For immediate assistance, please call us at (512) 328-3235

Blog

8 Proven Ways to Reduce Your Maintenance Costs

While the C-suite might treat maintenance costs as a necessary evil, the ramifications of poor maintenance are far more costly than sticking with a robust maintenance plan. Maintenance costs include labor, parts, tools, and other equipment required to keep assets in optimal condition. For example, in a manufacturing facility, your maintenance costs would include wages paid to maintenance technicians, replacement parts for heavy machinery, and the tools used to repair them.    These costs are necessary because they extend an asset’s useful life. While the costs of preventive maintenance may seem high in the short term, your organization saves money in the long run by preventing asset breakdown and extending the asset’s Mean Time To Repair (how long a repairable asset can run between maintenance intervals) and Mean Time To Failure (overall runtime for non-repairable assets).    Maintenance costs are recorded in the profit & loss (P&L) account and are considered a cost center. However, maintenance plays an indispensable role in business continuity and output. These costs take different forms depending on the asset in question. For example, maintaining a fleet of vehicles is very different from maintaining real estate.   The extent of maintenance on an individual asset depends on its worth, its importance in the production process, and whether or not the asset can be easily repaired/replaced. Low-cost, non-repairable assets (eg: lightbulbs) can be allowed to run to failure without causing unscheduled downtime.    Note: Some maintenance costs are considered overheads because they are required by regulation. For example, government regulations require landlords to maintain living and safety standards—providing heating, cooling, and ventilation—and regular upkeep including snow removal, roof replacement, HVAC maintenance, and mold removal.    What is the best way to reduce maintenance costs? The best way to reduce maintenance costs is to reduce reliance on reactive maintenance. Proactive maintenance is one of the best cost management strategies. Also, you must train technicians to use machinery properly. When performing maintenance tasks, follow OEM recommendations closely. Improvisation is rarely advisable.    1. Double down on preventive maintenance (and evaluate performance over time) Reactive maintenance is the most expensive type of maintenance, especially when it leads to emergencies and unscheduled downtime. According to one study, downtime costs can run up to $22,000/minute. Reactive maintenance involves responding to equipment malfunctions after they occur. Worse equipment damage equals greater repair costs.    Left unchecked, a single component can trigger a domino effect of failures that debilitate an entire production line. A 2020 study by Plant Engineering found that 60% of manufacturing companies still perform reactive maintenance, indicating that organizations are bleeding money unnecessarily.  Preventive maintenance is the practice of scheduling maintenance on an asset ahead of expected failure based on a specified time interval or usage threshold. Maintenance frequency may be determined by OEM recommendations or historical data. Because preventive maintenance is expensive, as it involves servicing an asset regardless of its operating condition, this strategy is typically reserved for the most high-value assets critical to production continuity.    Most organizations use a combination of strategies for different assets.    Breakdown maintenance involves letting cheap assets that are easy to repair/replace run to failure. However, this constitutes a conscious, cost-cutting decision rather than a lack of maintenance planning.  Corrective maintenance is a controlled, cost-effective way of maintaining medium-priority or ancillary equipment. This means checking equipment regularly for signs of wear (eg: vibration analysis, oil check) and initiating maintenance as needed.    2. Switch to predictive maintenance Preventive maintenance may lead to over-maintenance because maintenance follows a set schedule regardless of asset condition. Predictive maintenance uses historical data to calculate the ideal maintenance interval based on prior equipment failure. Sometimes, assets on a preventive maintenance plan fail before scheduled maintenance is due. Predictive maintenance reduces the chances of error. More importantly, it automatically adjusts maintenance intervals as the asset ages—an important feature seeing as older assets require more frequent maintenance.    Another study by Plant Engineering found that the chief cause of unscheduled downtime is aging equipment (34%), followed by mechanical failure (20%) and operator error (11%).    To gain the full benefits of predictive maintenance, install IoT (Internet of Things) sensors on your equipment to receive real-time alerts about asset conditions. This allows you to perform condition-based maintenance with less labor (technicians no longer have to inspect equipment regularly) and enriches the predictive maintenance dataset, leading to more accurate predictions.    3. Use a maintenance checklist  A maintenance checklist is a logbook technicians use to document equipment maintenance inspections. The checklist ensures maintenance is on schedule and done according to specification. It records maintenance inspections on an asset for quality and safety purposes.    A maintenance checklist should include: Asset location When it was last serviced Photos/videos of issues or concerns during maintenance Details of the specific maintenance request Location and specifications of associated parts and tools    These checklists can be used to create detailed, comprehensive work orders so technicians can access maintenance instructions, part locations, and an asset’s complete maintenance history. Work order management is a crucial part of maintenance operations because it prevents inefficiencies resulting from confusion, lack of information, and time wasted locating parts or searching for OEM manuals.   4. Track and manage inventory  Poor inventory management can prolong unscheduled downtime if necessary parts are out of stock during an emergency. Automate the process of ordering parts ahead of anticipated machine failure using a CMMS. This schedule is usually determined in tandem with an asset’s preventive maintenance schedule.  Just-in-time inventory management allows you to use historical data to anticipate when to order parts and avoid warehousing costs from having to overstock items or incurring a financial loss from unplanned downtime. Inventory often represents as much as 40% of total capital at industrial organizations and represents an area for improvement that must not be overlooked.   If you neglect inventory management, you risk production bottlenecks, resulting in irreparable reputation loss for companies operating in competitive industries.        5. Invest in training Training your technicians reduces the chance of accidents and equipment failure while increasing the maintenance team’s speed and capacity. Periodically train your existing employees on how to use equipment and detect signs of malfunction. Re-evaluate your onboarding process for new hires regularly to ensure training remains up-to-date. Training is required for compliance with OSHA safety standards, so don’t neglect it.    Trained technicians are also more versatile, allowing them to respond to emergencies and fill in for other technicians in case of a staff shortage. Training also boosts employee morale because it leaves them feeling confident and capable and provides a sense of career progression.    Tip: During training, don’t focus exclusively on machine operation. An effective technician has a combination of experience, technical knowledge, and problem-solving skills. Teach technicians how to respond in emergency situations, delegate tasks, and take greater ownership of their role—especially if your facility uses Total Productive Maintenance (TPM).    6. Use high-quality parts from trustworthy suppliers  Having a close relationship with your suppliers enables you to accurately understand their capabilities and limitations. The goal is to source a reputable supplier who can produce a quality product and turn around large orders on short notice. Purchasing cheap parts or raw materials will only lead to defects, reworks, and scraps. When comparison-shopping suppliers, ask about fulfillment times, minimum order value, and comparative pricing.    7. Use a CMMS A CMMS provides a comprehensive database for maintenance operations, allowing you to manage inventory, schedule work orders, track maintenance costs, and evaluate technician performance.  Track service and maintenance costs A CMMS records every asset’s complete maintenance history, including the labor and parts associated with each maintenance task. This way, you can make strategic cost-cutting decisions by tracking recurring service and maintenance costs. Say a particular group of assets is going through spare parts quicker than it should; you can investigate the root cause.  Set up preventive maintenance plans to prolong asset lifecycle  Use your CMMS to automatically schedule and assign preventive maintenance work to available and qualified technicians so nothing falls through the cracks.  Create, assign, and schedule work orders A work order is an approved service request containing details about the nature of the problem, documentation/instructions on how to service the assets, and details on associated parts and tools.  Evaluate employee performance  See each technician’s wrench-on time, their MTTR (and the MTTR of individual assets), and the number of work orders associated with each employee. You can also see how many work orders they send to your maintenance backlog.  Reduce downtime  Keeping up a steady preventive maintenance regimen reduces the likelihood of equipment failure.  Improve inventory control You can set minimum and maximum quantity thresholds, generate email alerts for low inventory levels, generate purchase orders, track insights on parts usage and costs, and use barcode scanning to update inventory as new items are added or used.    8. Plan for emergencies Being unprepared for emergency situations leads to prolonged downtime due to inventory being unavailable, technicians that are inadequately trained to handle emergencies, and a general lack of processes and procedures for emergency handling. All of these factors contribute to rising maintenance costs.    Come up with an emergency response plan for different contingencies. For example, what parts of the production line can continue to run safely if X asset breaks down? What are the procedures for shutting down equipment? If technicians are working on other tasks when the emergency occurs, what is the process for rerouting technicians to attend to the emergency? Which technicians have the right qualifications to respond to an emergency situation and which ones require additional training?    Marshaling people, processes, and tools ahead of time reduces the chances of being caught off guard in an emergency situation.   

