How to Automate Your Maintenance
Work Order System
by Thomas A. Westerkamp, President, Productivity Network Innovations,
this article in PDF format.
computerized maintenance management techniques coupled with a
tested implementation method result in a winning combination:
better equipment capability and reliability along with the ability
to get 20% to 30% more work done with available maintenance resources.
Thousands of maintenance departments are currently adding a new
computerized maintenance management system or updating the current
system for processing their work orders. This may seem like a
fairly complicated project but it need not be. The main reason
it seems complicated is that it is a development project, not
a routine operation which is repeated over and over like manufacturing
your products. The key is proper planning. With all the decisions
involved, where do you start? These are the essential steps your
department should take when making this transition.
Assessing the current situation
best way to start is to look at where you are today. You need to
do this because, regardless of the system you select you have to
start from where you are and then develop an orderly series of steps
to get where you want to end up.
Organization. The most essential ingredient in your maintenance
management system is the people. An excellent system run by poorly
trained or motivated people will be adequate at best; but well
trained people with positive attitudes can make an excellent system
world class. This is why you start here. You need to know how
many requesters (people who request maintenance service) there
are; who are the most frequent requesters; what are their needs;
how many and what kind (skills) of maintenance personnel do you
Equipment. The maintenance workload is determined by the equipment
and building facilities. Ask what kind of equipment and how many
there are. Ask requesters what their top ten equipment or facility
problems are. The operations people will tell you what equipment
problems they have and the maintenance people will know what building
system problems are most frequent. How many equipment numbers
are in the current system? How many should be added? How many
Work Orders. You need to know how many work orders are generated
each week. A rough rule of thumb is that the average work order
takes one hour. If you track that statistic, use your own number.
From this and the number of maintenance workers, you can estimate
number of work orders per week as follows: If you have a maintenance
department of twenty workers, you have twenty times forty, or
800 labor hours a week. That means you generate roughly 800 work
orders per week including routine and preventive maintenance.
Preventive Maintenance. You will want information on the current
PM program. Frequently the reason attention is given to automating
the work order system is that equipment is unreliable. Unscheduled
downtime disrupts scheduling and can even result in customer service
delays or unacceptable quality. This may be a symptom of need
for expanded PM routines. The best PM system does not necessarily
cover 100% of the equipment, but it does cover all the essential
equipment that can cause problems in quality or production rates
or user interruption. PM is best handled as a partnership between
the equipment or facility users, the maintenance department and
the equipment supplier. The user should have a brief daily list
of potential problem areas to check. This is your first line of
defense. The earlier a problem is identified, the faster it can
be corrected with minimum adverse results. The maintenance department
is responsible for periodic PM such as changing gear box oil,
lubricating motor bearings and cleaning as well as tightening
adjusting and replacing worn parts. The vendor should be called
in periodically, usually once a year, to go over the equipment
and check that components are working properly and the machine
is being used within design limits. Many times substitutes are
made -- a ten horsepower motor for the original fifteen horsepower
motor, for example -- that restrict the machine capacity and cause
frequent trouble. Find out how many PM routines you have now and
assess what improvements and what new PM’s are needed. Calculate
how many PM procedures you will need to bring the program up to
date. Some plants have found that a reduction in the number of
PM’s resulted. This was because, in the past, new procedures were
added to the system but obsolete ones or duplicates were not removed.
Now is the time to get this straightened out.
Support Functions. The current system for handling work orders
should receive careful attention before any attempt to computerize
or update it if it is already computerized. How are work requests
turned into work orders? Who approves them? Do you have a written
work order system? How are priorities determined? A verbal system?
What percent of the work is documented so you have an effective
equipment history for making decisions about when to overhaul
or replace key equipment and when to adjust PM routines? Do you
document emergency repairs? These are often handled verbally and
are the least documented but the most costly repairs made.
