One of the most important relationships that exists in any manufacturing operation, and in many institutions, is the Operations (or building manager) /Maintenance partnership. As has been covered in some of our other articles, this relationship is easily weakened, so here I’ll review some of the ways to encourage key Maintenance and Operations people to work as a team.
- Geography. Operations and Maintenance supervisors and their planner should have several informal opportunities to talk to each other, face-to-face, every day. Arranging work spaces so that they share the same coffee pot and lunch room and locating offices close, but not too close together, will ensure that this happens. (See “Organization principles“).
- Meetings. Make sure joint meetings, such as the weekly scheduling meeting, are well prepared, run professionally and decisions are recorded and communicated promptly.
- Problem-solving. Encourage tradespeople and operators to work together to solve problems, especially when looking for the root cause of problems.
- Joint inspection tours. Area Operations and Maintenance supervisors should share the same areas, with no overlaps. A valuable daily routine is for them to tour their area together to identify issues that need attention and to confirm that the work on the daily schedule is being done to the standard they expect.
- Swap/share responsibilities. There’s no better way to understand the demands of someone else’s job than to do it yourself for a while. In one very strong partnership, the area Operations and Maintenance supervisors cover for each other for short (1 – 2 day) absences. Each effectively looks after both the operation and the maintenance activities for these short periods.
- Share the authority to decide on work priorities. This should be done each morning when reviewing new work requests, but it is an ongoing process that should happen frequently as situations change. Of course, the priorities must be communicated to the backlog manager and be reflected in the backlog.
- Pay prompt attention to issues arising from operators’ tours. This is a critical part of the priority setting process. Operators who feel that their requests for maintenance are being ignored will soon become discouraged.
- Make a habit of working together to seize opportunities. For example, if the department’s incoming inventory is low and outgoing inventory is high, it may be a good time to take a short shutdown to address small, high-priority problems without losing any production.
- Post maintenance work schedules in control rooms and maintenance shops. Letting everyone know, at all levels, what the plans are will help ensure that they are followed.
- Hold joint Operations/Maintenance safety meetings. Operating demands may make this difficult but these meetings are a good chance to address common safety issues. Consider holding some safety meetings in a control room if this will allow more people to participate.
Senior managers should support and encourage cooperation between Operations and Maintenance and pay special attention to anything that threatens this cooperation, such as conflicting KPI’s and budgets. They should also ensure that Operations and Maintenance get the necessary support from other departments, such as Purchasing, IT, Accounting and HR.
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Don Armstrong, P. Eng
Veleda Services Ltd