Read More

How To Shorten Your Maintenance Backlog in 4 Steps

  The education sector has a significant problem with deferred maintenance. As institutions face declining revenues due to changes in enrollment and public support, public institutions are experiencing lengthening maintenance backlogs.    These backlogs aren’t only an administrative burden: they create potentially hazardous conditions for the teachers, students, and support staff who frequent education facilities each day. In the US, 35% of higher education facilities were built in the Post-WWII construction boom between 1960 and 1975, and many of these buildings require significant renovations. According to an executive report by EAB, public institutions have seen a 24% increase in their deferred maintenance backlog per square foot from 2007-2015—meaning costs are rising 66% faster than inflation.   The corrections industry has also postponed numerous maintenance tasks due to a lack of funding. About ⅓ of prison facilities in the US are over 50 years old. The Federal Bureau of Prisons  reports a backlog of 185 major (projects that cost $300,000 or more) modernization and repair (M&R) projects with an approximate cost of $370 million.    When essential maintenance tasks are put off long enough, organizations pay dearly in the long run. Sometimes, a “repair” becomes a “replacement” as an asset is subjected to continuous usage or wear-and-tear.  According to FacilitiesNet, the cost of deferred maintenance can be 30x greater than the cost of early intervention.      What is a maintenance backlog, exactly?  A maintenance backlog consists of work orders that have been approved for scheduling but have not been completed. However, most maintenance backlogs aren’t simply a repository for reactive maintenance tasks or routine inspections—those seemingly insignificant tasks teams put off to fight bigger fires. Backlogs often consist of planned maintenance work—the crucial maintenance tasks that keep the lights on.    For example, the backlog might list daily and weekly corrective repairs, preventive maintenance tasks, predictive maintenance tasks, and jobs planned during periods of scheduled machine downtime.    Note: A backlog can consist of orders that are past due or planned maintenance work that is waiting to be scheduled.    An excessively long maintenance backlog means your technicians are operating in fight-or-flight mode—everything they do is reactive, and planned maintenance is mostly out the window.    Here are some reasons why organizations might build up a backlog over time: Deferring maintenance work due to emergencies or lack of funding Not having spare parts available to complete the work  Maintenance technicians with the required skills aren’t available to do the job The facility is understaffed Poor work order management (someone forgot about the work order or there is no digital trail) An outside specialist’s expertise is required for troubleshooting   When many work orders are generated each day, it’s easy for some of them to be missed—especially if you don’t use work order management software or have a maintenance planner. An overreliance on reactive maintenance also creates a backlog. When an emergency occurs, technicians are forced to drop whatever they’re doing to attend to it, which leads to work piling up.  What’s wrong with having a maintenance backlog?   A long list of unclosed work orders or deferred repairs can lead to more expensive problems down the line. A backlog also reduces technicians’ capacity to attend to current maintenance needs, leading to a vicious cycle.     Furthermore, it usually signals a bigger problem such as understaffing, poor work order management, or a lack of inventory control. Maybe you don’t have enough technicians, or technicians don’t have the right information to complete and close out work orders, or they’re spending too much time hunting for parts rather than using a barcode system to find necessary parts and tools.    Here are some potential causes for an extensive maintenance backlog: Low technician wrench-on time (the percentage of a technician’s shift spent on actual maintenance work) Lack of work order standardization  Poor inventory control (parts are missing when technicians need them) Lack of planned maintenance (preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, and routine inspections) Understaffing  Overreliance on reactive maintenance forces teams to defer scheduled maintenance How to shorten your maintenance backlog one step at a time  Even if the situation might seem helpless, especially if your maintenance department is facing a funding shortfall, there are several ways to cut your maintenance backlog. Start by investigating what is causing the backlog— sometimes the problem has nothing to do but with budgets or staffing.  1. Identify what needs to be done  Examine your maintenance backlog. What types of tasks are neglected the most? Which assets are being impacted? A low-risk asset (i.e. equipment not integral to production which is inexpensive/easy to repair or replace) can tolerate longer delays. However, high-risk assets should be tended to immediately.    Organize past due work orders in your CMMS according to asset, type, location, available resources, or other criteria.    Questions to ask: How important is each task?  How frequently is the asset used? What is the potential monetary and reputational impact of asset downtime or failure?   Another option is to organize work orders based on the reason they were deferred. For example, some work orders might be missing vital information. Every WO should at least include the name and location of the asset, a description of the problem, the scope of work needed to rectify it, required parts and tools, health and safety information, and a deadline.      Standardize the work order request process to prevent technicians from contacting the original requester to obtain the necessary information. Only accurate and complete work orders should make their way to the schedule. If your maintenance planner or supervisor is approving work orders that are missing vital information, you may need to revisit the WO approval process as well.    If you discover many work orders that weren’t closed due to missing parts, investigate the problem with your inventory management team. Just-in-time inventory management is a form of inventory control that requires working closely with suppliers so that parts and tools arrive shortly before maintenance is due. This is especially important for high-priority planned maintenance tasks—delaying these repairs can be financially ruinous.    Tip: Watch out for duplicate work requests and work requests that are missing vital information. You will need to remove these from the backlog.  2. Schedule past-due tasks alongside new ones Establish a system for triaging work orders and assigning them alongside ongoing projects. Tasks related to safety should receive high priority, as well as any repairs that might impact production or the functionality of your facility. A high-priority job on a critical asset should take precedence over low-priority work on an auxiliary asset.    If asset usage fluctuates seasonally, take advantage of equipment downtime to perform repairs. Also, review the due dates for each work order.    Maintenance due dates are tricky because they are often meant to be flexible—except for high-priority assets or emergency situations. When a WO is initiated, the due date depends on its relative importance to work that is already in the backlog plus any WOs that may be generated in the future.    Rather than making a subjective assessment of which WOs are critical, you can create a priority index. Assign a criticality number from 1-100 for every piece of equipment (the higher the number, the more critical asset). Next, assign priority to work orders based on the same scale.  Priority Index = Asset Criticality x Work Order Priority Now, multiply the asset criticality score by the work order priority score. The result is the priority index. Now you can schedule work according to its priority index.    Tip: Have the operations team check and approve your criticality rankings beforehand. Seeing as they use the equipment daily, they may have better insight into which assets are most critical.  3. Determine what resources you need  Now you can move on to planning and scheduling. How many labor hours are needed for each work order? What tools or parts are needed? Are they all referenced in the WO? What parts are not available? Have they been ordered yet? What is their delivery status? CMMS calendars help with maintenance planning and scheduling upcoming tasks. Use your CMMS to assign WOs to team members and determine if you need to outsource any tasks.    Remember, if you need to outsource work or increase staffing costs temporarily, don’t hesitate to do so if it means you can permanently erase your backlog.  4. Review and revise your plan  Pick a time to evaluate how your plan to reduce your backlog is going. Are you creating even more of a backlog as new WOs come in but technicians are busy dealing with past due work orders? If so, you might need to increase headcount or outsource tasks. Use your CMMS to identify open WOs and update schedules.   

Read More

Everything you need to know about IoT (Internet of Things) in predictive maintenance

