Like the rest of the world, most of the maintenance industry has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. We talked to several maintenance professionals to find out what challenges they’re facing, how they’re meeting them head-on, and how they’re showing incredible resilience while helping provide essential services.
If you’re looking for more resources to help you and your team through these uncertain times, we’ve created a Resource Hub that includes some helpful articles and webinars.
When operations manager Juan Ruiz looks out at the floor of his facility, everything seems normal. A technician talks to an operator before fixing a machine. A critical asset is inspected during a rare break in use. A production line is adjusted to make sure it can fulfill a crucial order.
But this isn’t business as usual for Juan’s team.
The conversation is happening in a designated quiet place so the two employees can stand six feet apart. The critical asset is a sensor used to take the temperature of staff as they enter the building. The crucial order is for millions of boxes that will hold lifesaving N95 masks.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Juan and his entire team to change the way they work.
“We are running to failure, and that’s changing our mentality right now,” says Juan.
“We’re surviving. We’re not improving.”
They are far from alone. Maintenance departments everywhere are feeling the impact of COVID-19.
“Maintenance teams are nervous right now,” says Terrence O’Hanlon, the CEO of ReliabilityWeb.
“Even before COVID, there weren’t too many maintenance departments who could say, ‘Yep, we’re fully staffed, fully budgeted, and we have all the resources we need.’…So if that’s the case when things are normal, it’s only going to get tougher in these times.”
Getting processes in place to support people is priority #1
For Tom Dufton, a maintenance and continuous improvement manager, these challenges aren’t just about business–they’re personal too.
“One of our maintenance team members, his wife is a nurse, so he’s taxed very heavily right now,” says Tom.
“He has two young kids. So we have to ask, ‘What can we do to help you out so things are better for you?…The last thing I want to do is to burden anyone down, especially maintenance.”
We’ve reached out to our competitors to get the crucial parts we need for our corrugator…And they’ve reached out to us for some of these consumables…We’re each making sure that we can get business done. We understand that we’re essential businesses and need to keep running.
The biggest hurdle for James Afara, the chief operating officer at a cannabis producer, is balancing the health of staff with the need to do critical maintenance.
“The biggest challenge is getting eyes on the plants to make sure they’re healthy and our process metrics…are being collected properly so we can make our decisions remotely,” says James.
“We have key individuals that go in during off-hours to collect the data, but you try to balance that because you never want to put people at risk.”
Juan’s facility has also struggled to do more with less. Most suppliers (90%) have stopped delivering key parts to the plant. But Juan has found an unlikely ally to help him solve this issue.
“We’ve reached out to our competitors to get the crucial parts we need for our corrugator,” says Juan.
“And they’ve reached out to us for some of these consumables…We’re each making sure that we can get business done. We understand that we’re essential businesses and need to keep running.”
Finding a way to get the job done isn’t the biggest worry for most maintenance teams. Instead, it’s ensuring staff health and safety. This has meant putting a lot of new processes in place.
For example, Tom and his team have increased their use of automation so his staff can run operations remotely.
“Our finger is always on the pulse of the facility,” says Tom, “Even without being there, you still know what’s happening.”
These measures have reduced after-hours call-ins by 42% over the last year, which means fewer risky trips to the plant.
Tom, along with James and Juan, have put several other precautions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They’ve started putting fewer technicians on each shift, taking the temperature of staff, sanitizing all incoming parts, and reducing production so staff can do frequent deep cleans of the facility.
Companies have even mobilized maintenance as a key weapon in the battle against the virus.
“It’s imperative that maintenance ensures the facility is running,” says James, “The last thing you want is staff sitting in the lunchroom and not social distancing because of a breakdown.”
This new way of working is essential, but it also has consequences.
“We are limited because if anyone has any sort of symptom, we are pulling them out of work,” explained James, who says his workforce has been reduced by 15% because of illness.
Juan’s team has had to sacrifice efficiency in the name of health and safety.
“Because the staff have to leave their machines and go to a separate area to discuss things, it creates more downtime,” says Juan.
Although their teams are stretched thin and dealing with more breakdowns, it’s all worth it to keep staff safe and healthy.
“Your employees and their health always comes first. You have to value people over profit,” says James.
“If you’re lowering your production, you still have to remember maintenance”
While increased production has led to challenges for some maintenance teams, others have faced a very different obstacle: Coming to terms with facility shutdowns.
