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1 September 2019

Who oversees your maintenance program? Typically, unless you are an owner/operator who manages all aspects of running the business, the responsibility for managing a maintenance program falls on someone else’s shoulders… usually an Equipment Manager, Fleet Manager, or a Director of Maintenance.

But who’s really in charge? Who makes the decisions and sets the goals and the policies? In many cases, the true answer to that question must be qualified. The official answer may be the person with the title; however, that person may be taking a lot of direction from subordinates who report up to him or her. This is something that occurs frequently and dealing with it can be a challenge.

In the Q2 2019 edition of Engineering Solutions, the subject of “overtime heroes” was reviewed. These people exert great influence over maintenance department policies and practices because of their importance to the operation. But there are other workers who also wield undue influence over maintenance decisions, such as clerks/administrators, purchasing agents, drivers/operators, and others.

Since an entire article was devoted to the overtime heroes, we won’t spend any more time on that subject, but you can read all about it here:

For this edition, let’s look at some of the other influencers. A very common role is the office clerk/administrator. This person’s job, as the title suggests, is one that takes care of the office administrative work. It is a role that the Fleet or Equipment Manager may rely on to keep all the paperwork up to date, to complete and file all the mandatory reports, to keep the department files organized, and to keep equipment logs up to date. Even more importantly as it relates to this article, this person may be the one managing the used oil analysis program or key aspects of it such as generating electronic labels and shipping samples to the lab.

Without the help of these clerks/administrators, the job of managing the department would increase significantly. Because managers rely so heavily on these clerks for all the things they do, they can wield undue influence over maintenance department policies.

Office workers may not be trained in equipment maintenance and likely will have no practical experience or knowledge in this area. Thus, the importance and benefits of a used oil analysis program may not be apparent to a person who is not up to speed in the best practices of equipment maintenance.

As a result, when new maintenance practices are recommended, there can be a great deal of resistance from the office staff. When a staff member does push back, it often involves complaining to their manager by offering a list of reasons why the proposed change can’t be accomplished. The manager, being very aware of his dependence on the clerk, gives his or her complaints due process. But after this initial consideration, then what happens?

And this brings up back to the question, who’s really in charge? While the clerk’s concerns can certainly be valid, at the end of the day it is the manager’s responsibility to move the company forward on its journey to maintain the company’s equipment, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and extend the life of the equipment. It is his or her duty to make the decisions and to set the policies and practices for the department, not the clerk’s.

While this discussion focuses on the office clerk/administrator, the same issues can come into play with the other roles that were mentioned at the beginning of this article. The specifics in each case will be a bit different based on the duties of the position.

Drivers/operators can be in short supply, so managers may be inclined to give in to demands that run counter to best practices. Purchasing agents can have ulterior motives and, without heavy-duty maintenance experience, can challenge managers on the cost of advanced maintenance products and services without knowing the benefits. How a manager deals with each of these will define who is really in charge.

Castrol® has a team of experienced, field-based lubrication engineers that can help you identify opportunities to improve your maintenance practices, overcome internal hurdles, and help you to reduce your operational costs. Please contact your Castrol sales representative for assistance.