Every industry wishes they had a crystal ball to help them make better predictions about when equipment will fail, which markets to enter (and which to avoid at all costs), and which products will turn into bestsellers.    While there’s no cure-all to alleviate the risks of doing business, Internet of Things (IoT) devices have proven highly valuable in enhancing preventive maintenance and allowing businesses to predict equipment failure with near-perfect accuracy.    IoT sensors collect machine data (eg: operating temperature, supply voltage, vibration, etc.) and wirelessly transmit the data to a cloud-based, centralized data storage platform in real-time. Artificial intelligence automatically analyzes the data to detect anomalistic patterns that might portend imminent machine failure. If an anomaly is detected, the platform automatically generates a work order request, which is sent to your CMMS in order to be assigned to an available technician.    IoT in predictive maintenance: What is it about? Unlike reactive maintenance, the main objective of predictive maintenance is to plan ahead to avoid unexpected equipment failure. The costs of unscheduled downtime vary widely by industry. Automotive manufacturers lose $22,000 per minute of downtime. According to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime is $5,600 per minute. In fact, 59% of Fortune 500s experience at least 1.6 hours of downtime per week, which costs them $4.6 million per year in lost productivity.   While preventive maintenance is typically based on a calendar or usage schedule, most equipment failure (82%) occurs randomly, according to a study by the ARC Group. In fact, only 18% of equipment fails due to age. Preventive maintenance draws on historical failure metrics and OEM recommendations to schedule maintenance at an optimal frequency, but it ignores real-world conditions.  IoT-assisted predictive maintenance allows maintenance supervisors to collect machine data to monitor the operating condition of high-value assets in real-time. The system automatically collects data on availability, reliability, and metrics such as Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) and Mean Time To Repair (MTTR). Machine learning models learn from this data over time to make better predictions regarding machine failure.    Real-time equipment monitoring also enables facilities to respond faster to emergencies—especially when a work order request is automatically triggered at the first sign of equipment breakdown.     How does it work?  IoT devices communicate using Machine to Machine (M2M)—technologies that allow machines to automatically exchange data. M2M enables networked devices to exchange information and perform actions without the manual assistance of humans.    For example, if an IoT sensor detects irregular vibration patterns in an asset, it can send a work order request to your CMMS to schedule preventive maintenance and circumvent asset failure.   The main components of an M2M system include sensors, RFID, a WiFi network, and autonomic computing software that is programmed to help a network device interpret data and make decisions.    M2M technology was first adopted in manufacturing and industrial settings where other technologies such as SCADA and remote monitoring helped remotely manage and control data from equipment. It is now used in a variety of industries including healthcare, business, and insurance.     For example, ECG units already exist that transmit information on the blood pressure, pulse, or blood sugar level of the patient to doctors in the nearest hospital while the patient is being transported in the ambulance. This technology enables medical professionals to prepare for the patient’s arrival and start treatment quicker—which can save lives.    What are the benefits of IoT asset tracking? Every business has valuable assets, from manufacturing equipment to vehicle fleets and even livestock. IoT asset tracking extends the useful life of assets by automatically generating work order requests and maintenance schedules based on real-world conditions.    Outside of maintenance management, IoT asset tracking provides a myriad of benefits including better inventory management, theft prevention, and cost savings.    Implement predictive maintenance - Transition from preventive maintenance (time-based or usage-based maintenance) to predictive maintenance, in which maintenance is scheduled strictly when needed. This allows organizations to cut down on the costs of over- or under-maintaining an asset.  Gain real-time data insights - Tracking equipment conditions and whereabouts in real-time lets you make better business decisions. For example, tracking fleet whereabouts allows you to optimize routes according to traffic conditions, weather, etc.  Improve inventory management - Replenish inventory at the right time in just the right amount. Having access to real-time inventory data enables organizations to implement just-in-time inventory management and cut down on warehousing costs and avoid losing revenue due to understocking.  Locate and identify lost equipment - Identify lost or stolen items to improve theft prevention and recovery Reduce costly problems - Monitor alerts and take immediate action to reduce negative impacts from malfunctions/equipment failure or asset theft. Image credits: 1. Check Time by Smashing Stocks from NounProject.com 2. Lan Network by VectorsLab from NounProject.com  