Overall Productivity. You should estimate the overall maintenance
department productivity. This will be a very important factor
in getting management support and getting money in the budget
for the improvements you want to make. Two ways to do this are:
(1) do a work sampling to find out the present utilization or
productive time. This is a statistical technique that can quickly
establish productive time and delays you are experiencing, or
(2) post-apply predetermined engineered standard times to at least
twenty percent of a week’s work and compare actual hours taken
to the engineered standard times. Either method will require a
fair amount of work by knowledgeable maintenance, industrial engineering
or manufacturing engineering personnel, but it is worth the effort.
the improvement potential
Functional and Cost Improvements. There are two types of improvement
that will result from a well designed and integrated system. They
are functional improvements -- improvements in the process for handling
maintenance work -- and cost improvements -- savings in the cost
of each hour of maintenance performed. The cost improvement is absolutely
essential for long term management support. The functional improvements
are absolutely essential for employee support. Both types of improvements
should be written down in a mission statement that provides a focus
for everyone involved. Measurement of results versus the goals will
keep management and employees informed of progress and keep them
motivated during the various phases of development, training and
installation. A software aid to performing an operational audit
of the maintenance department, called Aware.MNT,
guides the user through a series of questions in eight functional
areas of the maintenance process, determines the overall productivity
and productivity in each of the eight areas, and calculates savings
potential which will result from improving productivity to a selected,
higher level. See Chart 1 below.
Chart 1. Aware.MNT bar chart showing productivity and
Cost of Improvements. Your improvement costs will depend on
the needs you have uncovered during the assessment of the current
situation and determination of the improvement potential above.
These costs can be applied to each step as you put together a
plan of action describing how you will get the improvement potential.
Savings that result from a well-designed maintenance system can
pay for the system in less than two years after installation starts.
See Chart 2 below.
Chart 2. Savings versus cost of maintenance system improvements.
A typical installation scenario is shown below.
a detailed plan to get from here to there
Organization. Improvements most frequently needed are better
equipment reliability; getting more work done with limited workers,
material inventory and supplies; and reducing costs. Operations
management is often looking at the problem from the equipment reliability
perspective while maintenance looks at it in terms of getting more
done. Higher management is trying to reduce costs. It is interesting
that all of these objectives are accomplished by focusing on two
very important ingredients in the system: a formal planning function
and an accurate yardstick for measuring the time it should take
to perform the maintenance work. If you do not have a formal planning
function in the maintenance department, it is like trying to manufacture
your product without a production control system. The maintenance
department needs are very similar to MRPII, manufacturing resource
planning. You need an order entry system, master schedule, bill
of material, routings, standards and capacity planning. Most maintenance
departments, in the absence of planners, send the supervisor or
the maintenance worker out to find out what is needed, then they
go back to the shop and get the tools and material and return to
the job site to do the work. If they missed something the first
time, they often return again to the shop or stores. The result
is about one-third to one half of the time used is unproductive
as many delays interrupt the work. In a maintenance department with
a formal planning function, there is one planner for every 25 to
30 workers. In a maintenance department with 30 workers, one planner
will enable the maintenance workforce to get 20% to 30% more work
done, the equivalent of adding six to nine workers at no additional
cost. Results that can realistically be achieved for various size
maintenance departments are shown in Table 1 below.
1. Number of planners for various size maintenance departments
and additional work resulting.
These results have actually been achieved by many companies. Their
first reaction to the numbers is shock. It’s like going from one
hour die change times to single-minute exchange of die (SMED).
In that case, improved methods can help you achieve absolutely
astounding results. In this case improved management processes
help you achieve equally astounding results.
Training. The introduction of the planner function requires
training. The planners are selected from the work force for their
maintenance experience. This helps them know what is required
to perform the work and also gives credibility to their planning
effort. Others will be more likely to follow the plans if they
know that a qualified person did the planning. But the formal
planning part of their new job requires a different perspective.
They need to visualize how someone else will perform the job and
they will need training in how to document this information in
the work order planning process. Selection and training of the
planners is the most important project step you will take. Training
for requesters and maintenance supervisors is also required to
keep them informed of progress and the effect on their respective
roles. Benefits are stressed during the training to ensure participation.
Systems and Procedures. The planning system must be based
on a good planning process and an accurate, consistent yardstick
for planning job times. The most frequently used method of applying
times to maintenance work is the use of estimates based on experience
or history. They are fast to apply but the main disadvantage is
that, when compared to engineered standards, they are as much
as thirty or forty percent loose. This is because all the delays
and unproductive time experienced in the past are included. Estimates
are did-take times. Engineered standards are should-take times.
Coupled with an accurate labor distribution and reporting system,
engineered standards will tell what is actually happening much
more clearly; your scheduling will be much more accurate and consistent;
and your plans will be much more credible. The best system available
today integrates accuracy and speed of application. It is called
Universal Maintenance Standards and has over forty years of application
experience in all types and sizes of maintenance departments and
industries as well as government, healthcare, education and commercial
applications. Rather than individual, precise times, the system
is based on ranges of time and work content comparison. The statistically
averaged times are within plus or minus five percent of the true
time engendered in engineered standards as developed for high
volume production work. You will have a good yardstick for scheduling
the work and measuring the backlog. You will also have a tool
for performance measurement and program payback analysis as you
compare the results from week to week after installing or upgrading
the planner function and engineered work measurement.
