By John Hoke & Lorri Craig
Using a software package to administer maintenance activities is nothing new to most of us. As a matter of fact, the vast majority are experiencing our second implementation of the latest and greatest CMMS (Computer Maintenance Management System).
We struggled with the first one just getting used to the complexity of using a computer and its awkward commands to do the things that we handled so quickly with the paper system of the good old days. In those days, the world was much different. There was no real pressure from Wall Street at the operating floor level, and we all seemed to remember the failures and what happened and why, and took the time to make sure it did not ever happen again. Well, I may be stretching the truth a little, I remember taking pride in how quickly we could fix a problem, and to this day, getting that mentality off of the operating floor is difficult. But to be fair, we all respond to what our bosses reward us for, and it is the rare leader that routinely publicly recognizes effective preventive maintenance and therefore minimal downtime. It is always the excitement of working under pressure and doing well that feed our maintenance egos. And in some people’s opinion, ego and maintenance go hand in hand. This maintenance ego is what is at risk in today’s world of computer based maintenance. The very act of teaching the computer the tasks that we reserved for measuring our own worth seems to be self defeating. “If I put all the information in there to do the job, what do they need me for? If I do not measure my worth by how fast I can fix something that is broken, how do I measure it? Why do I take the enormous amount of time it takes to document the equipment specs and failures, when there seems to be no real reward for doing that?” In response to this challenge, we must strive to understand what it takes to make the CMMS work for us, instead of it creating non-value adding work. And as a leader, the task is to measure and reward the organization accordingly.
Now it is a given that the financial bottom line is where the rubber will hit the road. It will always be a matter of equipment uptime and the cost to support that uptime. The strategy will be to work toward 100% uptime and have it cost as little as it can to sustain that reliability. We will always be benchmarked and compared against our competition. The difficult part is what tactics are used to execute that strategy. As maintenance professionals we are not the main event, we are a support to the main event, keeping the equipment running that actually allows our organization to make a profit. It is about making money, safely and within the law, period. Which brings us to the role of the computer based maintenance system in that strategy and more particularly, the tactics. On the debit side, there is a significant cost associated with the software and hardware just to run the system. On top of that, and even more painful, is the human cost associated with learning the system and trying to achieve the potential. The basic question that runs through a plant manager’s mind is “How is this system going to make my plant money? Is there a competitive advantage in there somewhere?” The answer is “Yes , if you are willing to lead the effort”.
The system we are using as an example is the SAP Plant Maintenance Module, but the concepts are applicable to any business enterprise software system. As with most enterprise systems, there are two large drivers to implementation. Leveraging the size of the company by sharing data streams and being able to know at any point in time where the company is financially. These systems are usually designed by financial people who see the need to integrate maintenance costs within their financial reporting structure, so software is developed to execute those actionable costs. So given this fact the first basic question for plant leadership is “Is maintenance cost important for me to track and to what degree?” This is the fundamental question that will drive the rest of this discussion, for there is a business fundamental that will drive how deep we delve into the CMMS. If we are at reliability targets and within budget, spending summaries are sufficient. If we are not, we now have the tool to quickly get to root issues and get a real time picture of what is going on day to day in our maintenance operations. Now we have the capability of to monitor every action within the system, and with the enterprise approach of merging maintenance, stores, accounting, purchasing, and human resources all invariably linked, you are not allowed to attempt any task without a keystroke. If gaining accountability is your focus, this is a tool. If you have a self driven organization to be excellent, it is also a tool. If you have neither, much of the time invested in this CMMS will not create a dividend. More likely than not, it will become an added operating cost.
Just as an overview, let’s take a layman’s view of the SAP Plant Maintenance Module and what is consists of.
1) Technical Objects
a) The Equipment
b) The Equipment (Functional) Locations designated normally by General Ledger
c) The Materials associated with the Equipment or Locations (This is normally referred to as the Bill Of Materials)
d) Maintenance Work Centers or people resource to do the work.
2) Maintenance Processing
a) The Notification - The Heart of the Equipment or Location History
b) The Order - The Cost Tracking Vehicle to get Maintenance Work Done
3) Preventive Maintenance
a) The Repeatable Maintenance Task Strategies that are used to inspect and perform work that anticipate problems before they happen
b) The Task Lists that provide the template for work that happens more than once.
4) Information System
a) How we measure our Performance and search for Opportunity.
SAP Maintenance Performance Reports
The Implementation for Improvement
We seem to implement these computer based maintenance system implementations from the bottom up. Much time and effort is expended by the floor levels of the organization to understand the keystrokes it takes to identify work and to get paid for doing it. Not much effort goes into understanding what the business objectives are by the leadership and how the CMMS is used to achieve that. We are all used to the old axiom, “We tend to respect what the boss inspects”. This is a step that is sorely needed at implementation, but at worst case, in the renewal effort after implementation. The stark reality is, in direct contradiction to the change model to prepare the champions, leadership is often the last group to get a true hold on the CMMS and what the organizations are struggling to produce. In deference to this fact, the first step is obviously to learn the system. It will be nearly impossible to reap the benefits of the CMMS without that knowledge.
