Maintenance teams do a lot of great things. There’s no debate about that. But what happens when no one hears about it? The answer: Nothing good.
When maintenance teams don’t measure their success and promote their wins, it leads to everything from low morale to layoffs as the budget gets sliced and diced.
How do you stop this from happening? Show the impact of maintenance. But how do you do that? And what if no one cares? We talked to three Fiixers to answer these questions. You can watch the full conversation below, download and listen to the audio version, or skip down a bit to read a summary of the discussion (with time stamps next to each question in case you want to fast forward and hear the full response).
Five big tips for telling your maintenance team success story
Why is it important to talk about the things your maintenance team does well (1:18)?
It’s all about building a great culture, says Jason Afara, a solutions engineer at Fiix. Celebrating these successes creates a culture of collaboration. Because the entire team is recognized, it promotes team success over individual success and improves conversations about troubleshooting and brainstorming to solve problems. Jason talks more about how he created this sort of culture as a maintenance manager in this article.
What should you do when other departments aren’t aware of the impact of maintenance (2:38)?
The key is breaking out of the “What have you done for me lately” relationship between maintenance and the rest of the organization, says Jason. Metrics like work order completions or health and safety data highlight where maintenance is spending their time and the impact this has.
What can go wrong if you don’t talk about your maintenance team’s success (4:11)?
When the maintenance team isn’t vocal about its wins, it can come back and bite the department at budget time, says Scott Deckers, Fiix’s customer success manager. When maintenance doesn’t share its successes on a regular basis, business leaders can’t see the return on investment. Maintenance is then one of the first things on the chopping block when budgets are cut.
How should maintenance teams be defining success (7:02)?
Stuart Fergusson, Fiix’s lead solutions engineer, suggests starting with metrics that connect maintenance to operational success. Some of the numbers to track include clean startups and failed inspections. Both of those measurements showcase how the maintenance team prevents loss and increases production capacity.
How do you create a culture where maintenance successes are shared and celebrated by everyone in an organization (10:31)?
Every conversation you have with someone outside of maintenance, whether it’s in the lunchroom or boardroom, is a chance to create that culture, says Scott. Spread the word about maintenance and its importance to the company every chance you get. Look for opportunities to tie maintenance to the goals of other departments or the goals of the company.
What are some strategies for sharing maintenance wins with business leaders (12:11)?
It all starts with cold, hard facts, says Jason. You always have to be prepared with numbers to back up the story of your maintenance team’s success. Show why spending time and money on maintenance is worth it. One example is being able to connect the actions of maintenance to increased throughput.
What happens if no one cares about your maintenance team’s success story or if it doesn’t get a positive response (14:09)?
If you’re not getting the reaction you’re expecting, you’re not presenting the information the right way, says Stuart. To ace the delivery, you have to know your audience. Find out how they’re being evaluated and what long-term and short-term success means to them. Then, tell that person how maintenance helps them achieve their goals.
How do you tell your maintenance success stories to those outside your company (19:19)?
Scott points to three avenues for promoting your maintenance team’s wins outside your organization: Professional associations (like PEMAC or SMRP), industry podcasts (who are always looking for both listeners and guests), and networking opportunities offered by vendors.
How can maintenance professionals tell their own success stories (21:03)?
If you want to talk about what you’ve done well, talk about what your team has done well, says Jason. Some examples of that include:
Talking about a time you lead a big project and the impact it had
Explaining how you set up your team to be successful after you’ve moved on
Identifying the steps you took to improve communication between departments
How do you tell the story about a loss (24:38)?
No team wins all the time. But embracing those failures is a sign of maturity for maintenance teams, says Stuart. It allows you to properly analyze and prevent them from happening again. Then, you can tell the story of a solution, not a problem. When building this story, ask yourself, how can I use what I learned to systematically eliminate the cause of failure?
Bonus footage: Fiix customer Tom Dufton talked about how he was able to hire an extra team member by identifying gaps in his maintenance program. You can check out the clip here (skip to 20:26 for the details).
When the maintenance team wins, everyone wins
Scoring wins is important for the maintenance team. But becoming an all-star operation means going the extra step and talking about those successes across your organization. And don’t stop there. Create a culture of winning by celebrating every team’s accomplishments. When production has the perfect shift, celebrate. When you ace an audit, celebrate. And when the inevitable losses put a stumbling block in your way, celebrate it as an opportunity. You can always learn something from the things that go wrong and turn that into a win down the line.
