stream of equipment history data within your CMMS? The health care industry in the US provides an excellent example of how focus on reliability management can pay big dividends. Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO’s) have a mandate to maximize profit by maintaining the health of their clients. An HMO will bill its clients a premium. The premiums are then aggregated into the top line of a budget, and the HMO directs its energy into minimizing the downtime (ie, sickness) of its assets (ie, their clients).

Maintenance staff, in a production environment, are similar to the doctors working for an HMO in that in order to minimize costs, both must work efficiently and effectively to predict, prevent and correct failures of the assets for which they care. For example, doctors make use of encoded fields on ‘work orders’ to track the problem as reported by a patient, the cause, and corrective action taken. The HMO then uses statistical analysis to drive out the preventive measures that reduce high cost failures. As well, predictive models are built to understand who is at greatest risk, and how a failure can be avoided or its impact minimized.

04 Preventive Maintenance

Some companies have a superb reputation for having moved to a more planned environment. For example, airlines, airport authorities, and utilities cannot afford to have reactive-style maintenance operations. For the safety and convenience of the public, major emphasis is placed on preventive maintenance to avoid downtime. Although this may seem like an extremely costly approach for some maintenance shops, upon closer examination through benchmarking, it is surprising just how much is transferable.

Similarly, the military has an outstanding preventive maintenance program for their equipment, as evidenced by the various Middle East conflicts. Much was learnt by the military on the advantages of preventive maintenance over reactive maintenance, and how to do it right.

Conclusion

In summary, do not narrow your scope to benchmarking only other maintenance operations in your industry. Instead, narrow your scope to those few processes that will yield the greatest improvement opportunity. Then broaden your search for benchmarking targets to any company in the world that exhibits excellence for those processes, including but not limited to maintenance operations.

 

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