What's the cure for unplanned maintenance?

What’s the cure for unplanned maintenance?

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You may have heard the story: Alexander Fleming, a professor at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, came back to work after a holiday and took a look at his petri dishes, where he left bacteria he had been examining. One petri dish in particular caught his eye: It had grown mold, which seemed to have stopped the growth of the bacteria. And just like that, the first true antibiotic was born. Penicillin revolutionized healthcare with its ability to cure a number of diseases that couldn’t previously be treated.

If we think of unplanned maintenance as a disease (which isn’t much of a stretch, is it?), an analogy starts to emerge. While the dawn of the CMMS, by comparison, was no accident, its ability to cure unplanned maintenance stemming from any number of causes is still remarkable. If you’re finding yourself drowning in an endless cycle of fixing problems and facing downtime, a CMMS will help you understand where the problem lies so you can finally cure your maintenance operations. And while every organization is different, the steps to implement a CMMS are universal.

1) Diagnose the problem

No ailment can be cured without a proper diagnosis. As we recently explored on the blog, an abundance of unplanned maintenance is a byproduct of a larger problem. That’s why a crucial first step in reducing it is to define the problem you’re facing. This will help you confirm whether a CMMS is, in fact, the right solution for your team. For example, if you lack the KPIs that will help you measure and evaluate your ratio of unplanned vs. planned maintenance, a CMMS will give you tremendous insight. Similarly, relying on pen and paper can waste time that could be used planning when scheduling maintenance is done with a CMMS.

2) Gather your team

Once you’ve come to a consensus about the problem or problems that are causing unplanned maintenance at your organization, it’s time to gather stakeholders to get an exhaustive list of who will be involved in the implementation and usage of a CMMS. Determining who will be using the system will help you decide which features will be most important in your evaluation process. At Ardagh Group, Tony Leombruno assembled a cross-functional steering team with representatives from each of their seven plants. The team collectively decided on which features were most important to them, and evaluated potential solutions based on their criteria.

3) Lay the groundwork for treatment

Once stakeholders have been identified and have had the chance to voice their needs, it’s important to ensure that you have the foundation in place to support the implementation of a CMMS from all angles.

There are a number of questions you should ask yourself to determine the work that needs to be done to get everyone on the same page when it comes to solutions:

Is your culture set up to support a CMMS?

Depending on the state of your organization’s work culture, introducing a CMMS could either be a natural next step in your maintenance plan, or a total shock to your workforce. If technicians are already in the habit of creating work orders for all work that is completed, carrying out root cause analyses for equipment failures, and tracking spare parts properly, everyone will be much more open to adopting and supporting a CMMS. If your culture doesn’t currently support tracking work or getting involved in inventory planning, you may have to introduce these concepts and processes first to ease everyone into a CMMS-conducive mindset.

Is your workforce open to changes in process?

If people on the shop floor have been doing things the same way year after year, they may not be open to a process change, especially if there is new technology involved. That’s why it’s important to select a CMMS that’s user-friendly and offers lots of support and implementation training to get you through the early days of using the system. Ensuring that things go smoothly during setup and rollout is key. For Ardagh Group, Tony took extra care to identify pilot plants where they could roll out Fiix in a controlled environment, allowing them to anticipate problems with process or adoption that might crop up when they introduced the solution to all seven plants. This allowed them to establish best practices at an early stage, ensuring they wouldn’t get bogged down by problems when it was time to go live.

Do you have guiding principles in place that will make it easier to support the implementation of a CMMS?

When we talk about guiding principles, we’re referring to the beliefs that are in place and inform your processes. For some organizations, this means establishing a separate mission and vision statement for your reliability strategy. For others, it means instituting a mindset like “no work order, no work”, where it becomes ingrained in the mind of every employee that every small fix, repair, or check must have an accompanying work order.

Can you answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” for every system user?

If you can’t tell each employee that will be using a CMMS why they’ll benefit from it, they won’t see the benefit either. While a CMMS makes completing work orders and logging information in the field much easier than a pen and paper or Excel-based system, people need to see proof of that before they bother learning a new way. Make sure you do your research on exactly why maintenance software will make things better for everyone, and be prepared with reasons that are pertinent to each job title that will have access to the system.

4) Begin a treatment plan

Once you’ve gotten everyone on board, it’s time to start evaluating your options. There are two ways to go about this. The first is setting up a scoring system and grading each option on how well it satisfies each of your pre-determined CMMS needs. For example, you might want to rank your software options on usability, quality of mobile app, and price. The second method is evaluation by trial. There are a number of CMMS vendors that offer a free version that allows you to test the waters. While a free version won’t give you the full sophistication of the CMMS you’ll eventually use, it will give you and your team a good idea of what it will be like to use the system.

Once you have selected and implemented your CMMS, you can begin to gather data that will help you understand how to plan maintenance better. And while there’s no “magic pill” solution to getting rid of unplanned maintenance, a CMMS used correctly and dutifully over time will provide the cure to unnecessary maintenance that you need.

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