Lines have gone silent at many plants in the face of both the pandemic and a struggling economy. That means an uncertain future for many maintenance teams. But there’s opportunity among the difficulties, says Rob Kalwarowsky, host of the Rob’s Reliability Project podcast.
“If you’re lowering your production, you still have to remember maintenance,” says Rob.
“This would be a great time to work through your backlog…or a great time to do those rebuilds you wanted to do. There’s opportunities here, you just have to look for them.”
While some maintenance personnel are learning to work remotely or with fewer resources, some are facing more dire circumstances.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about Brandon De Melo’s shift on March 13. Brandon, the CMMS coordinator at a major auto parts manufacturer, helped shut down the facility for the weekend and went home. By the next Friday, he had been laid off.
Although Brandon is temporarily without a job, it hasn’t stopped him from exploring new ways to improve maintenance at his facility for when business starts again.
His top priority is creating a list of crucial maintenance tasks for a successful cold start. He’s also working through several projects that have been on the backburner for his team, like organizing inventory records.
Brandon has also turned his home into a one-man manufacturing facility, where he’s been creating protective masks for healthcare workers with a 3D printer.
Perseverance and hope are how maintenance teams are winning the day
Brandon’s story isn’t the only message of resilience among maintenance professionals. Hope was the word coming from everyone’s mouths when talking about the future, both on and off the shop floor.
“Don’t give up hope,” says Terrence.
“This is going to be a long battle…but I have huge faith not only in the people of this industry, but for all people to innovate and thrive even in this environment.”
Juan echoed this thought.
“The most important part about facing a situation like the one a lot of us are in now is to stay calm and to understand what is essential,” says Juan.
“What is essential is the safety of our employees. If we keep that in mind, everything else will be all right.”
So you bought a CMMS. Maybe you’ve been using the system for a while now, or maybe you only just stood it up — either way, you’re not taking full advantage of the system if your team isn’t using the mobile maintenance app that comes with most modern cloud solutions.
The majority of maintenance teams we work with at Fiix don’t spend their days in the office. Technicians, contractors, and tradespeople are generally out in the field or in far corners of the facility getting the job done. This is where mobile maintenance apps can really step up, but getting your team to download and use a new app isn’t always a walk in the park.
That’s why we specifically designed our mobile CMMS app for folks who are in the field, doing the work. This means 4 things:
The app works offline: We know that WiFi doesn’t necessarily work everywhere you do, so our CMMS app seamlessly transitions from online to offline mode, automatically syncing your data once you’re back online. You can pull up assetinformation and log work without having to waste time waiting for data to load.
It works intuitively and securely: The app takes advantage of built-in device features like QR code scanning, speech-to-text dictation, and capturing and uploading images. Not to mention, it also ensures your data is secure.
It lets users personalize their data: The app lets users filter and view their own work order list to prioritize work better. Admins can also configure feature access for users, such as who gets to edit assets, who can view work requests, and more.
It’s built with your feedback in mind: From new features such as the work request portal and inspection tasks, to custom fields and even e-signatures (coming soon!), we are always listening to the feedback and introducing new functionality to simplify and improve your experience.
Tips for getting your team to download and use a CMMS app
As you go through the process of getting your team up and running on the app, there are three major steps you should think about:
1. Make sure you have the right devices
There are generally two scenarios here: either your company is providing devices for the team to use, or team members are using the app on their personal devices.
If your company is providing devices:
Make sure there are enough devices for the whole team. Does every team member require their own device, or do you just need enough devices for each shift?
Check with IT for any requirements from their side.
Will they set up the app for you? Make sure you set a date for the IT team to download the new app so that your team will know when to expect to start using it.
Do they use a mobile device management tool (MDM) on corporate devices? If they do, make sure that it is configured to work with the Fiix app.
If the team are using their own devices:
Our app is built for Android and iOS devices, so make sure your team is using those devices and they have the latest updates and operating system installed.
See if you can get one or two spare devices in case something happens to someone’s device and you need a spare.
2. Invest in training
When you introduce new technology to your team, it’s important to invest in training to make sure everyone uses the technology the same way. Even something as small as a mobile app requires training to ensure your team is aligned on which processes to follow.