Integration. Up to this point, no mention of the automated
system has been made. That is how it should be. Ranked according
to priority, attention should be focused first on the people,
then on the shop floor control and, finally, on the integration
of an automated process for managing using computer technology.
Authority should match responsibility and computer capability
should match individual responsibility and accountability.
Software requirements plan. Most organizations today already
have an automated maintenance information system and want to upgrade
it to the state-of-the-art or add new capabilities. Some do not
have an automated system and want to install one. In either case,
when you address the computer requirements, there is again a preferred
sequence. That sequence is: organization, process, software and,
finally, hardware. If you start with the hardware and work in
the other direction, it will be pure random chance if everything
fits. You have established certain responsibilities for requesters,
planners, supervisors, workers and data entry personnel. Now you
need to give them a system that will respond to their responsibilities.
These are the software application program modules: work order,
preventive maintenance, equipment record, equipment history, scheduling,
material and tool control, material inventory, engineered standards,
management controls and reports. In a multi-plant, multi-user
system, wide-area network issues need attention. For example,
PM procedures developed in one location should be transferable
to all locations to avoid duplication. Cost comparisons for the
same equipment at different locations should be possible.
Hardware requirements plan. Now you can determine the amount
of hardware needed. The application program plus database storage
tells you the size of your computer. If yours is a microcomputer
system, you will likely need at least 8 megabytes (Mb) of random
access memory (RAM) for operating the program and several hundred
Mb of hard drive space for program and database storage. Your
management information systems department or the software vendor
can give you this information. Once you know the capacity needed
for your system and the number of users with simultaneous access,
you can select the right hardware. An allowance for your operating
system overhead, network structure and future expansion is added
to ensure that the hardware will be of sufficient size. Security
is another important consideration. Access to each module and
database is according to need and organization responsibilities.
System interruptions should be planned for as with any equipment.
Computer maintenance functions and backups are scheduled just
like they are with other equipment.
If you already have a system, you may have outgrown its capacity
-- a common problem with older systems. Symptoms are: slow response
time; need to download history to tape backup or microfiche; not
enough screens for users; delays in getting reports resulting
in less effective use of the data; duplication of effort, e.g.
writing requests and then entering the same information on a computer
keyboard; and changes in responsibilities not reflected in changes
in the system capabilities. You will have much better success
in correcting these problems if you follow the organization-process-software-hardware
sequence. Anything short of this sequence will be a patch job
that will compound the problems.
setting up the planning function and training planners, supervisors
and hourly workers as well as requesters, you are ready to install
the new system. An installation approach that works well is to select
a pilot area, one that has experienced personnel who are adaptable
to change, and start there with a complete system integration and
installation using all components. Run it for a week or so. Advantages
are that management can concentrate attention on problems, if they
arise, and resolve them quickly. In addition to the regular staff,
key people from other areas where the system will be installed later
should be included in the pilot. They will help complete the pilot
in a more orderly fashion and will be able to take this hands-on
experience to their own area when it is their turn to install. In
this fashion, you can get an entire 30- to 90-worker maintenance
department installed in one to four weeks after the software is
installed. If you try to install all crews at the same time, it
will always take longer and some errors in system use may become
hard-to-change habits before you detect them. Good policy and procedure
manuals are a must. They are prepared as a team project by users
and recommended to management. Their approval is tangible evidence
of higher management commitment to the process and will answer in
a consistent manner many questions that arise. For current employees
and new hires over time, they also communicate goals established
jointly by management and the workers.
a project of this size and importance to succeed, project control
techniques are a must. A higher management project leader, or champion,
is selected and given full-time responsibility if the size of the
project warrants it. The project leader’s responsibility includes
having a project schedule prepared, reporting progress to management,
chairing frequent meetings of the working groups, at least weekly
when there are matters to consider and decisions to make, and tracking
the program budget versus savings.
or updating your maintenance program is complex and requires people,
process and systems integration. Using a state-of-the-art maintenance
management organization and process and a tried and tested approach
to this change can result in improvements in function and cost.
These improvements far outweigh the cost of resources required to
accomplish the change. The new system will become a platform for
continuous improvement that will generate important benefits far
into the future.
© 1994 fabr.doc/12-94
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