A common challenge we hear within the Fiix community is convincing all members of your team to abandon their old practices and adopt new technology. Nobody wants to sacrifice wrench time for screen time and sitting at a computer station to manage and track work can seem cumbersome.
That’s why we designed a mobile app with streamlined functionality that mirrors how technicians actually work. As one Fiix user put it “the only thing it doesn’t do is turn the wrench”.
In this on-demand webinar recording, our guests share the benefits of using the Fiix mobile CMMS app, whether your team works out in the field or on the shop floor. You can also download and listen to the audio version of the webinar using the embedded link below.
Why mobile capabilities such as photos, QR codes, offline mode, and various accessibility features, are helpful tools for your team.
How to manage H&S considerations and other misconceptions associated with using mobile devices on the shop floor that may be holding you back.
Considerations for choosing between company issued devices or personal devices.
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. Our mobile app is designed and regularly updated based on feedback from these folks, just like Chris and his team, who are out there doing the work.
Checkout these short product demo videos in the source link:-
Increasing production capacity is usually a good thing. Orders are up and business is booming. But that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing. If you and your maintenance team aren’t used to (or haven’t planned for) an uptick in demand, you might face some unique challenges. It gets even trickier if the reason you’re ramping up is to provide essential services during a global pandemic
Maybe your resources are pushed to the limit. Or COVID-19 has forced you to work with fewer staff on each shift. Or you have to modify equipment on the fly. There’s also the added stress of taking on new responsibilities.
All of this might be unfamiliar and stressful. That’s why we put together some tips on supporting increased production capacity. Hopefully, these best practices can help relieve some of the uncertainty and pressure you’re facing.
Maintaining health and safety
Making sure you, your team, and the whole facility is safe becomes a bigger challenge when the pace speeds up and you’re being pulled in a million different directions.
“When you’re doing more than your normal capabilities, it usually means people are doing things that they’re not used to doing,” says Jason Afara, Fiix’s solutions engineer. “They aren’t trained or aren’t familiar with tasks or procedures, which increases the chances of accidents.”
You might also have to contend with more unplanned maintenance, which always increases risk, says Fiix’s solutions engineering lead Stuart Fergusson. That means unexpected breakdowns, but also work that’s been pushed forward so your facility can meet deadlines.
Focusing on the well-being of your team will help your entire operation stay safe and stay resilient…Efficiency, availability, and production will follow.
All these risks are magnified in the era of COVID-19 when new dangers are changing the way production facilities are approaching health and safety.
There are a few easy adjustments you can make so you and your maintenance team can tackle the increased workload safely.
Create crash carts for sanitization: This is something that CMMS coordinator and Fiix customer Brandon De Melo put in place at his facility to combat COVID-19. It helped him make sure work stations were sanitized quickly and properly.
Create designated quiet areas for troubleshooting: Fighting a pandemic means social distancing, which isn’t all that easy in a loud workplace. For operations manager Juan Ruiz, his solution was designated quiet areas. It allowed operators and technicians to talk without putting themselves at risk.
Add PPE to every work order: It’s not always easy to adapt to new PPE guidelines that come with new work. Visibility and repetition will help reduce the learning curve.
Set up a cleaning station for tools and parts: It’s no small task to make sure all the supplies that come into your facility are clean and in working condition. Maintenance manager and Fiix user Tom Dufton set up a dedicated station to do the job so it’s done fast and correctly.
Focus on facility maintenance: With machines running as much as possible, you might find fewer chances to inspect, adjust, and repair. When this happened toJuan and his team, they used the time to stock their facility with supplies, like soap and hand sanitizer, and clear obstacles that presented safety risks.
Increase the number of health and safety meetings: The more you talk about health and safety, the more knowledgeable your staff will be about procedures and responsibilities, and how to respond quickly in high-risk situations, says Jason.
Establish mandatory sick leave: This is the strategy endorsed by James Afara, the COO of a cannabis producer. It’s led to a small reduction in staff on a daily basis, but it’s saved employees from spreading illness and the facility from an even bigger impact.
Identify high-risk work orders: Stuart suggests pinpointing work orders that your team is not familiar with, hasn’t done before or puts them at risk so you can create a mitigation plan.
Avoiding burnout and miscommunication will go a long way to keeping your staff healthy and in the best position to get the job done when the intensity at your facility goes through the roof.
Find new ways to communicate with your team: Getting your whole team on the same page is crucial, even if you can’t get them in the same room. Alternative communication tools like video meetings and WhatsApp groups can be really helpful for improving remote communication.
