Setting the right maintenance benchmarks for your team

You’ve probably heard the term benchmark in relation to stock prices, but it’s also a great way to evaluate and improve your business. In this article, we’ll break down what maintenance benchmarks are and how they can help you make your maintenance department more efficient.

What is a benchmark?

A benchmark is a standard of comparison. A benchmark can be used as a reference point for measuring progress and comparing performance with other organizations. Benchmarking is a way to get an objective measure of your organization’s performance so you can see how well it stacks up against other companies in the same industry or sector.

In business, there are many types of benchmarks:

  • Financial measures such as profit margins or return on investment (ROI)
  • Non-financial measures such as customer satisfaction surveys
  • Process benchmarks such as total quality management (TQM)

How do you know what’s suitable as a maintenance benchmark?

In maintenance, a good benchmark should have the following qualities:

  1. Relevant: You’re measuring something that will help you improve your business. For example, measuring how long it takes someone in your company to perform maintenance on an asset would be relevant if you want to improve downtime. If, on the other hand, you were trying to increase sales by selling more products (a common goal), then measuring how much time your assets spend creating the product would be important to measure.
  2. Accurate: The measurements must accurately reflect what they’re supposed to (e.g. if we’re measuring downtime on an asset but only tracking one asset at our company instead of all the assets that may be down within 24 hours).

What are some examples of maintenance benchmarks?

Below are a few examples of maintenance activities that can be benchmarked:

  • Frequency of preventive maintenance
  • Frequency of corrective maintenance
  • Equipment downtime (annual or monthly), mean time between failures (MTBF), time to failure after installation
  • Average repair time (annual), mean time to repair (MTTR)

Ramesh Gulati, the author of Maintenance and Reliability: Best Practices, examines key performance indicators that can be easily measured and compared across businesses and industries. His book Maintenance and Reliability: Best Practices provides the metrics of well-performing companies. Most importantly, he outlines the performance of world-class companies so that you can compare it.

Here are some common maintenance KPIs and both average and world-class benchmarks according to Gulati:

Performance MeasureBest PracticeWorld Class
Maintenance cost
as percent of Replacement Asset Value
Maintenance material cost
as percent of Replacement Asset Value
Schedule Compliance40-90%>90%
Percent (%) Planned Work30-90%>85%
Production Breakdown Losses2-12%1-2%
Parts Stock-out Rate2-10%1-2%

There are two things to consider in the table:

  1. First, the performance is always measured as a percent. This means that the numbers are normalized to account for the size of the machine, total work orders being completed, or total production cost. In this case, taking the percentage is a way of normalizing your maintenance performance. Your data is more likely to tell you your actual performance status.
  2. Second, even world-class companies aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. Unplanned breakdowns happen despite the best intentions, equipment, and training of a top company. While you should aim to achieve zero breakdowns, you should always have a preventive maintenance plan to help you cope when something goes wrong.

What are the steps to benchmark maintenance activities?

  1. Define the problem before starting on the solution. For example, perhaps your team is doing too much reactive maintenance and, as a result, isn’t hitting production targets due to unplanned downtime.
  2. Set goals that are ambitious but realistic. If your team is doing too much reactive maintenance, create a process for the team to work through preventive maintenance strategies together for each asset. From there, you can set up new production targets for the team to achieve now that this new process is in place.
  3. Have a plan step for when things go wrong. Let’s say your asset breaks down completely, and it’s not a simple fix with a part replacement. Having a backup plan for when the worst-case scenario might happen is always a good idea.
  4. Be patient and give yourself time to achieve your goal. Set up a meeting with your team to check on your progress. Some teams set these up at 30, 60, and 90-day intervals and cross-compare the previous 30 days to the current.

Holding your team accountable to the benchmark

To hold your maintenance team accountable, you must set goals for them (see step 2 listed above). You can do this by assessing your current performance against the benchmark and then setting goals that are slightly higher than what you’re currently doing. For example, suppose your organization has been performing an average of 10 preventive maintenance activities per month on machines A and B over the last six months. In that case, one goal could be 11 PMs per month for these two machines. We can also convert benchmarks to PM percentage, so for example, out of all maintenance activities on asset A, the goal is for 80% of it to be planned and scheduled.

Benchmarking works because it allows you to understand where you are relative to others

Benchmarking is a great way to improve your maintenance activities. It allows you to understand where you are relative to others and helps identify areas where you need improvement. Benchmarking works because it gives everyone on the team a common goal they can work towards, increasing motivation and productivity in the long run.


Orchestrating a Successful Digital Transformation Journey: Energy and Utilities Sector

The pandemic has forced organizations globally to reinvent and realign their digital transformation strategies. Today, digital transformation is no longer a matter of choice. And the energy and utilities sector (E&U) is no exception to this trend. Many E&U organizations have made significant investments in their digital initiatives to sustain their market share and thrive in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The Challenges

Despite the investments in modern, digital technologies, E&U organizations have not been able to fully harness the power of digital. This is primarily due to:

  • Huge number of documents involved
  • Disjointed technical processes
  • Multiple rounds of submissions, approvals, and rejections
  • Complex peripheral processes like invoicing
  • Persisting dependence on manual interventions
  • Short timelines and expensive delays

The Right Step Forward

The need of the hour for E&U organizations is to leverage a unified project management system for the entire project lifecycle that connects documents, processes, people, and devices. A unified interface will enable these organizations to streamline all functions like submittals under multiple disciplines. The interface will bring these functions to the appropriate processing channel, be it through a document-intensive or template-based workflow.

