One of the worst things about getting your maintenance budget cut is all the questions.
Do I need to lay off staff? How can we hit our targets with fewer resources? What projects are essential and what can wait? Is my job safe?
It’s enough to keep you up at night for a while.
We talked to a few experts who’ve been there before. They told us how they managed a smaller maintenance budget while hitting their targets, keeping up with preventive maintenance, and avoiding staff burnout.
How to find extra room in your budget
#1 – Find it in your storeroom
Pay close attention to your inventory minimums when restocking parts and supplies, says Joe McVay, an Implementation Consultant at Fiix with experience in facility maintenance.
“Many organizations don’t realize how much cash flow is tied up in inventory in the warehouse that could be bought just-in-time from multiple vendors without interrupting the business,” says Joe.
Look for parts in your storeroom that are either not immediately critical or can be easily sourced from vendors with short lead-times. Adjust your purchasing schedule accordingly so you’re not spending money on unnecessary inventory.
Many vendors also offer ‘keep stock’ programs, says Joe. These programs guarantee the availability of parts without adding them to your books until you need them. This gives you short-term flexibility in your budget without the risk.
#2: Find it in your schedule
Preventive maintenance is great, but too much will cost you. You can reduce the cost of labor and parts without sacrificing asset health by cutting unnecessary PMs, says Charles Rogers, Fiix’s Senior Implementation Consultant with over 33 years of experience in maintenance.
“If your regular inspections aren’t finding something wrong with an asset, you can probably do them less often,” says Charles.
He recommends looking first at scheduled maintenance based on OEM guidelines. These PMs are more likely to have room for improvement because they weren’t created with your specific use case in mind. Monitor any PMs you change to make sure failure rates don’t increase.
#3: Find it in your work orders
Increasing wrench time helps you stretch your maintenance budget further, says Rob Kalwarowsky, a Reliability Engineer and Asset Manager.
Rob suggests calculating wrench time for all work, starting with jobs that have higher labor costs. Flag areas where wrench time is low. The average wrench time is 20% and 40% is world-class, says Rob.
“Once you have this baseline you can trace the cause of low wrench time to a root cause and tweak your schedules and processes to bridge that gap,” says Rob.
Increasing wrench time by a few percentage points across hundreds of repairs and PMs can save you thousands of dollars in labor and make up for some of your lost budget. And when maintenance is quicker, production gets more uptime. It’s a win-win for everyone.
#4: Find it in your processes
Your budget gets a little tighter every time a highly skilled technician stops what they’re doing to complete a routine task. That’s why Jason Afara, a Solutions Engineer at Fiix and former maintenance manager, suggests training operators to do routine maintenance.
“Operators know their machines best,” says Jason, “Give them the power to inspect machines…and do light maintenance that would otherwise take up your time.”
There are a few key ingredients that make operator enablement successful. The first is communication. Work with the operations or production manager and ensure operators understand why this project is happening (and more importantly, what’s in it for them). Clarity is also important. Training and support materials (like task lists and manuals) need to be easy to follow. The last piece is confidence. Operators need to feel equiped and safe doing the job.
Jason also suggests working with operators and technicians to create standards for requesting work. Work can get done faster when requests are clear and easy to fill in. That reduces the labor hours (and costs) associated with maintenance.
Not only will a few hours of training save you money in the long-term, but it also helps you catch equipment failure earlier and prevent emergency maintenance, which eats into your budget.
#5: Find it in your people
This is another gem from Rob and it’s all about communication, engaging staff, and leading by example.
“You’re cutting maintenance that [your staff] believe they should be doing,” says Rob. “That’s going to have a negative impact.”
Low morale is more than some extra grumbling in the break room. It creates fear, mistrust, and information gaps, says Rob. When you’re missing the whole picture, you can’t see problems and prioritize work, which is essential after maintenance budget cuts.
“You need to foster a low-fear, high-trust environment so people can tell you exactly what’s happening on the shop floor,” says Rob.
Here are some ways to do that:
Book a regular meeting with staff to talk about concerns, roadblocks, solutions, and successes. It might take time for everyone to feel comfortable sharing. That means you could be the only one talking for a little while.
Stop playing the blame game. If a critical work order wasn’t done on time, talk to your technicians, find out what held them back, and think of a way to prevent it from happening again.
Create metrics that have nothing to do with efficiency. Your technicians need to know they’re being measured on how well they collaborate, identify problems, and work to find solutions. It tells your team that you care about them as much as the bottom line.
How to convince your boss to increase the maintenance budget
Getting a bigger maintenance budget is tough, but not impossible. We put together a few tried and tested strategies that other maintenance teams have used to score extra resources. They’ll help you change minds, make your case, and get the budget you need.
Using backlog metrics to hire more people
If you’re strapped for cash, you’re probably also strapped for time. That means backlog. Lots of backlog. The good news is, it’s easy to get people on board with fixing this problem if you have the right data.
Start by tracking your preventive maintenance backlog in hours. Compare this number to the available hours for your workforce to determine the gap between the two.
The next step is to show how backlog impacts the business. Track mean time between failure and the cost of breakdowns. When MTBF goes up because you’re missing maintenance, it means more downtime and less production.
Use this data when you’re asking for the budget to hire an extra person, offer more overtime, or spend more on contractors. This is what worked for Tom Dufton, a maintenance and project manager at food manufacturer Perth Country Ingredients:
Using clean start-ups to justify higher labor costs
Other areas of your business suffer when the maintenance budget is cut. Your staff is spread thin, work is rushed (or missed), and equipment fails. Tracking clean start-ups is one way to prove this and get the extra cash you need to prevent it.
Clean start-ups was a key metric for Stuart Fergusson, Fiix’s Director of Solutions Engineering, during his time as a production line manager at Proctor and Gamble. This KPI not only united maintenance and operations, but also tied directly to financial targets. That always gets people’s attention.
Unfortunately, clean start-ups are hard to achieve without the time, people, and resources to do proper maintenance, which takes money.
Making your case for this money starts with calculating the cost of lost time and production from poor start-ups for all machines across a full year. Compare this to the lower cost of extra people and resources to achieve clean start-ups.
Using time tracking metrics to show the ROI of technology
Administrative tasks waste time and money. If your technicians spend an hour a day writing work orders, that’s an hour of lost efficiency you’re paying for. So while it might seem cheaper to do everything by hand instead of with technology, it’ll cost you more in the long run.
Things like sensors and CMMS software come with a price tag. Getting an increase in your maintenance budget for these purchases starts with tracking the amount of time your team spends on administrative tasks. Then find out how much time you’d save with software.
The final step is to highlight how you would use this extra time and the impact that would have on company targets. For example, if you were able to do one more PM per day, how much more uptime could the company gain.
This was the strategy used by the maintenance team at Rambler Metals & Mining. The company was able to slash the time spent on administrative tasks by 15% after implementing a CMMS. They were able to do more preventive maintenance and reduce equipment failure.
Everything you just read in three sentences
1. Eliminating waste, whether it’s parts you don’t need or delays in your work, is crucial when dealing with maintenance budget cuts.
2. Don’t forget to communicate with your team, include them in decision-making, and be open to feedback so you can avoid a toxic work environment.
3. If you’re asking for an increase to your maintenance budget, lean on numbers to prove the value of maintenance and highlight what your company is losing by not investing in maintenance.