Keep new procedures handy: Make it as easy as possible for your team to follow new guidelines. Create guidelines that technicians can carry with them— either small, physical versions or digital ones they can access on their mobile devices.
Reorganize your shifts: Spreading your maintenance team across shifts will allow you to provide coverage for the facility while creating schedules that your team can count on. This reduces off-hours call-ins and burnout. Tom, James, and Juan have all used this approach to keep things running smoothly while keeping their teams healthy and giving staff the flexibility to take care of personal needs, like childcare.
Put tasks in the hands of operators: Embracing this central tenet of total productive maintenance will help to ease the pressure on your team. Empower operators to do routine maintenance tasks, identify problems, and submit work requests.
Get things done faster
Speed and efficiency can’t come at the expense of your team’s well-being. It also can’t be forgotten. Getting work done fast while putting people first is a tricky tightrope to walk, but hitting the right balance is possible.
Prioritize your tasks: Start by looking at production schedules and asset criticality. We recommend narrowing down the list by checking if any tasks can be done while machines are running or if time-consuming PMs can be replaced with quicker ones without substantially increasing the risk of failure.
Keep track of your backlog: Create a list of work you’ve let slide and update it frequently. This will help you calculate and communicate risk, as well as make a plan to tackle this deferred maintenance in the future, says Jason.
Build emergency kits for critical assets: Put together a kit of parts for critical assets so technicians don’t need to spend time searching for the right spares when things go down or when PMs need to be done.
Do frequent inventory cycle counts: Juan’s team has had difficulty sourcing critical parts because vendors have shut down or have long lead times, which has made frequent visits to the storeroom to check supply quantities more important than ever.
Create a dashboard of important metrics: Prioritize the maintenance metrics you look at every day and create a dashboard for them so you can check the status of your operation without having to create complex reports.
Improve response procedures: Breakdowns are inevitable, no matter how well you plan. Having a list of common failure codes and repair checklists handy for critical equipment can help speed up troubleshooting and repairs.
Modifying equipment—and keeping those machines running—has its fair share of challenges for maintenance. Here are a few tips that can help maintenance teams that find themselves in this position.
Create new health and safety documents: You should treat modified equipment like new equipment, says Fiixer Stuart Fergusson. He recommends reassessing the potential risks, required PPE, emergency procedures and compliance standards. Talk about these details with your team so everyone is on the same page.
Conduct some training: Full-scale training sessions are probably out of the question if you’re operating at hyper-speed. But a little know-how goes a long way when it comes to modifying machines and maintaining them.
Meet with the design team: Get together with the team that designed and installed the new elements for the modified assets, if possible. This way, you can get a better understanding of what scheduled maintenance and parts for the equipment.
Increase the frequency of inspections: Don’t assume the PM guidelines you’re handed for modified equipment are correct. Inspect and inspect some more to make sure new materials or processes aren’t causing failure.
Embrace total productive maintenance: The benefits of TPM go double for modified assets, says Jason. Operators know their machines best. Give them the power to inspect machines and talk about their observations. It’ll allow you to spot small problems on modified equipment before they become big ones.
Keep a list of what’s changed: Did you change the parts you’re using? Or the number of technicians assigned to a task? Track these changes so you can get back to your regular schedule faster once production normalizes.
At the end of the day, it’s about focusing on what’s important
Things might be busier than usual for you right now. You’re getting pulled every which way. Your equipment, processes, and people are strained. Unfortunately, nothing can stop the whirlwind you’re caught in. The good news is, there are things you can control. One of them is what you prioritize. Focusing on the well-being of your team will help your entire operation stay safe and stay resilient. Reducing health risks, avoiding burnout, and recognizing all the amazing things staff do will help you blaze a trail. Efficiency, availability, and production will follow.
Due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, it is no longer business-as-usual, and most businesses are having to adapt and learn new ways of operating. For some, this means implementing advanced infection control measures in an effort to maintain status-quo production levels. Others are ramping up production or rapidly retooling to meet increased demand. While others still are turning down production or completely shutting down.
No matter what situation you find yourself in, there are ways your CMMS can help support these new ways of working.
Virtual communication is more important than ever before
We’ve all previously operated under the assumption that nothing beats face-to-face communication. However, during this time of social distancing and high rates of absenteeism, in-person communication is no longer feasible for many situations. Therefore, we all have to embrace virtual communication methods and determine which are the most effective for us.
