The job of a facility maintenance manager is never done. Whether it’s in the context of major manufacturers and distributors, commercial property owners, or government facilities, maintenance is an ever-evolving job with many moving parts and shifting priorities.
Not surprisingly, a popular FacilitiesNet survey found that the top job-related concerns among facility maintenance managers are resource shortages and increasing workloads, followed closely by shrinking budgets and staff. In short, maintenance managers face constant pressure to do more with less.
Fortunately, technologies such as enterprise asset management (EAM) software, the Internet of Things, and data analytics are making that goal far more feasible. These tools allow maintenance managers to streamline their operations, identifying and eliminating waste.
To provide insight into the struggles that maintenance professionals face, we’ve assembled a list of the six biggest common challenges. We’ve also included a few helpful tips on how to address these challenges and turn them into opportunities for savings and growth.
Impact and consequences of poor maintenance operations
No matter what type of business you work at or what type of equipment you manage, preventive maintenance is almost always the most efficient and effective way to maintain assets. However, most organizations don’t operate the best maintenance strategies, and the entire company suffers as a result.
Some of the biggest impacts of poor maintenance operations are:
- Out-of-control maintenance costs
- Lost revenue
- Loss of top talent
Out-of-control maintenance costs
One of the most important jobs of a maintenance manager is to keep costs under control. Companies typically spend 5-10% of their annual budget on maintenance. Unfortunately, poor maintenance management can lead to companies to spend more than they should to keep their equipment up and running.
One of the common signs of poor maintenance management is relying too much on or even entirely on reactive maintenance to keep assets online. While there certainly are some types of assets that are better maintained with reactive maintenance, the majority of your equipment, particularly heavy equipment, requires preventive maintenance.
Keeping your maintenance budget under control is a challenging task, but by simplifying and streamlining your maintenance tasks, you can quickly get a handle on your costs and keep your budget where it’s supposed to be.
Businesses can lose money through more ways than just increased expenses. The opportunity cost of missing out on lost revenue can hinder an organization’s ability to grow. Companies rely on their assets to produce the things they sell to their customers, but if those assets aren’t working properly, that’s fewer things they can sell.
Inefficient maintenance operations can quickly lead to increased equipment downtime for your company which directly translates to lost sales. If production lines aren’t operating, you’re not producing anything to sell.
One of the best ways you can impress your upper management is by improving your maintenance operations to recover much of the lost revenue from equipment being offline.
Loss of top talent
This may not be something you might think about happening from inefficient maintenance operations, but think about it: would you want to work at a place that keeps you from getting your job done due to confusing, complicated, and inefficient processes?
This is especially true of the next generation of maintenance professionals. The generation of workers entering the workforce grew up using technology, so if they see that you’re using outdated processes for managing your maintenance work, they might want to work for a different company that uses maintenance management software.
Examples of common problems and issues
1. Resource shortages
Challenge - A far-reaching, ever-present problem, resource shortages affect every aspect of a maintenance manager’s job: inventory management, space utilization, labor allocation, task deadlines, and more. From tiny replacement parts to heavy machinery to fleet vehicles, any type of asset can become scarce when it’s not well managed.
When it comes to work requests and work orders, resource shortages hinder the completion of essential nuts-and-bolts maintenance work. How can a crew perform routine maintenance when the only available tools are at another job site? How can a technician complete his job when replacement parts aren’t stocked? Perhaps most importantly, what are hourly personnel supposed to do when a lack of materials is the only thing keeping them from doing their jobs?
Of course, as costly and inefficient as it is to be low on resources, overstocked inventory presents problems as well. Space can become scarce in even the largest facilities, and square footage used for stagnant inventory represents a major opportunity cost. Given that just about every organization is trying to run lean, excessive inventory also means tighter margins, less cash flow, and less capital to invest in higher-priority items.
Solution - The solution to these resource challenges? For just about any organization, the best place to start is a centralized, automated asset management software with work order integration.
Instead of poring over spreadsheets and manually writing purchase orders, you can ensure parts are ordered as they’re used—and available when they’re needed. With utilization data stored in a single place, you also gain insight into which high-dollar equipment purchases will most benefit your company’s bottom line.
2. Labor shortages
Challenge - Human capital is a company’s greatest asset, but for many facility maintenance managers, labor is in short supply. Relatively small maintenance crews are often spread out among multiple production facilities, job sites, or commercial properties, particularly in organizations acquiring physical assets faster than they’re hiring.
While a labor shortage may seem like a mere growing pain in the short term, it can severely hamper maintenance efficiency in the long run. Preventive maintenance (PM) gets put on the backburner, as scarce personnel are constantly occupied putting out fires. When that happens, major machinery eventually breaks down, and the company suffers the costs of unplanned downtime.
Solution – While hiring more maintenance personnel might be the ideal solution, you can still improve your team’s effectiveness without having to bring on more staff. From the maintenance manager’s perspective, more people means better preventive maintenance, faster work order completion, and fewer breakdowns—seemingly a win-win. Other stakeholders who are trying to keep labor costs in check may not agree, however. That’s why it pays to gain the most productivity out of all available labor hours.
To that end, flexible work order software works wonders. If every crew member can access the same central work order repository—whose items are triaged and assigned according to preset rules—there is far less confusion over which tasks take priority. Likewise, with the ability to access the system via mobile device, on-the-go maintenance crews can transition to subsequent tasks quickly, rather than wasting time waiting for new instructions.
