Many companies view production maintenance as a necessary evil or, at best, a cost that is difficult to isolate and even harder to control. Through the years, this viewpoint has led manufacturers to simply accept their maintenance operation "as is" and as a result, made little investment in maintenance improvement initiatives. But for some, a well-executed maintenance strategy delivers a competitive advantage.
If you determine that production maintenance is truly a core competency, you should turn your efforts to improving your current maintenance organization. However, if you determine that maintenance is not a core competency, then the option to outsource all or part of your maintenance becomes a viable option.
Outsourcing options are causing many companies to take a fresh look at the key elements of their maintenance programs. The development and implementation of an effective maintenance plan has significant challenges that must be overcome.
People. How am I going to find, train and retain technically competent maintenance personnel?
Management. Where do I find the leadership within my own organization to move from traditional maintenance to Total Productive Maintenance?
Performance measurement. Do I have the people and processes in place to perform root-cause analysis, elevate the use of our computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), and track and adapt from performance measurements?
Spare parts and maintenance supplies. Where do I find time to address repairs, procurement, management, ownership, warranty administration and total-cost-to-own issues?
Costs. How do I maximize the value of every dollar spent on maintenance and reduce the costs associated with poor maintenance?
Partnering with a professional maintenance organization addresses these issues with experts who face and meet these challenges daily. An additional benefit of outsourcing to a maintenance partner is that you gain greater control over maintenance. This may sound strange, but it's been proven to be true. Essentially, while you may lose some control over the maintenance activities (and you should want that to happen), you gain much greater control over the maintenance results.
One final benefit of an outsourcing partnership is that you are able to re-deploy some of your key people to areas that are truly core competencies for your company.
A true maintenance partnership includes the following key elements:
- Performance measurements are developed and clearly communicated.
- Planned maintenance is established as the focus of the operation.
- Maintenance becomes a competitive advantage.
- Both manufacturer and maintenance contractor desire a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Maintenance best practices are established and tracked.
One option to consider when outsourcing is to contract maintenance "situationally," to help improve machine uptime and reliability. Yet the relationship calls for a definitive start and stop date, so any progress made during the term of the contract has the possibility of reverting back to the status quo once the contract has expired. Another option is outsourcing the maintenance activities. This gives your maintenance partner complete ownership of production and facilities maintenance, including the people, management, spare parts procurement, repairs, vendor management, processes, CMMS, technical support, data collection, performance measurements and maintenance results.
This option is attractive to manufacturers who want to assign responsibility for a non-core part of their operation to maintenance professionals.
You can take several steps to ensure the review process is productive. First, prepare a description of the level of service the outsourced partner needs to provide. This statement should clarify the responsibilities, service levels, reporting needs and conformance parameters. Look for companies that assume total responsibility for the maintenance elements.
Also, look for an outsourced partner that uses your own maintenance talent as they assume responsibility for your maintenance operation. Next, investigate the culture of your potential maintenance partners to ensure it will blend with yours. This is critical to a long-term relationship.
Ask for a written proposal which covers not only how the maintenance will be performed, but how the contractor plans to transition from an internal maintenance mode to contract maintenance mode. Determine if the contractor has the flexibility and depth to call on additional resources.
Also, verify that the contractor has a comprehensive performance measurement strategy. Ask for a maintenance plan and make sure the scope of work is clearly defined.
Ask for references, but don't stop there. Visit plants where the potential partner is currently performing maintenance. Inquire what the partner is like to work with. Are they responsive? Can they really do what they say they will do? Are they flexible? Are they knowledgeable, professional people to work with?
Carefully develop a fixed-price agreement that provides clear statements of responsibilities and, therefore, accountabilities. Fixed-price agreements also take the variability out of your maintenance budget.
Most important, begin an open, two-way dialogue with plenty of feedback opportunities. Like personal relationships, the best partnerships occur when the two parties have a high level of respect and trust for one another.
For more information, contact: Advanced Technology Services, Inc., 8201 N. University, Peoria, IL 61615 309-693-4000 fax: 309-693-4164 E-mail: info@AdvancedTech.com