Your CMMS allows critical information to be communicated with:
Maintenance coordinators and managers working remotely
Contractors and vendors who can no longer access your site
Workers from different departments or on staggered shift changes
CMMS features — like adding asset images, identifying equipment with QR or barcodes, adding files and media to workorders, reporting and shared dashboards — can all enhance your ability to virtually communicate important information.
Communicating new or evolving information quickly
Our collective knowledge of the coronavirus is evolving daily, as are the recommended precautions and impacts to our businesses. Therefore, it is important that business leaders have a way of quickly communicating these changes to workers to maintain their safety.
In Fiix, the task groups feature lets you quickly communicate changes to:
Highlight updated PPE required for tasks per advanced infection control measures along with instructions on wearing, inspecting, cleaning, and storage.
Make changes to sanitation procedures or frequency.
Increase ventilation rates and frequency of air filter changes.
Ensure detailed procedures and manuals are accessible on each work order in the event of the need to cross-train workers.
Install new engineered controls such as physical barriers.
In addition, using the available notifications options, you can configure how active and inactive users are automatically notified of changes and new work orders.
Discouraging the use of shared tools
A good workaround here is getting your team to use their mobile CMMS app on their own personal device, instead of relying on shared terminals. The Fiix app even facilitates access to your CMMS when the internet connection is unstable or unavailable.
Determining what is essential
By searching and tagging open work orders with the highest priority, you can quickly obtain a hit-list of the essential maintenance items for your facility. This critical information can be shared with business leaders to inform staffing adjustments and highlight any anticipated supply chain issues. This sort of itemized and prioritized communication with management demonstrates the critical role maintenance teams play in overall business continuity planning. In Fiix, you can build scheduled reports to automatically send an updated essential work order list to the appropriate people at whatever interval you want.
Taking the time now, to be faster later
Even if you’re working in a facility where production is currently slowing or shutting down, this may be a good opportunity to take time to sharpen the saw, as the old saying goes, to come back with the ability to cut down the tree much faster.
Reviewing backlogged maintenance tasks, brushing up on your own professional development, or implementing those additional CMMS modules you’ve been meaning to get to are all great ways to set yourself up for success down the road. Beyond the features we mentioned above, here is a great checklist to ensure you’re ready for when your plant starts operating again.
Lean on your Fiix community
We know that these are challenging times for many of our customers, partners, and community in production environments, and that adapting to uncertainty can be complicated. That being said, there is tremendous maintenance expertise within our growing Fiix community, so do not hesitate to reach out to explain other situations you are struggling with. We’re here to help you through.
It can be unsettling if production at your facility is slower than usual. You might even find yourself missing things you never thought you’d miss. The noise. The hustle and bustle. The routine.
But you can also find opportunity. With more time in your schedule, there’s no shortage of projects to start. The question is, where to begin? The tips below can offer some inspiration and guidance.
Tips for reducing maintenance backlog
A bit of maintenance backlog is a healthy thing (most of the time). Regardless, you might be looking forward to whittling down your list of deferred work. Building a plan for tackling backlog will help you dismantle your to-do list with surgical precision while staying safe.
1. Prioritize your maintenance backlog
If you have a long list of maintenance backlog, it’s tempting to choose a task and dive right in. But prioritizing tasks will help you make a bigger impact, and it can be done in just three steps:
Pick work orders you haven’t done in a while. If a PM was missed two weeks in a row, it’s more likely to need attention than one missed just once.
Compare the length of each job and if tasks can be done while the machine is running. Take advantage of extra time to do longer jobs or ones that require a break in production.
2. Assess your resources
Your prioritized list is a great start, but it’s what you’d be doing in an ideal world, which is rarely the reality.
Stuart Fergusson, Fiix’s solutions engineering lead, suggests evaluating your team as the next step, which includes asking yourself a few questions:
Do you still have your full team? Having fewer technicians might change the work you can do.
What kind of training does the staff have? The capabilities of your technicians will change what you do, the order you do it in, and how long it’ll take.
Are there any new health and safety measures that could keep technicians from operating like normal?
After you figure out your staff’s capabilities, it’s on to your parts and supplies, says Stuart. Make sure you have all the spares you need, as well as other resources like checklists and PPE.
3. Identify high-risk work orders
Stuart mentions three kinds of high-risk jobs that might be in your maintenance backlog: major rebuilds, time-consuming projects, and work your team hasn’t done in a while (or at all).