Read More

How to Turn Inventory Management into a Competitive Advantage

  When companies take stock of their top competitive advantages, inventory management rarely comes to mind. After all, it’s a behind-the-scenes function— and a cost center, at that— but it underpins every successful operation, helping businesses deliver the right products in a timely manner while consistently meeting quality standards.    Too much stock results in unnecessary warehousing costs, while too little can lead to lost sales, so there’s a lot of money at stake. Data shows that ⅓ of businesses will miss a shipment deadline because they’ve sold an item that wasn’t actually in stock. This is typically due to low visibility in inventory management flows—sales, marketing, and fulfillment teams aren’t sharing real-time sales and inventory data.    Inventory management represents an important decision variable at all stages of product manufacturing, distribution, and sales, in addition to being a major portion of current assets. In fact, inventory often represents as much as 40% of total capital at industrial organizations.   If you neglect inventory management, you run the risk of production bottlenecks, which can result in irreparable reputation loss for companies operating in competitive industries.    Here’s how you can optimize your inventory management to kick butt.  What is stock control?  Stock control means ordering enough stock of a product that sells well. To achieve this, you must have high-quality data for tracking item cost, sales forecasts, and sales figures.   1. Data quality is everything Good inventory management comes from accurate demand forecasting. Reliable forecasts are needed for decisions around assortments, purchasing volume, and safety stocks (extra stock which is stored in the warehouse to prevent an out-of-stock situation). Use historical data together with knowledge about inventory turnover, current order levels, and expectations for future sales.    Remember that inventory management doesn’t apply only to the raw materials you use to produce goods. It’s equally important to stock the right tools and replacement parts to perform planned maintenance tasks— especially preventive maintenance. Consequently, having robust maintenance operations data is also an important part of inventory management.    Here are the most important data points you need to know at all times: Which items need to be stocked How much of each item is needed to stock to avoid stockouts and lost sales Reconciliations of inventory balances  Inventory lead time/vendor lead time Actual and projected inventory status  Sales rate/demand forecast     2. Create processes and procedures to avoid confusion While this might sound like needless paper-pushing, you’ll finally understand the importance of having procedures in place the next time a huge shipment arrives and you’re out of warehouse space because there’s a pile of deadstock nobody knew what to do with. Standardizing processes helps you run a tight ship.    Here are some things to look out for:   Replenishment techniques. Determine minimum and safety stock levels for each product in your lineup. This can be used to trigger automated warnings when inventory falls below ideal stock quantities. Make accurate entries on every stock receipt.  Guidelines for controlling excess inventory or dead stock. Form agreements regarding the handling of excess inventory. Some suppliers allow you to return items for a refund or credit. Alternatively, you can sell excess inventory to a liquidator or divert the inventory to a different product or plant. Similarly, deadstock can be offered as a clearance sale, donated, offered to customers as a free gift, or bundled with other products.  Create an organized record system in a centralized database. Set up a database structure of showroom locations, distribution centers, delivery trucks, warehouses, and web inventory so you know where inventory resides in every part of your supply chain.  Assign product classification to all items. Product classifications include product category, group, collection, vendor, and brand. Your inventory should also designate stock items, custom orders, and merchandise you plan to sell as-is.  Maintain accurate product information. If products are sold online, make sure the product descriptions, dimensions, prices, and other product data are managed centrally so the information is consistent wherever the product is sold (online or at a brick-and-mortar location).  Audits. Perform an annual full physical inventory to determine a true inventory valuation against your financial records and determine your annual shrink (loss of inventory attributed to damage, administrative errors, etc.). Implement a regular cadence of cycle counts and pick random areas of your warehouse to spot check weekly to keep tabs on your inventory throughout the year.    3. Be buddies with your suppliers   Having a close relationship with your suppliers enables you to accurately understand their capabilities and limitations. The goal is to source a reputable supplier who can produce a quality product and turn around large orders on short notice. Purchasing cheap parts or raw materials will only lead to defects, reworks, and scrap parts. When comparison-shopping suppliers, ask about fulfillment times, minimum order value, and comparative pricing.    4. Keep tabs (literally) on your inventory using RFID chips and IoT sensors  RFID chips enable businesses to track inventory whereabouts in real-time. RFID for inventory management requires a scanner that uses radio waves to communicate with an RFID tag. The tag contains a microchip that allowers the reader to scan data and write data to the tag for real-time tracking.    