When something breaks, your maintenance team often takes the blame, even if operator error contributed to the equipment failure. The operations team believes maintenance activities are slowing them down, and your maintenance team is tired of making the same fixes over and over.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to get both teams to take ownership of equipment inspections and maintenance issues.

Here are a few reasons why operations and maintenance are often at odds and five recommendations for a better working relationship.

What causes conflict between operations and maintenance teams?

Not everyone at your organization views preventive maintenance in a positive light. Your operations team may see PM activities as obstacles that hinder production.

A 2019 Plant Engineering study of over 300 manufacturers found 59% perceive it as a cost, with 7% of respondents referring to it as a “necessary evil.” Only 34% said it contributed to improved profitability.

Complicating the matter is the fact that maintenance and operations teams are often separate entities, rather than one unified team.

Only 21% of professionals who responded to the Plant Engineering survey said they also had responsibilities for maintenance.

Organizational budgets tend to prioritize operations as well, while the maintenance team may be the first to be impacted by budget cuts.

Nearly half of respondents said they lacked the resources or staff to perform adequate preventive maintenance, while 26% said they lacked support from management.

So how can maintenance professionals bridge this gap? They can start by following these best practices.

1. Define common equipment management KPIs

Key performance indicators for the operations team are often easier to define because they lead directly to the bottom line. But it’s just as important to have specific goals related to equipment maintenance. They can have just as much of an impact on your company’s profitability. For instance, a study of 450 maintenance professionals found the average unplanned downtime incident lasted four hours and cost $1 million.

Your operations and maintenance team should establish KPIs both teams are responsible for improving. These can include:

  • The percentage of preventive versus reactive maintenance activities (aim for an 80:20 ratio)
  • Average response time
  • Average time to complete each task
  • Total equipment downtime
  • Total equipment maintenance costs
  • Percentage of work orders completed on time

Once you have established shared goals, you’ll need a way to keep track of your progress. Enterprise asset management (EAM) software brings visibility to all your maintenance activities and allows you to create dashboards and reports. You can review your progress anytime and even schedule automated reports to be emailed to your leadership team and others.

2. Use a shared calendar for maintenance activities

One of the biggest frustrations for your operations team is being unaware of scheduled equipment downtime. If a major part of your assembly line is down for the day, the operations team could potentially have dozens of people reporting for their shifts with nothing to do. In the meantime, you’re falling behind on quotas.

Using EAM software, you can create a shared calendar that both teams can access so there aren’t any surprises.

3. Make it easy for operators to record inspection details

Regular inspections can significantly reduce unplanned downtime. Your equipment operators should log inspection details and note any issues so the maintenance team can be alerted right away. A mobile app makes this much easier.

With the new ManagerPlus inspection module, operators can verify the status of each piece of equipment with a simple pass or fail. When an asset fails an inspection, the Inspection Module  automatically generates a work order.

This closes the loop between operators and maintenance professionals, bringing equipment back online faster.

Maintenance professionals can also keep a digital database of all details related to the equipment failure so they can refer to it later.

4. Establish failure codes

Identifying the most common causes of unplanned maintenance can help you avoid these issues in the future. Develop a list of potential reasons for equipment failure and add them to your EAM software. A few examples include:

  • Electrical issues
  • Mechanical issues
  • Operator error
  • Weather
  • Vandalism

Once you’ve identified the most common failure codes for your organization, you’ll be able to input them each time you address a new issue and maintain a historical record. This allows you to take a more proactive approach to equipment maintenance.

5. Conduct failure analysis

Unless you understand why equipment failure occurs, you’ll never be able to prevent it. You’re just complaining about issues and guessing at the most common causes. Your maintenance team will continue to attribute issues to operator error, while your operations team will assume maintenance technicians are missing crucial steps in the process.

Set aside time to conduct a failure analysis quarterly or annually to gain insight into why equipment failures are happening at your organization. This will give you the data you need to justify any next steps. For instance, if a significant portion of your equipment failures occurred due to extreme temperatures, you may need to take additional steps to weather-proof your most valuable equipment.

Collaboration starts with the right EAM software

ManagerPlus’ EAM software sets the foundation for preventive, condition-based, and predictive maintenance while creating a continuous feedback loop between technicians and operators.

Your maintenance team can keep track of critical asset details, such as age, production runs, and warranty expiration date. They can set up automated work orders for routine preventive maintenance tasks based on recommended triggers.

They can record inspection details and prompt the appropriate corrective actions when necessary to get the assets back online as soon as possible. Asset management software with real-time inspection reporting boosts asset availability.

If a piece of equipment is down, the operations team will know why almost immediately. They can see the failure code the maintenance team has entered and what actions they’re taking to address the failure. If a part needs to be replaced, both teams can see whether it’s in stock just by looking at the digital inventory log.

Whether you’re in the early stages of preventive maintenance or your strategy is evolving to include real-time data collection, ManagerPlus enterprise asset management software supports your asset management and maintenance strategy goals.

Schedule a free demo to see how.

About the author


ManagerPlus is the preferred solution across the most asset-intensive industries, including Fortune 500 companies, to improve reliability and minimize downtime.
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