Highlight these tasks and make a plan to reduce the risk around them. That can include extra training, putting more technicians and labour hours towards the work, and making sure the right PPE is available.
4. Schedule frequent touchpoints with your team
Jason Afara, a solutions engineer at Fiix and a former maintenance manager, suggests asking a few standard questions in team meetings to bring any problems (and solutions) to the surface:
Is your team comfortable with the jobs they’ve been given?
Do they have everything they need to get the work done?
What’s working and what isn’t?
How can new processes be improved?
5. Plan for what happens after you tackle the backlog
What happens when you have enough time to wipe out your entire to-do list? Create a new one. Here are a few suggestions for building out that new list, courtesy of Stuart:
Do your annual planned shutdowns of critical assets now. Thoroughly inspect, clean, service, repair, rebuild, and stress-test the equipment.
Check and calibrate condition-based sensors, PLCs, SCADA, and other data systems.
Review all safety equipment and make sure it’s accessible and working.
Updating and upgrading your maintenance operation
When you’re able to step outside the daily grind, it’s easier to see what needs to be updated, where you can upgrade, and what you’re doing really well so you can keep doing it.
1. Add sensors, barcodes, and/or QR codes to your assets
If you’ve been planning on taking steps toward condition-based maintenance and better data collection, now is the time. Test condition-based sensors on equipment to see what can be measured and how to use the information. If you use a CMMS, spend some time putting barcodes or QR codes on assets, and organize them in your software.
Identify parts you don’t need so you can put a hold on purchases
Check that your maintenance records match the records of your finance department
3. Check reports for accuracy
To borrow a quote from Jason from our recent article on building a predictive maintenance program, “If you have bad data…it’s like the weatherperson telling you it’s sunny out when it’s actually raining.” Double-checking your reports allows you to make sure the numbers are telling the truth and that your decision-making is right on target.
4. Fine-tune your preventive maintenance work orders and checklists
Put the frequency of your PMs under the microscope. Look at the mean time between fail rates for equipment to see which assets need more or less attention. You can even take this opportunity to transition from time-based PMs to throughput-based PMs or condition-based maintenance.
If you’re reworking preventive maintenance checklists, talk to technicians to see what they need to be safer, more efficient, and more effective, says Jason. Do checklists need to be more detailed? Are they missing information, like diagrams or a bill of materials? Are they too long?
5. Review and update your documentation
Talk to your team and find out what can be changed or updated to make policies more effective. The documents that Stuart suggests reviewing (and updating where necessary) include:
Health and safety procedures (like lockout-tagout and PPE guidelines)
Emergency operating procedures.
Making a contingency plan for a shutdown
While it’s not something that anyone wants to think about, it’s important to have a plan for turning off equipment. This helps you complete a shutdown safely and quickly. A solid plan will also prepare you for a quality restart when production begins again.
We covered some best practices for shutting down and restarting equipment in a recent two-part webinar series. Check out part one on hot stops and part two on cold starts. Some tips covered in the webinars include:
Designating someone as a shutdown coordinator who is responsible for managing a shutdown.
Creating in-depth shutdown checklists to make sure you’re completing crucial tasks and doing so safely. Track these work orders by tagging them with a special code.
Making a note on incomplete PMs and SMs so you know what was missed and why. Use this information to identify assets with a higher risk of failure and prioritize work before a potential restart.
Create a list of the changes so tasks and schedules can be adjusted once you’re back in the plant. This also helps you calculate the costs associated with the shutdown.
Focus on yourself
We’ve talked a lot about improving your facility, but it’s also important to take some time to take care of yourself.
“Everyone deals with change and tough times differently,” says Jason. “The most important thing to remember is to step back and take care of yourself first.”
Stress, burnout, and anxiety all increase during times of uncertainty and change. Making sure you are physically and mentally healthy reduces the impact of some of those feelings and keeps you at your best when you’re at work.
Another way to focus on your well-being is to invest in personal development. There are a lot of ways to do that, but here are some of our favourites:
Read up on news, trends, and best practices for maintenance professionals
Take courses, watch webinars, and pursue certifications that help you develop and brush up on your skills
Join or create an online group to discuss issues, solutions, and ideas for improvement
The most important takeaway: You got this
Facility slowdowns can be a big change and not always a good one. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably gone through a big, unexpected shift in your daily routine and that’s difficult. But armed with the right information, processes, and team, you have the tools to help you manage this change and come out on the other side with new skills and experiences.
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.”