3. Controlling costs
Challenge - Pressure to cut costs (or at least keep them under control) is a major reason why resource and labor shortages are so prevalent. One of the maintenance manager’s responsibilities is to strike the delicate balance between spending too much on maintenance versus spending just enough to prevent breakdowns that cost their companies even more. It’s a seemingly impossible task at times.
Solution - Arguably the best way to find balance is with a preventive maintenance program. By proactively scheduling maintenance and inspections, organizations can drastically reduce equipment failures and the unplanned downtime that follows. Avoiding equipment rentals and rush charges on replacements may offer an additional reduction in overall maintenance costs.
That said, not every asset fits the PM bill. For smaller, cheaper, and non-critical items, a run-to-failure approach may make the most sense. On the other hand, the most important, most expensive machinery in an organization may warrant a cautious condition-based maintenance approach, using sensors to monitor pressure, electrical charge, hairline cracks, and other signs of imminent failure.
4. Managing priorities in real-time
Challenge - Work requests and work orders are the essentials of a maintenance manager’s workflow. Even so, most organizations are still managing them with email, spreadsheets, pen, and paper or whiteboards. In small organizations, this is a time-consuming, inefficient approach. In a large enterprise, manual processes like these make the job all but impossible.
Like inventory management, effective work order management requires centralization and automation. Maintenance needs are constantly evolving, and for any given set of priorities, the tasks at the top of the queue are going to change—oftentimes before they’ve even been started.
How can you quickly assess which work requests take priority? How do unplanned failures fit into your preventive maintenance plan? How will your field operators even know when they’ve received new assignments, or when they need to shift gears to respond to an emergency?
Solution - To answer these questions without hunting down documents and sifting through files, you need a centralized work order tracking system that surfaces data in real-time.
By centralizing your work orders and programming your priorities into the system, work requests can automatically be converted to work orders, and those orders can be triaged and assigned to available crews without delay. A central, flexible data repository also allows you to attach all manner of supporting documents, from images to standard operating procedures to manufacturers’ manuals. With the right information in the hands of the right people, priority tasks advance without unnecessary bottlenecks.
5. Employee training and certification
Challenge - Even in organizations with dedicated safety or training staff in distinct roles, facility maintenance managers still have plenty of employee-facing interactions. Whether or not they’re officially responsible for carrying out training tasks, they do have to make sure the right people are trained for the right jobs.
One simple reason for this requirement is that work orders should only be assigned to technicians who have the qualifications to complete them. If a technician hasn’t been trained on a specific task—and if including instructions in the work order isn’t sufficient—they’ll need to undergo formal training. Of course, it’s far better to understand this need ahead of time than to realize the lack of training upon receiving a work request.
Similarly, regulations or industry standards may mandate that only certified employees perform certain tasks. Again, the maintenance manager’s job becomes more difficult when they don’t have insight into current certifications as they assign work orders.
Finally, as far as equipment maintenance is concerned, properly trained operators deliver better asset ROI. They can do more work in less time with a given piece of machinery, and their efficient operation of that machinery leads to less wear and tear. This benefit alone is reason enough for maintenance managers to take as proactive a role as possible in keeping their technicians’ training up to date.
Solution - While training management may seem only tangentially related to asset management, it’s all a part of the same puzzle: improving productivity, safety, and asset performance within the enterprise. For this reason, large companies need to consider enterprise asset management systems, which allow maintenance managers and other business leaders to track a variety of related metrics.
6. Data collection and utilization
Challenge - From preventive maintenance software to inventory automation to centralized work order management, there are plenty of strategies facility maintenance managers can use to do more with less. When implementing any of these measures, however, there is a constant, overarching question: Is what I’m doing working?
With this question in mind, perhaps one of the greatest challenges maintenance managers face is the collection and utilization of data. Take preventive maintenance, for example. Based on manufacturers’ recommendations, historic maintenance data, and insight from veteran personnel, you might implement a variety of time- and usage-based maintenance triggers. Perhaps you inspect trucks every 5,000 miles or shut a production line down for maintenance every 100 runs.
Are these triggers ideal? They may be a solid starting point, but the program can always improve. Some assets may actually perform better with a run-to-failure approach, while you may be missing out on major savings by not inspecting a certain machine, job site, or vehicle more often.
Solution - The only way to know is to collect, aggregate, and act on the right data. Then aim for continual improvement based on the trend lines the data reveal.
How maintenance management software can help
The good news is that all of the challenges and obstacles are easy to manage with the right EAM software. ManagerPlus Lightning is a full-featured EAM software from iOFFICE that is the best tool to help you meet these challenges.
ManagerPlus helps you:
- Centralize your data to better allocate resources
- Manage and optimize work order processes
- Develop and implement cost-saving maintenance strategies
- Triage and prioritize maintenance requests
- Improve technician knowledge and skills
- Collect and analyze critical data
Getting started with EAM software is surprisingly simple. The best place to find out how it can benefit your organization is by talking with the experts and scheduling a live demo to see the program in action for yourself.
If you already know that you’re ready to explore implementing ManagerPlus at your organization, we’d love to help you get started.
Poor maintenance operations can lead to a wide range of problems including:
- Out-of-control maintenance costs
- Lost revenue
- Loss of top talent
Optimizing your maintenance operations is vital to reducing unplanned downtime and improving your ROI. The best way to get your maintenance operations on track is with maintenance management software as part of an enterprise asset management solution like ManagerPlus.
About the author
Jason is a storyteller at heart with a career spanning everything from film and TV to iPhones. Just don't expect much before his first cup of coffee.