These tags help to automate and expedite inventory checking as there is no manual data entry. Also, RFID tags do not require “line of sight” scan like barcodes; it is possible to read them at a distance for fast inventory processing. However, note that unlike barcodes, which can be read by a mobile app, RFID tags can only be scanned using RFID readers.    5. Use a CMMS Inventory management software provides quick and easy access to detailed inventory and ordering information. When you use a CMMS, you can also keep track of inventory data for your maintenance operations— including parts, tools, and other equipment needed to repair or replace major assets. Remember, preventive maintenance hinges on proper inventory management: you need to have the right parts on hand ahead of an asset’s scheduled maintenance.   Poor inventory management will only derail preventive maintenance, create a maintenance backlog as technicians wait for parts to arrive, and lead to more reactive maintenance down the road. This is why inventory management is a crucial aspect of reducing unscheduled downtime. 

Read More

4 Ways to Optimize Your Maintenance Planning

  Maintenance planning is the secret ingredient that takes your overall approach to maintenance from patching holes while the boat is sinking to running circles around your competitors. The goal of planning is to tamp down equipment downtime and labor costs for maintenance work from the perspective of people, place, time and tools. This process involves identifying the parts and tools necessary for routine maintenance work, making sure they’re available and located in the right place, and preparing job plans with sufficient instructions on how the work order should be completed.  Consequently, even if you’re still in the phase of doing “firefighting” reactive maintenance instead of proactive maintenance, you can use maintenance planning to optimize labor hours —  increasing wrench-on time by determining maintenance scheduling at least one or two weeks in advance. Here are four steps you can take for effective maintenance planning.  1. Make a job plan A job plan contains a set of instructions and specifications for how a routine maintenance task should be done. It should include metadata like number of technicians required, job duration, a list of tools and equipment needed to complete the job, as well as any files or notes left by people who have completed the job in the past. If the job requires welding, how many welders are needed? How many assistants does the engineer require?  Outlining a thorough job plan allows maintenance planners to focus on key “housekeeping” activities to ensure jobs run smoothly, such as: Ordering non-stock parts Staging parts Managing breakdowns and vendor lists Quality assurance 2. Create weekly schedules Weekly schedules enable your maintenance workers to focus on top-priority work orders without having to worry about the backlog. Make sure to assign work plans for 100 percent of available labor hours to prevent over- and under-scheduling.  Even with the right planning and organization, s**t happens sometimes. Define ahead of time what constitutes emergency work and document a process for how to prioritize and handle non-urgent work vs. emergency work. In general, it’s best to postpone a job that hasn’t been started than to interrupt one that is currently in progress. Creating different types of maintenance plans for various scenarios means you’ll know what to do if disaster hits.  3. Focus on future work Plan ahead as far as you reasonably can. For a large enterprise, this could mean running maintenance scheduling 12 weeks in advance, especially in anticipation of major scheduled downtime (also known as “shutdown maintenance planning”). For a smaller business, a one or two-week frontlog is sufficient. Long-range maintenance planning allows crews to work primarily on planned work instead of reactive work, thereby increasing wrench-on time and labor efficiency.  The more data you have, the more accurately you can plan ahead. Provide feedback to the planner after each job is completed so they can improve their estimates of labor hours and costs for future work. The best way for a maintenance planner to self-evaluate is to put some meaningful KPIs in place, such as: Task duration Materials/quantity of materials Labor requirements (are you overstaffing or understaffing?) Unanticipated requirements (eg: scaffolding, extra labor, cranes, etc.)  4. Understand your logs Your backlogs are instrumental to maintenance planning, because you can’t forge ahead with new maintenance work until you’ve handled your backlog. The backlog refers to any work that has an execution date prior to today’s date, which can occur for two reasons: either the work wasn’t completed before its scheduled date, or there’s a cost settlement issue preventing the closure of the work order. Maintenance management software can help you keep track of your backlog by assigning different priority levels to unfinished tasks.  This list needs to be monitored regularly to ensure backlogged work is rescheduled accordingly. While some backlog is unavoidable, try to keep it as small as possible.  How to Learn More With so many CMMS options available, you’ll want to find the right maintenance solution that pays for itself, makes life easier for your maintenance team, and helps you stay on task and on budget. Watch our demo videos to see MicroMain’s CMMS software in action.     