With the system knowledge in place, these are some of the questions that will need addressing to help support the effectiveness of the system. Listed by function:
(1)Technical Objects (The Foundation)
a. Do we have an equipment and location structure that is easy to find what you are looking for? Often in the rush to implement, the data is “dumped” into a structure that is not user friendly. You might be surprised how long it takes people to even FIND the equipment they want to refer to. And often the answer is to use some higher level classification that not only makes it difficult for the planner, but makes history and accurate cost tracking nearly impossible.
b. How much of the equipment or locations have accurate bills of materials? Without a concentrated effort to make this a useable tool, the CMMS will actually make it more difficult and time consuming for the planners.
c. Can we find the material effectively without a bill of material? Until the Bills of Material are completed, just finding the material can be difficult with new naming conventions brought on by standardization.
d. Is the equipment or locations properly classified? Having equipment that is properly classified as to type and criticality will save much time and provide accurate data that will make the planning process and the collection of historical data infinitely easier.
e. Are the work centers properly configured? Work Center configuration has many implications in scheduling and cost accuracy. Being able to level resources accurately and account for the exact costs of those resources is very important to being in control of the maintenance process.
(2)Maintenance Processing (The Execution)
a. Are notifications written with the clarity to convey all the necessary information to the next stakeholder? The notification is where the history resides, and if you believe in learning from what happened to prevent it from happening again, this is key. It can be argued that to measure CMMS effectiveness, this is where to check the pulse.
b. Are the orders being planned and executed effectively? This is where the money is spent, and this is where discipline is measured. Here you can measure estimated versus planned costs to verify working against a good plan. Scheduling is also done in this module and can be measured as to “Did we do what we said we were going to do when we planned to?” These are key measurements in what we learned from Wall Street. We not only want to be good, we want to be predictable and dependable.
c. Are we closing work orders effectively? The key to learning is documenting the process well. Providing accurate and detailed information is key for the next opportunity, and closing out the work orders in a timely fashion will avoid making backlog growth a threat.
(3)Preventive Maintenance (The Prevention)
a. Do we have a strategy in place that automates the preventive maintenance order in a way that does not overwhelm the maintenance team? If the strategy is not correct, it may serve the purpose of creating backlog havoc and not finding the correct balance of preventive maintenance effort to reliability. The whole concept of preventive maintenance is based on doing no more than what it takes to maintain reliability.
b. Do we have good detailed task list for repeatable jobs so we save the planner the time of having to develop multiple job plans for the same work? Tasks lists are an investment in pre-planning. When you already have the tasks in place, the materials designated, it becomes a matter of a few key strokes to prepare a well planned job.
(4)Information System (The Measurement)
a. Do we as an organization, top to bottom know how to access the reports and information that reflect our mission and goals? With the enterprise systems, we are entering a different era of reporting. Instead of the nice printed report, we are given software that has real time capability with somewhat infinite capability. We all have different focus areas to deal with at differing levels, everyone looking from a different perspective. Knowledge is power, the power to focus our ever shrinking resources to where the money is to be made.
These are the questions that any leader needs to audit the CMMS with at a high level. There is much detail underneath each of those questions, but with the multi million dollar cost associated with maintenance spending, the questions are a true investment.
The Competitive Advantage
Two large systemic issues loom over the whole process over of how the CMMS will give us a competitive advantage. The first is skill base. Much as we test journeymen mechanics to assure the quality of the work they do, we find ourselves in the same boat with the enterprise CMMS. It was said once that implementation of this type of computer system would polarize the talent, and the talent is what we need to compete. A hard look at the skill levels needed to execute is needed and whether we are willing to trust the steering wheel to people who struggle with understanding the concepts and rules of the system. Not everyone can do this. The second point is about renewal. These new business enterprise CMMS are not as inflexible as we are led to believe. Much of what you see on a given screen is configurable by the end user. The nature of the software business is to “hard code” what you absolutely have to, and let the client “configure” what the screens look like and what fields are required and what steps are needed to satisfy a status change. To expect the implementation team to get it perfect the first time is unreasonable. You must champion an improvement effort that allows you to challenge the configuration now that you know what questions to ask once the barriers have presented themselves to your organization. In major corporations that is an enormous undertaking, but to get the competitive advantage, you cannot achieve it with the first wave. It takes continuous improvement and it takes continuing education. There is much to be learned and taken advantage of with your present system, and more to come with revisions and enhancements.
Making money with a CMMS is a difficult task. But for those with a strategy to use the tool and willing to invest in the effort to make it function well, the rewards will be the predictability and the control of a maintenance system that will cost no more than it needs to make the equipment reliable.