There are two types of training you can run — group training or ‘train the trainer’. Both are equally effective, so choosing the right method is dependent on your team’s working style.
Remember: before you start training your team, make sure everyone has a device in hand to follow along.
We recommend training your team in a group if you can get everyone in the room at the same time. Group training is particularly helpful to use as a goalpost for everyone to start using the new app at the same time.
Get everyone together in a meeting room (pro tip: bring pizza and/or donuts to increase participation) and make sure everyone downloads the new app at the same time (if it’s not downloaded already).
Walk everyone through the app (you can sign up for a training session here or get some inspiration for topics from our Help Center).
Bonus: Assign a mock work order to each person attending the training and get them to all follow through the steps of updating the work order.
Make sure to provide hand-outs at the training session. One training session is generally not enough for anyone to fully learn a new system, so handouts will give your team something to refer to as they get used to working with the app. Feel free to use some of these handouts we’ve created:
How to download PDF
Quick start guide to mobile PDF
Train the trainer
This type of training is typically used when your maintenance team is running in shifts and you can’t get everyone in the same classroom for a training session.
Select one person from each shift or group to be the lead trainer (most often this will be the shift lead). This person is responsible for making sure everyone has downloaded and is trained on the new mobile app.
Train this trainer. You can sign them up for one of the Fiix training sessions, or get them familiarized with the mobile app through our Help Center topics. Make sure this trainer is familiar with the processes you want to follow as they use the app.
They will then do the training session with their group. Remind them to walk everyone through downloading the app and print those hand-outs for future reference. They can also create a mock work order and get them to follow steps of updating the work order.
3. Focus on continued adoption
The Fiix app is dynamic and we are constantly improving and adding new functionality based on feedback from our customers. On top of that, your team also changes, so we recommend doing a refresher every once in a while. This will help get new team members up and running and provide a helpful refresher for anyone else, which will ensure everyone is using the app in the same way, and taking advantage of updates as they come out.
We recommended doing a refresher at least every year, and maybe even every six months depending on your team.
Keep your eyes peeled for in-app messages and Fiix release notes for new functionality being added every month!
To sum it up
Start with a mobile app that actually works for your team, then focus on devices, setup and ongoing training for successful app adoption. And for more information on Fiix’s mobile app and how you can take advantage of it, join our mobile training webinar today.
Maintenance strategy can be complicated. Most people agree on what types of maintenance strategies exist, but that’s where the consensus ends. It’s rare to see eye-to-eye on what those strategies look like in the field. That’s no surprise considering the number of factors that impact the debate: Cost, staff size, geography—the list goes on and on. But figuring out which strategy is best for an asset is not a nice-to-have, it’s essential. So we dove into this tangled mess of strategies to sort it out.
Step 1: Know the different types of maintenance strategies
Finding the right type of maintenance strategy for an asset starts with speaking the same language. We don’t need to agree on every little detail of what each strategy means, but we do need to be starting from the same spot.
Reactive maintenance/No maintenance strategy
Reactive maintenance is the mad scramble to fix a machine after it breaks down. It’s like firefighters rushing to put out a fire, only there’s no truck. Or hose. Or water. It’s also called emergency maintenance, breakdown maintenance or simply, having no maintenance strategy.
Run to fail maintenance
Run to fail maintenance (RTF) is a deliberate choice to let an asset fail before repairing it. A plan is in place ahead of time so the asset can be fixed or replaced without causing extra delays or costs. It’s like letting a light bulb burn out while having a dozen spares and a ladder ready to fix it right away.
Corrective maintenance is any task that corrects a problem with an asset. We’re reserving this type of maintenance for smaller, non-invasive tasks that happen before a machine reaches full failure, like making a fix during a routine inspection. Imagine changing the oil in your car and noticing the tires look a little flat. Pumping up the tires is classic corrective maintenance.
Routine maintenance is any task done on a planned and ongoing basis to identify and prevent problems. Routine maintenance rarely requires specialized training, skills, or equipment. The daily safety checklists many machine operators complete is an example of routine maintenance.
Preventive maintenance (PM) is maintenance regularly performed on a piece of equipment in working condition to reduce the risk of it failing. There are two main types of preventive maintenance:
Time-based preventive maintenance is when tasks are scheduled on an asset at a certain time interval, such as the first of every month or every seven days.