Read More

4 "Bonus" Features of a Modern CMMS You Can't Do Without

  A “good” worker gets the job done, a remarkable one goes above and beyond. The same goes for a CMMS —  or indeed, any AI-powered technological asset you invest in. Beyond core features like preventive maintenance and work order management —  the basic flesh and bones of a CMMS —  what other ancillary features should prudent buyers should look out for? Choosing a modern CMMS that goes above and beyond standard capabilities could mean the difference between getting your maintenance management under control or wasting money. Here are five must-have though less obvious features to look out for. 1. A mobile-first product Technicians who work in a large square footage facility or leave HQ for offsite work need to access the CMMS wherever they are. A mobile-first CMMS synchronizes between all mobile devices so technicians can remotely enter data, create work orders, and access information about assets and repairs from a tablet, smartphone or laptop. However, an adaptive software interface that flexes to whichever device you’re using isn’t enough. A truly mobile product is built around group collaboration, with features like an internal chat/messaging system and the ability to ‘@’ tag team members, make comments when updating a work order and annotate reports. You should be able to share dashboards, request status updates and view real-time data. MicroMain’s Mobile Technician App lets GLOBAL users out in the field complete tasks while offline. GLOBAL is cloud-based, so you can access it from any internet-connected device even if you’re not in the office. 2. Funding forecasting  When a C-level executive greenlights a CMMS purchase, they do so with one objective in mind: cutting maintenance costs. It therefore goes without saying that any maintenance solution must have tools for financial forecasting to enable teams to track maintenance-related outlays, stay on budget and maximize their asset life cycle. Forecasting is an advanced feature that many companies don’t offer or charge extra for. Basic forecasting capabilities enable users to organize receipts and foresee upcoming expenses, but the best CMMS tools integrate these features with asset inventory. Equipment and asset management help minimize the chance of equipment failure by tracking performance data and scheduling preventive maintenance. The EAM software should provide insight into repair history, work orders, floor plan management, and associated costs for each. 3. Meaningful data reporting Data collection that doesn’t generate actionable insights is a futile endeavor. Your CMMS reporting tool should help you answer questions like: How much time did we spend on safety audits last month? Is it time to replace X piece of equipment? Is our facility understaffed or overstaffed? Go one step further beyond actionable insights (fixing what’s wrong) and you get proactive recommendations (preventing a breakdown), where the data shows you how to finetune scheduled maintenance beyond a manufacturer’s recommendations. Ideally, the CMMS should cross-reference work order data by assigned technician, asset type, time to complete and so on to generate meaningful reports. Prioritize CMMS data collection that simplifies complex metrics into charts, graphs and KPIs to aid decision-making. 4. Document storage While the purpose of a maintenance solution is to record maintenance activity, it should serve as a repository for equipment-related documentation. A CMMS should come with file storage where users can upload critical documentation, like O&M manuals, equipment warranties, receipts from work orders and so on. These documents should also be accessible via the mobile app as downloadable items. 5. Web request system With the help of a CMMS, maintenance teams will have their finger on most equipment breakdowns and maintenance needs before they happen. However, sometimes s**t happens. If you run a large hotel or apartment complex, or you oversee several major power grids all at once, the first person to notice a problem might be a customer or an employee outside the maintenance team who doesn’t have CMMS access privileges. A web request system allows non-licensed users to submit work requests through a simple web form. You can customize the form to include the information you need, such as task type, building area, room numbers and the requester’s contact information. How to Get Started With so many CMMS options available, you’ll want to find the right maintenance solution that pays for itself, makes life easier for your maintenance team, and helps you stay on task and on budget. Book a demo  with one of our specialists today to discuss your business needs and to see if MicroMain is right for you.  