This would enhance operational efficiency, reduce various maintenance-related overheads, and help E&U organizations become future-ready.

Webinar: Accelerating Digital Transformation in the Energy and Utilities Sector ? A Use Case

Recently Newgen and Wipro hosted a joint webinar, where Carlos Santos (Head of Western Canada and Canadian Alliance Partnerships, Wipro) and I shared our thoughts, experiences, and insights on why E&U organizations must accelerate their digital transformation efforts.

Our overall discussion featured the following:

  • Significant trends and drivers influencing digital processes
  • Various challenges associated with document engineering and management of documents
  • Use cases
  • Case studies and best practices

Watch the full recording of the webinar and gain insights into how E&U organizations can accelerate their digital journeys.


What Organizations Should Know About Getting Started With Workflow Automation

In today’s business climate, things are moving faster than ever. Organizations are now tasked with managing and protecting more information, and speed and efficiency have taken over as two of the top priorities that enable organizations to keep up with the pace of business.

However, many businesses still rely on the legacy approaches to managing that influx of information, such as the multistep process of mailing, waiting and responding before a contract can be finalized. Organizations today should instead consider solutions that enable them to increase productivity, improve efficiency and deliver significant business impact. One way in which organizations can achieve these goals is by incorporating automation into their existing workflows.

Workflow automation automates everyday work tasks according to predetermined business rules to increase consistency, improve efficiency and achieve faster throughput. It helps make real-world processes simpler to follow and more repeatable. Workflow automation rarely makes a process fully automated, but the streamlining and elimination of mechanical steps, and the guidance it provides, can have a meaningful impact on the bottom line.

For example, here are a few of the benefits that can be expected from workflow automation:

Increased Productivity

Automating specific tasks around client information can help reduce some of the mundane, time-consuming tasks that often lead to unnecessary cycles. Through workflow automation, employees are instead guided through the process automatically, so they don’t have to physically remember what comes next or spend countless minutes searching for that long-lost document.

When an employee starts a new client project, for example, workflow automation can automatically provide the background context, as well as pre-fill templates for project deliverables. Similarly, when the deliverables are being finalized, workflow automation can ensure all the required reviews and approvals are completed before sharing the final outcome.

Feeling Of Safety With workflow automation, existing processes can be set up to be intuitively followed so that work is done on time and information is proactively delivered to the right destination. The correct workflows, security controls, records management and approvals are applied to information automatically, helping to ensure that employees no longer need to be fearful of making mistakes.

Strong Compliance Standards

Managing information is a critical part of achieving compliance, especially in highly regulated industries.

Workflow automation can automatically ensure policies are enforced, documents are secured and files are created, stored, used and retained in ways that comply with regulatory requirements. Workflow automation can help make sure projects move through all required steps appropriately and all rules are followed to meet compliance requirements, which can help ensure only the right people have access to sensitive information.

Improved Audit Trail

Workflow automation can also enable organizations to track information version history and immediately view an audit trail. Every step is documented automatically with a date and time stamp. Organizations gain instant audit trail visibility across all documents to ease control oversight and show evidence of compliance.

The traceable records provided by automated workflows provide proof that a required process is being followed, such as access only being granted to specific individuals, which is valuable to meet stringent external audit requirements. For example, an ISO-compliant company that has implemented workflows in a quality management system (QMS) can prove that they are processing corrective and preventative actions properly.

How To Get Started With Workflow Automation

As companies continue to add additional tools to their technology stack—from ERP (enterprise resource planning) to CRM (customer relationship management) and HR (human resources) systems—it’s important to ensure efforts aren’t being duplicated across multiple systems. Workflow automation can help be the practical tool that glues everything together.

To begin your workflow automation journey, it’s important to remember it’s OK to start small and grow. Begin with a process that won’t be overly complex to automate and use that as a means for validating the solution, easing change management and learning how to best implement automation in your organization.

Think of a process that isn’t mission critical, so if there are problems or delays with the implementation, the effects are minimal. A process that is limited in scope with respect to the organization (i.e., a department-specific process, rather than companywide) is often a good starting point. Starting with a process limited in scope can also enable more efficient testing and iterating within a smaller group to gain the most actionable feedback.

Once automating noncritical processes have been mastered, it’s easier to build on that by automating additional and more complex solutions. Starting small enables you to better understand and define your goals for implementing an automated solution so that you can ensure the automation is improving processes over time and providing the desired value.

When incorporating workflow automation, the biggest hurdle is typically the fact that people are so used to manually approving and moving information, that they’ve turned this into a key part of their job versus truly understanding it’s simply busy work. Having the discussions with employees to help them understand how workflow automation can help them focus on higher value work, instead of spending endless cycles on unnecessary manual labor, is a key part of a successful workflow automation strategy. Humans remain the biggest hindrance of success if they don’t understand the potential value from the onset.

With the massive increase in the amount of data that organizations generate, process and collect from myriad data sources, workflow automation can enable businesses to keep pace with constantly changing environments. By starting small and communicating the benefits with employees upfront, workflow automation can increase efficiency, productivity and compliance efforts—but only if approached in a well-planned manner.