Usage-based preventive maintenance is when work is scheduled based on the operation of equipment, such as after 1,000 miles or 10 production cycles.
In condition-based maintenance (CBM), the performance of an asset is monitored to determine when maintenance needs to be done. CBM uses certain indicators, like increased vibration or heat, to catch the point when failure begins, but before it leads to a breakdown.
Predictive maintenance (PdM) uses condition-monitoring tools and techniques to track the performance of equipment, identify defects, and help you fix them before failure.
The difference between predictive maintenance and condition-based maintenance lies in measurement and timing. CBM uses real-time performancedata to point out a problem after a machine begins to fail. On the other hand, PdM takes all information into account (past, present, and future) and offers an ideal time for maintenance before any failure, however small, occurs.
Prescriptive maintenance (RxM) takes predictive maintenance to the next level. It uses condition monitoring and machine learning tools to predict when to do maintenance, but it also lays out exactly what kind of maintenance to do to help that piece of equipment perform better for longer.
Maintenance strategies in action on a variable speed transfer conveyor
Let’s look at run to fail vs. reactive maintenance for an example. In both cases, you don’t know when maintenance is going to happen until a machine breaks down. They’re both unscheduled maintenance. However, RTF is a deliberate choice. You know failure won’t impact production. You’ve assembled the parts, people, and processes to fix the asset quickly and without spending too much. It’s planned. Reactive maintenance has none of that foresight, making it unplanned.
Here’s a handy way of remembering how to classify the types of maintenance strategies:
And here’s how much of each maintenance strategy is planned and how far in advance you can schedule them.
Step 2: Know your variables
Every facility is different, which is why it can be maddening to talk about maintenance strategies so generally. Every asset, technician, and business is unique, and what works for one maintenance-teams-can-avoid-the-top-osha-violations/” >maintenance team may not work for another. That’s why understanding what makes your facility tick is crucial.
Before you decide on maintenance strategies, take stock of a few key financial elements:
Which assets are important to safety and compliance?
A good maintenance strategy is only as good as people who execute it, which is why the people factor should be taken into account when building your assetmaintenance strategy. There are a few questions that can help you assess the baseline of your staff:
How can you get your team home safely every day?
How many people do you have on your team and is there room for growth?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of each person, and what training is necessary?
Step 3: Choosing a type of maintenance strategy for your assets
Let’s clear the air right now:
“There’s no single best maintenance strategy,” says Stuart Fergusson, Fiix’s senior manager of sales engineering.
“There is a ‘worst’ strategy and that’s reactive maintenance, but the best strategy is the one that helps equipment function at its best, safely, and without too many costs.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done. There are all those unique, colliding, and constantly changing factors for you to consider. But by looking at some major elements, such as costs, safety, and downtime, we can chart where each maintenance strategy falls and give you some tools for assessing the best maintenance strategy for each of your assets.
Cost to implement and manage vs. Instances of downtime
Every minute of uptime gained comes at a cost. The question is whether that cost is worth it. Our first chart can be a starting point for answering that question. It helps you measure your uptime goals against your budget and identify where resources can be used for better returns.
Cost to implement and manage vs. Asset criticality
A good dose of prescriptive or predictive maintenance is often enough to cure unnecessary downtime. But you know the catch: Those strategies require expensive training and technology to do well. That’s where asset criticality comes in. This chart helps visualize where to dedicate your time and money to ensure the most important machines are also the most reliable.
Planned percentage vs. Data requirements
Planned maintenance is like sleep to exhausted parents with a newborn: You can never have enough. But planning takes data to be effective and efficient. The chart below is a run-down of how much data is necessary for each maintenance strategy to be successful.
Planned percentage vs. Safety and compliance
Increased safety is often tied to planned work, because the more you know, the better you can avoid risks. This chart is all about how each strategy allows you to plan and identify risks early so you can reduce the likelihood of accidents or increase compliance on a group of assets.
Getting the right combination of maintenance strategies takes time. No one gets it perfect on the first try. No one goes from reactive to prescriptive maintenance in a single leap. Finding a formula that works is a journey. It could start with doing PMs on a handful of critical assets and lead to a well-balanced strategy that touches every machine. The in-between can last years. What will get you there are data-driven decisions. The result is a facility that runs with fewer interruptions, a healthier bottom line, and a more efficient maintenance team.