Read More

How Virtual & Augmented Reality Are Changing The Maintenance Industry

3 min read

|

by The MicroMain Team

      Virtual reality and augmented reality are two technologies that are changing the maintenance industry. Maintenance professionals use virtual reality training to learn and practice skills before going on-site. Once on the job, technicians use augmented reality to help them perform tasks. Virtual Reality Training Virtual reality uses computer technology to create a simulated environment. Users interact with the virtual environment through specialized equipment such as headsets and hand-held sensors. You may be familiar with the use of virtual reality in video games that can be played using headsets available from companies like Oculus, HTC, and Samsung. These headsets let users feel like they are actually in the simulated environment, which can be anything from the driver’s seat of a race car to the surface of an alien planet. Though not as much fun as zipping across the (virtual) finish line, virtual reality is also being used in maintenance training to help technicians develop skills. Wearing virtual reality headsets, maintenance technicians can learn new skills quickly. Flexibility in scheduling and location mean technicians don’t have to spend time waiting for physical equipment to be available or offline in order to practice tasks, reducing overall training time. Minimizing training time is important for the many companies experiencing talent shortages as older workers retire and take years of expertise with them. Younger workers are available, but many lack the skills necessary to fill open maintenance positions. In a virtual environment, technicians can practice skills as many times as needed until they are mastered. Technicians with virtual reality training are familiar with equipment and procedures before they arrive on the job site and commit fewer errors once on the job. Inside a virtual environment, technicians can safely repeat and learn dangerous procedures without personal risk. Virtual reality training also allows technicians to perfect tasks before they enter a high-risk environment, such as a nuclear plant. Training in a virtual environment protects equipment as well. Technicians can practice new skills and techniques repeatedly without risking damage to equipment. Augmented Reality Resources Augmented reality technology overlays computer-generated information on the user’s view of the real world as seen through a device such as a smartphone. Television sports broadcasts use augmented reality to overlay information such as the first down line in an NFL game on your screen. Augmented reality is also seen in vehicle heads-up displays and the photo filters available on social media apps. Augmented reality does not require special equipment and is available on common devices such as smartphones and tablets, as well as hands-free devices like Google Glass. The accessibility and portability of augmented reality help maintenance teams while out performing service activities. With augmented reality, technicians can scan a QR code and quickly access important information about a piece of equipment. Technicians can use a smart phone, tablet, or laptop to remotely access documents like manuals, plans, and part lists. Augmented reality also delivers information by superimposing it over the real world view as seen through a smart device display. For example, a technician can use their smartphone camera to view a piece of equipment and see a 3D diagram of the item overlaid on the real-time image on their phone screen. Wearing Google Glass or a similar headset, a technician can look at a piece of equipment and view maintenance instructions “right in front of their very eyes,” leaving their hands free to perform the task. Technicians can use augmented reality to collect data from equipment sensors. Sensors that monitor equipment conditions such as temperature, humidity, and vibration are used to help develop predictive maintenance plans, reducing unnecessary reactive and preventive maintenance. With augmented reality, on-site technicians can also get immediate access to current or historic equipment data to determine maintenance needs, diagnose issues, and monitor the success of their maintenance efforts. Augmented reality allows users to consult with remote experts in real time. These experts may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away, but they can see a live view of the work site and deliver instant feedback and instruction. Remote experts can give live verbal guidance and overlay visual information on the technician’s device screen. Remote experts can provide a variety of visual information to technicians, including labels identifying parts and animated instructions showing procedural steps. The ability to access expert knowledge helps technicians reduce errors and perfect skills on the job. Using remote viewing, experts can visually evaluate equipment and direct technicians through appropriate procedures without having to travel to the site. With fewer errors and no travel time for experts, maintenance is performed promptly, with a minimum of equipment downtime. Some companies are using augmented reality to offer similar services to end users. Customers can connect with support teams through augmented reality for help with troubleshooting and repairs. Support staff can see a live view from the customer and provide real-time instruction and guidance.  

Read More

More Women Entering Male Dominated Industries

4 min read

|

by The MicroMain Team

    Women and men are almost equally represented in the overall United Sates labor force, but men still hold the majority of jobs in certain industries. In addition, overall median earnings for women continue to lag behind men’s overall median earnings. Coming changes in the available workforce may result in increased percentages of women employed in traditionally male-dominated industries such as manufacturing, utilities, and higher education staff (those employed in skilled crafts, facilities, and service/maintenance). Women currently make up 46.9% of the overall workforce, but hold only 29.2% of job positions in manufacturing and 21.4% of positions in utilities, which includes electricity generation / delivery and water / wastewater management. Women and men are more equally represented in higher education staff, however salary differences between women and men in the industry increase the longer an employee holds their position. Salaries for men on higher education staff increase steadily based on years in position, while salaries stay mostly the same for women who have been in their positions for 8-22 years, creating a wage gap that increases with the number of years in a position, and is similar to that seen in the overall workforce, where women’s earnings are 83% of men’s. Factors Affecting the Workforce The overall U.S. workforce is getting older, with 23% of workers currently age 55 or older, compared to 12% in 1995. Primarily Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964, these workers are increasingly approaching retirement age and leaving the workforce. Generation X, born between 1965 and 1981, is almost 30% smaller than the Baby Boomer generation, leaving fewer skilled workers to step into open positions. With 30% more members than Generation X, the Millennial generation, born between 1981 and 1996, is poised to fill many of the positions left by Baby Boomers exiting the overall labor force. However, previous shifts in the American educational system away from teaching trades and toward a focus on academics have resulted in fewer students learning vocational skills and being exposed to careers in skilled crafts. Millennials will soon be the largest living generation, outnumbering Baby Boomers, but executives are concerned about the significant skills gap between the generations. In fact, more than half of the available manufacturing positions in 2028 could go unfilled due to talent shortages. Like manufacturing, the utilities and higher education staff industries have higher than average percentages of older workers, and will be strongly impacted by these changes in the number of skilled workers available to fill positions left by retiring older workers. Opportunities For Women The challenges of an aging and changing workforce provide an opportunity for the number of women working in traditionally male-dominated industries to increase. In the face of continued high unemployment rates and positions left open by retiring workers, employers in manufacturing, utilities, and higher ed staff, are looking for new strategies to manage talent shortages. Many organizations are seeing benefits from efforts to retain and recruit skilled women. A growing body of research shows that more gender-diverse companies often financially outperform competitors. Gender-diverse companies tend to raise more average revenue and perform better in average relative returns. These companies also have high employee satisfaction and retention rates, reducing the costs involved in recruiting and training new employees. A majority of surveyed manufacturing executives stated that on-the-job training and in-house learning are the preferred learning methods for developing employee skills. Long-term employees have acquired valuable knowledge and skills, and can act as experienced mentors and trainers for other employees. Efforts to fill skilled job openings in manufacturing, utilities, and higher ed staff can also help close the wage gap between women and men, as employers recognize the opportunity to offer higher wages to both keep and attract talent. Shifting Skill Sets In addition to changes in the workforce, advances in technology and automation are changing the skill sets needed in these industries. Traditional vocational and technical skills remain important in manufacturing, utilities and higher ed staff, but the growing adoption of digital technologies in these industries is reducing overall demand for those skills. Computer skills are increasingly important as workers need to be able to perform tasks such as programming industrial machines or interacting with engineering software like CAD (computer-aided drawing). In addition to digital skills, the demand for human skills, or “soft” skills, is growing. Employers are looking for workers who possess skills such as critical thinking, creativity and originality, problem-solving, and people management. These skills are less industry-specific, leading to efforts to attract women employed in other industries, especially to managerial roles. Having women visible in senior roles also attracts other skilled women to companies, helping to fill the talent gap. In the end, changes in the types of available employees as well as evolving technology may result in more women employed in traditionally male-dominated industries.      

