As professionals in the business of managing vital processes that keep various industries running, we already know that a proactive scheduled maintenance plan is critical to the success of those industries.
Depending on the size, scale, and complexity of the operations you oversee, your overall maintenance plan will typically be a combination of routine, predictive, and preventative maintenance. Maybe even run-to-failure or corrective maintenance as well. But in the context of this discussion, I will focus on routine maintenance.
This type of maintenance refers to the basic, small-scale tasks carried out on a regular basis to sustain the general upkeep of the entity you manage. Routine maintenance jobs can be scheduled to happen daily, weekly, monthly, bi-annually, etc.
The Steps To Creating Balanced Routine Maintenance Schedules
At first, creating your standard routine maintenance schedule might not seem like a big deal. But creating one that is balanced (and subsequently efficient) requires a meticulous, data-centric approach.
If you do not have a plan based on reliable data, you will either schedule maintenance check-ups too often or too far in between. In the first case, you will waste your technician’s time on unnecessary work, while in the second case you will have to deal with unnecessary downtimes.
And it is really important to have an efficient schedule if you want to successfully implement a good preventive maintenance plan.
From my experience, there are many steps that come together to create a good maintenance scheduling plan. The order of steps may vary from one organisation to the other but I always prefer that the entire process starts with a clear understanding of your maintenance goals and the particular strategies you want to take to achieve those goals.
After that, you need your assets inventory - a catalogue of every single piece of equipment in the system. Your inventory should be as comprehensible as possible and will require physical inspection and frequent updates when new equipment is added or removed from your organisation.
This information will eventually form the core of your maintenance operations. Based on the data in your inventory, you can immediately get an idea of the state of each equipment and the performance standards you can expect based on age and condition.
From there you’ll want to:
1. Proceed to assign preventive maintenance tasks with a maintenance frequency for each asset (usually based on the manufacturer’s recommendations)
2. Decide who on your maintenance team is managing what
It is also not a bad idea to double check what kind of further training your team will need, and what tools and resources you have at your disposal.
Once all the above are sorted, you can then upload the information into your selected maintenance software.
The Role of CMMS In Maintenance Schedules
While I might be a little biased, I do believe that a modern CMMS (computerised maintenance management system) is integral for the success of any preventive maintenance strategy (which are based on routine maintenance schedules).
I sometimes wonder how establishments today still expect to run their operations smoothly and cost-effectively without taking advantage of advanced maintenance solutions. In any case, depending on the software you choose, all that’s required to kick off the process is to enter the data you gathered so far.
There are many different reasons to use a CMMS, but looking at it only from the scheduling angle, operators can quickly create and schedule PMs, upload pictures, notes, user manuals, and other information about each asset into the software. This is an absolute time saver and is a priceless source of data at a later date.
The CMMS will then generate scheduled work orders with specific instructions to the right members of your maintenance team. As each task is completed, it’s an opportunity to capture relevant information (such as a picture of the asset’s current state or time spent) and input them back into the software for historical reporting purposes. This process can all be done easily from the convenience of a technician’s phone or tablet.
Looking at maintenance history and other reports, you will quickly realise that your initial schedule could be improved. So adjust the schedule as required and then next quarter rinse, and repeat.
For example, imagine your company is a small toy manufacturing operation that produces 1,000 units a month. A sudden surge in demand means you now have to churn out 2,000 toys monthly. This trend continues for months and while you welcome the added growth, you’re not quite ready to commit to buying new equipment so you simply run your current equipment more aggressively.
Now, after months of producing 2,000 toys a month feedback from your CMMS shows that breakdowns have increased and the audit of your maintenance schedules show that every time the greasing PM occurs the equipment looks not well taken care of. Based on this information you may want to increase your servicing and lubrication of moving parts from every 2 weeks to every 1 week to see if it lowers the unexpected breakdowns.
Over the next couple of months, you can keep an eye on the equipment through your CMMS. You’ll either find that the increased servicing solved the problem or you’ll have the data that you’ll need to argue for purchasing new equipment.
Common Reasons Maintenance Schedules Fail To Be Effective And How To Resolve Them
Despite the benefits of routine maintenance schedules, companies still report failures in the process of using them, especially when it comes to execution. I have seen this problem occur over and over again. The plan looks good in theory but for one reason or the other, execution becomes something short of a nightmare and the organisation gradually falls back to reactive maintenance.
So, what’s causing these problems and how do we resolve them? The answers are not far-fetched and commonly include:
1. Poor Groundwork And Roll-Out Strategy
Rushing to create a new maintenance plan means more often than not you will be abandoning that plan in the near future. Before you even sit down to create your new maintenance plan, have you considered the readiness of your team to adapt, the support you’ll need from outside your maintenance team and other groundwork that must be in place from the onset? Some vital points to start with are:
● Get your maintenance team buy-in - Simply talking to your team and getting them ready for the change goes a long way to get their buy-in and support. With their support, it will be drastically easier to implement a new maintenance plan.
● Get upper management buy-in - If your upper management doesn’t care about improving the overall effectiveness of the maintenance department changing your maintenance plan is going to be very difficult. Showing upper management the numerous benefits of a well ran maintenance department using a CMMS will go a long way in getting that support.
● Take it one step at a time - More often than not, individuals bite off more than they can chew. Start slow and get it done right the first time. If you are managing hundreds of assets break apart your roll-out strategy into stages. Get 10 assets going smoothly in department A and once you see success there move onto 10 assets in department B.
● Understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint - Changing to maintenance schedules is not something that is done overnight. While some implementations can take as little as a couple weeks, to really realise the benefits, expect to spend time getting the maintenance plan built and optimised the right way for your organisation.
2. Poor Organisational Processes
It’s easy to put the blame on the maintenance schedule itself or the software running it, but if you dig deeper you’ll find that the plan may be trying to address a problem that it simply can’t handle.
Yes, a maintenance schedule is a powerful resource and an invaluable management tool, but it is not a solution for underlying problems in your processes. For instance, are your technicians adequately trained and empowered to handle the tasks assigned? Can they objectively finish all of their tasks in the given time frame? Are your maintenance practices up to date and realistic?
If you answered no to any or all of these questions, just deploying a plan will not help you. Instead, make it easier to succeed by:
● Ensure the tasks are assigned to technicians with proper experience and knowledge and that you onboard and train new technicians according to needs of your facility.
● Update your maintenance practices to incorporate more modern resources e.g. tablets with cloud-based software.
● Ensure open communication between technicians and manager so you can quickly fix up scheduling problems as they come up.
3. Poor Ongoing Management
If you are new to using maintenance schedules, that means you’ve been running your operations mostly on reactive maintenance. So how do you intend to handle the changes that will come from transiting from reactive to routine maintenance?
One of the fastest ways a maintenance schedule can fail is to create it and send it to the maintenance crew for execution without any oversight. No battle survives first contact with the enemy and that is true here as well. Your maintenance plan will need to grow and adapt as it is implemented and that will require oversight from you.
Make no mistake, a routine maintenance schedule or other forms of planned maintenance can bring many positive changes to your business and reduce costs and downtime significantly, but this is only possible if you give it enough thought and have a good plan in place so that the implementation is successful.