4 Factors Required for Productivity Improvements in Maintenance

I read a new article by McKinsey & Company about work management productivity improvements in asset-intensive industries last month. The reason I’m writing about it now is: a key message in the research resonates with me: “when seeking to implement a work management application, there are some common, critical factors for success“.

Here I’ll look at what these critical success factors are. This includes findings from McKinsey’s article and my own experience implementing a range of CMMS, Mobile, Planning & Scheduling, Budgeting applications – all very effective at boosting your productivity.

  • Optimise work management processes first.
  • Take a holistic view when designing processes .
  • Software integration is critical.
  • Change management is key.

Factor 1:  Optimise Work Management Processes First

Whether it’s a mobility tool, budgeting application or scheduler, when charged with the task of implementing process improvement, many start out their project by looking at software features and functionality. 

This can be a great starting point. It helps you to grasp what’s possible with products available off the shelf, as well as time and budget requirements for implementation. 

But at some point, the business is going to have to identify gaps in processes and define workflows. Ideally, the design process is done before the point of implementation, or in synch with your software review. That’s because defining what you need to do (process) before you implement your solution (software and change management) will: 

  • Provide clarity around the ‘nice to haves’ vs ‘must have’ features – making the software selection process much easier.
  • Prevent the digitisation of old problem processes.
  • Engage all stakeholders in the process early on. This is much more effective for generating buy-in, adoption and a successful change management. 
  • Help you to leverage strengths and navigate any weaknesses in the software once you’re in the implementation phase of your project.

Know your destination before you get going….

If you’ve selected a software partner, this design process can sometimes be done in collaboration with their team. However, a vendor’s ideal workflows may compliment the product they’re supporting, rather than your business. In an ideal state, you bring in a third party who is software agnostic. Third parties are more likely to be up-to-date with best practices and learnings from other projects and thus, can help you avoid the failures seen in the past. 

So, where to start on re-designing process? 

The best place to start is to understand the specific areas of the work management lifecycle where your software can add value. 

This means understanding what works, and what doesn’t in your current process so you:

  • Know what’s not working: So that no inefficient, ineffective or worthless (non-valuable) processes become embedded in the new system.
  • Know your areas of focus: Staged software implementations are more successful than those that attempt to do everything at once, (this is only ideal if you have a strong and time rich management team). If you effectively prioritise your roll-out on priority areas that will demonstrate quick wins, cost savings, QA or efficiency improvements within 6 months, the new system will achieve value and generate positive momentum for subsequent stages of the project. Or you may re-invest returns gained through productivity improvements in the next stage of the project. 

To do this:

  1. Identify tasks required to complete a process.
  2. Communicate and project manage those identified tasks.
  3. Capture feedback from as many representatives across the entire process as possible.
  4. Test different scenarios to build robust processes.
  5. Take a holistic look at value creation (see my next point)

Factor 2: Take a Holistic look at Value Creation

When redesigning your work management processes, it’s important to take both a ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approach to the task so that: 

  1. Value is realised by supporting business strategy (when talking work management productivity, this is usually a combination of increased throughput, cost savings, quantified time savings and simplified tools and routines).
  2. You improve rates of acceptance by optimising the solution for your users (there’s no point implementing a new tech or process if everyone continues to do things their own way).
  3. Develop business analytics to provide a line of sight to ensure the new processes and quality requirements are being utilised effectively.

Look from the bottom up, and the top down…

The holistic approach is achieved by including all business stakeholders and end users in the design and implementation of your new application. To do this: 

  • Collect pain points right across all business processes, end-to-end.
  • Consider different user stories or scenarios that may impact options.

Your assets lifecycle demands many different systems and disciplines. If you hope to achieve true business value rather than just spot-fixing one part of a broader process, you need to engage with stakeholders at all levels of the business, so you don’t just push problems further down the line, or simply create new problems.  

If you’ve successfully pin-pointed where you will achieve the most value with a new process, your implementation team will be able to effectively prioritise your project roll-out to get fast results and generate positive momentum. 

Factor 3: Integration

Building on factors one and two, integration is critical for building efficiencies in asset management processes because it: 

  1. Solves one of the most common problems in the asset work management process. That is: sharing the data required for connected processes, systems and people involved at any stage of the AM lifecycle. In less mature work management organisations, these processes are manual which is slow and error-prone. They often can require processes or collect data which is not required, or useless.
  2. Effectively centralises data generated by thousands of individual processes and systems. Once centralised and integrated, this data lays a foundation for further improvements via automation and analysis. 
  3. Use your data effectively, identify automation opportunities. Develop time and quality requirements and implement role-based exception dashboards to get your software working to fulfil your processes, maintain standards or objectives.

Integration will also remove administrative errors and inefficiencies by streamlining data entry. It will make real-time and exception based reporting, inventory searching and asset monitoring a reality. 

Factor 4: Change Management

And finally, productivity improvement is dependent upon user adoption. Because there’s simply no point investing in a solution if your intended user groups continue to apply their own systems or processes. 

The best way to avoid this situation is by planning for an effective change management program as part of your implementation. This should start at the beginning of the process when capturing pain points from stakeholders. 

A lot of change management is about communication: build a communication plan that fits in with department or team routines (like a weekly meeting or work packs) and can cater for different communication preferences (ie electronic, video or print). 

Critical factors in your change management and communication program are:

  • Clarity: a clear goal will help to inspire change but make sure it’s realistic. Example: ‘reduce the current backlog of maintenance work by 50% in three months’. 
  • Awareness: make sure everyone is aware of the problem you seek to address and how this change to solve it. Example: ‘a large backlog of orders creates noise when left to decay, old work orders threaten asset health/stability’.
  • Desire: incentivise users to get on board with the change by demonstrating benefits or positive consequences of that change. Example: ‘If we remove the majority of this backlog all our work, schedules will be more predictable’.
  • Ability: Close the skill gaps that are a roadblock to change. Example: make sure everyone knows how to manage break-in work). 
  • Stay agile: provide a clear and easy process for teams to provide feedback and develop improvement opportunities. Ensure that both positive and negative feedback is collected and ensure an explanation is provided if ideas are excluded.
  • Reinforcement: measure and reward wins. You may want to consider a strong visual like a traffic light system to measure progress or tracking toward that milestone of a reduced backlog. 

If you’d like any advice regarding productivity improvements in asset management, work management, reliability or engineering, or the implementation of a software and full business analytics solution, contact us at APS about our range of experience. 


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