Read More

Important Manufacturing and Maintenance Trends For 2020

3 min read

|

by The MicroMain Team

  Technological innovations are changing the face of manufacturing and maintenance. These technologies are helping companies maximize efficiency and effectiveness and make intelligent business decisions. The role of humans in these processes is changing as well, requiring skill sets that allow companies to fully utilize these digital tools. Here are four trends that are influencing business decisions in these sectors. Mobile Communication Mobile communication continues to grow in popularity across industries, including manufacturing and facilities maintenance. Mobile communication tools allow employees to collaborate and share information in real time, with no delay. Technicians and other employees out in the field have ready access to information like maintenance history or operating instructions when they need it, where they need it. Mobile apps and tools also let employees enter information directly into systems such as Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs. Your team can add important details almost instantly, keeping your records accurate and up-to-date. Additionally, in an era when many companies are forced to run leaner and more dispersed teams, mobile communication tools are increasing productivity, helping organizations get more done with fewer employees. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) The expanded adoption of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)is continuing across several sectors, including manufacturing and production asset management. Sensors in machines are connected to wireless networks that gather and share data and make the data available for analysis. Increased affordability of IIoT devices, expanding network options, and advancing big data analytics have combined to make it easier for companies of all sizes to start using IIoT in their operations, or to enlarge existing systems. Companies are using IIot devices to collect data across many categories. Equipment conditions can be assessed using sensors that monitor vibration data, as well as through thermal imaging. Energy usage data is tracked to analyze trends and develop strategies to reduce energy usage and shift peak usage times to take advantage of off-peak energy rates.  GPS monitoring on vehicle fleets helps companies efficiently deploy resources, as well as track usage and status of heavy equipment and other high-value assets. Maintenance as a Service (MaaS) The rise of cloud computing has led to more companies offering or utilizing Maintenance as a Service (MaaS) programs. You may be familiar with cloud-based maintenance services offered by some auto makers. In addition to delivering reminders for scheduled maintenance such as oil changes, these services track vehicle diagnostics and alert subscribers to more urgent or unexpected service needs. MaaS is a similar service for machinery and industrial equipment. MaaS systems collect data from sensors on equipment, then use the power of cloud-computing to analyze equipment conditions to develop predictive maintenance schedules and alert users to potential failures. A variety of equipment vendors are offering MaaS programs for the machines they sell, and third-party vendors are offering MaaS for manufacturing and other industries. Both equipment vendors and third-party companies offer a spectrum of services within their MaaS products. Some of the services offered by MaaS vendors include maintenance service recommendations, maintenance training services for on-site staff, and even full maintenance operations management including technicians who perform the work. Like many other cloud-based services such as asset management and data storage, MaaS are available as subscription services. This lowers the capital costs of on-site computing, shifting costs to monthly or operational expenses. The flexibility and scalability of MaaS make it affordable for organizations of all sizes. Companies pay only for what they need, and can easily adjust services to adapt to changing needs. Workforce Trends With near historic unemployment rates, the labor market is tighter than ever and the average time to fill an open position is increasing. The rate of retiring professionals is outpacing the number of new workers coming into the workforce. New workers joining the work force are often “digital natives” familiar with computers and other technology. Traditional methods and skills are still needed in maintenance and manufacturing, but there is a growing shift to more digital and automated methods in the workplace. Knowledge of analytics and data interpretation are becoming more important as more companies adopt data-tracking solutions. Networking and telecommunication skills are also in demand as they are needed to build and maintain the systems that make cloud-based and other digital solutions possible. Maintenance and manufacturing continue to adapt to a changing, interconnected world. Many companies are adopting technological solutions and skills to improve operations and stay competitive. CMMS Software Looking for a way to better manage your maintenance tasks? Our industry leading CMMS software will help you streamline your maintenance operations resulting in less equipment downtime, lower maintenance costs, and increased productivity. Learn more about our CMMS software today!  

Read More
Content not found

Related Content

    Subscribe
      Micro Main