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1 June 2013

This is the third article in our continuing series on the Maintenance Journey, the journey a company takes as it progressively improves its equipment maintenance practices.  In the last installment, we described the typical identifiers and the Drivers, Rewards and Behaviors of the first two stages of the journey – Regressive and Reactive.  In this article, we will continue to look at these attributes for the next stages along the journey.

The third stage of the journey is known as Planned.  The main identifier of a company at this stage is the use of a time-based maintenance schedule.  It may utilize a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to track and plan maintenance activities, or it may just keep track using spreadsheets or charts.  At its most basic form, this may be done using a whiteboard on the shop office wall with all units listed, the last service performed and the next upcoming service based on miles or hours.

The main Reward for this stage is “No Surprises” and the main Driver for this stage is “Avoid Failure.”  Resources are aimed at minimizing unplanned repairs and pressure is applied to meet maintenance schedules, to identify potential failures, and to make plans to address these before failure occurs.  Not surprisingly, the key Behavior of this stage is “Planning,” as significant effort is directed towards planning and scheduling.

The fourth stage is Precision.  The main identifiers of a company at this stage are organization and cleanliness.  The shop is clean and uncluttered and features a well-engineered lube room or containment area.  Lubricants are recorded as they are dispensed and consumption records for each unit and compartment are kept.

The main Reward for this stage is “Competitive Advantage.”  The company knows that the resources spent in improving its maintenance practices pay off by helping to reduce costs, which gives the company an economic advantage over its competitors.  The main Driver is “Uptime,” as redundant equipment is kept to a minimum and efforts are focused on maximizing production at a minimal cost per unit of measure.  The main Behavior at this stage is “Organizational Discipline.”  Achieving this stage requires the commitment of everyone, from the top of the organization to the bottom.  Every employee knows the goals and expectations, and everyone is kept apprised of current and past performance in achieving or meeting those goals.

The fifth and final stage is ‘World Class.”  The main identifiers for this stage are hard to acknowledge as they are always changing as companies continue to push the boundaries.  Perhaps that is the best identifier… companies that have achieved Precision and are now pushing the boundaries and establishing new best practices.

The main Reward for this stage is recognition of being “Best in Class.”  Employees of companies at this stage are often involved in industry associations whose goals are to help members improve performance.  They are often leaders in those associations, serving on boards or committees and presenting at annual meetings, as they strive for recognition among their peers.  The company reaps the benefits of this recognition because employees often continue to enhance their growing  knowledge and skills.

The main Driver for this stage is “Growth,” and the main Behavior is “Organizational Learning.”  Contrast this to the Precision stage, a best-in-class organization has gotten beyond a focus on uptime and discipline and now moves toward continued growth in knowledge, skills and performance.

And finally, it is important to note that “best-in-class” is not a final destination, as the Maintenance Journey is a journey without end.  The goal is not to reach a destination, but to continue moving and always push the envelope.

In the next edition of this newsletter, please look for another installment in this series.  It will focus on the steps needed to move from one stage to another in order to make progress along the Maintenance Journey.