Who makes a good Maintenance Manager?


The Maintenance Manager’s job is to avoid problems. This is not natural for many people because “…the major rewards in money and promotion so often go to those who show the best records of solving current problems in management, and there is rarely a direct reward for those whose foresight keeps problems from occurring” (Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe “The Rational Manager“).

A good Maintenance Manager is someone who will:

– Recognize and promote the concept that “if the men are to do a good job for us, we must do a good job for them” (JFK to his Exec Officer on the PT 109). For a Maintenance Manager, this means thinking ahead, supporting planning and work scheduling and having procedures for all maintenance activities, from the most routine lubrication task to the most complex plant-wide shutdown. And most of all it means recognizing that the people who create value from maintenance activities are the tradespeople, and that all maintenance-management activity should be directed towards ensuring that they are assigned to the highest-value work, have the best skills and resources possible and road blocks are kept out of their way.

– Appreciate and recognize the good “problem-avoiders” (supervisors, planners, maintenance engineers and inspectors) and the expert tradespeople, and develop the others.

– Recognize that the organization does not sell maintenance and that Maintenance is there to work closely with and support the Operations people in the production of goods or services that generate revenue.

– Work as a partner with Storeroom and Purchasing people and make sure that they have the objective of getting the right materials and supplies to the right people at the right time.

– Always look for ways to improve the support that Maintenance provides to the organization.

– Leave his/her ego and “resumé building” ambitions at home. The job is to avoid excitement and the attention that it attracts.

– Be the kind of person Lao Tse imagined when he said “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say ‘we did it ourselves’ “.

If the opportunity exists, an excellent start for a new maintenance manager, whether he or she is promoted or hired from outside, is to spend about one week as a relief supervisor in each area of the plant. It is the best way to assess the tradespeople and the systems within which they are required to work. Of course, any relief supervisor is responsible for the safety and training of the tradespeople and any support required to ensure this is achieved must be provided. An interesting interview question is to suggest such an introduction to the position – any reluctance might indicate the wrong candidate.


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Don Armstrong, P.Eng, President
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