How to ensure effective maintenance planning and scheduling

by FM Media
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How to align maintenance projects with business objectives and make informed maintenance decisions is explained by DONALD MACDONALD, head of consultancy at Programmed Facility Management.

In a global economic environment where rising costs, greater scrutiny and higher levels of accountability are becoming the norm, the corporate world is likely to respond in a conservative manner with capital programs being suspended, major assets being retained in service beyond the end of their design life and discretionary expenditure becoming increasingly challenged.
Such an environment is likely to create a ‘perfect storm’ in the field of asset maintenance with the maintenance team being put under pressure to achieve more with less and to maintain a steady state environment for core business to operate in with ageing plant and constrained maintenance budgets.
On top of this, the inflated cost impost that carbon pricing is likely to put on organisations serviced by inefficient plant and equipment – and the consequential cries from the C-suite to do something about it – is likely to place increasing pressure on asset maintainers.
Against this background, it is important that asset maintenance activities are evaluated and communicated to the executive in a way that is meaningful to the core business of the organisation that they support. For example:

  • ensuring certainty of power supply and appropriate levels of hygiene in an operating theatre
  • mitigating the risk of legionella in facilities occupied by vulnerable inhabitants such as the very young or the very old, or
  • ensuring mission critical plant and equipment such as servers operate in an environment that is conducive to reliable operation.

Cost effective maintenance is essential to ensure plant and equipment support core business through planned maintenance that optimises the design life of the asset, responsive repairs that ensure unscheduled breakdowns are expedited and assets are replaced promptly. Retaining an asset in service after its design life has expired will compromise cost-effectiveness. It may also jeopardise the aspect of core business that it is intended to support. The more intrinsic the linkage between core business and the asset being maintained, the greater the risk presented by such a decision.
This situation can be exacerbated, sometimes for a prolonged period; for example, where there is a need to import parts or where there is a requirement for specialised spares that are not available ex stock. In this environment, the effective management of expectations is essential to ensure that informed decisions are made around maintenance expenditure.
Of course, in a dynamic economic environment where the clients’ long-term property requirements are subject to constant review, maintenance decisions are likely to err on the cautious side. As asset maintainers, however, it is important that we are empowering senior management to make decisions regarding the retention or divestment of property in an informed manner.
Typically, there is a broad range of consequences to be weighed up by any organisation considering its strategic approach to asset retention/disposal. It is essential that effective communication is maintained between the core business of the organisation and the maintenance department to ensure that decisions being taken that have a long-term impact on maintenance are made in an informed manner. We have all heard anecdotes such as:

  • the five-year cleaning contract that was entered into on a high street bank that had two years left on its lease
  • the biomedical engineer being called by the medical department of a hospital to be asked if an asset that the biomedical engineer had never seen before and that had been procured outside of the approved process was “supposed to make that noise”, and
  • the reroofing contract on the building scheduled for demolition in a year’s time.

It is probably a truism that your clients’ perception is their reality and, with clients increasingly accountable for activities in which they have not necessarily been trained, it is becoming more important that their expectations are managed effectively. That issues are identified and explained in a manner that they can comprehend has a clearly articulated linkage to core business and empowers key decision-makers to make informed decisions.
In an environment that is becoming increasingly regulated, where workplace laws are changing and becoming more complex, where the strong Australian dollar is impacting affordability, where the skills drought is being exacerbated by the two-speed economy and with maintenance budgets outside of the mining sector being put under increasing pressure, it is going to become increasingly challenging to achieve a ‘no surprises’ maintenance environment.
Client decisions are becoming increasingly linked to maintenance activities, often in ways that are not readily apparent to those clients. And, against this background, the challenge remains to achieve a maintenance environment where costs are constrained, and maintenance activities are demonstrably appropriate and open to scrutiny; where clients are empowered through maintenance activities that are discharged in a transparent manner; where expectations are managed effectively; and where the success or otherwise of the maintenance strategy is clearly linked to the success of the core business.
Key components of such an approach include:

  • evaluation of current maintenance activities
  • alignment of maintenance projects with business goals
  • development, implementation and management of a proven planning and scheduling process, and
  • measurement and reporting of performance to ensure success and constant alignment with core business.

By demonstrably adhering to such an approach, maintenance can be perceived as a real strategic enabler in the armoury of senior management.

Donald MacDonald, a chartered building surveyor, is responsible for Programmed Facility Management’s consultancy team’s service provision throughout Australia. Key client sectors include state government, local government, health care, education and various blue chip companies.

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