Most everyone would agree that striving for world-class maintenance status is a good thing, but what exactly does this mean and how do you know when you get there?

An athlete knows there are world records to beat because the records for any given event are measured in seconds, pounds or feet. These metrics signal if the athlete has beaten the previous records, elevating him or her to "world class." In business, organizations such as Fitch, Moody's, and Standard and Poor's rate companies from AAA through D. Again, these services use generally accepted measures that let companies know when they achieve world-class status.

Given all the engineering and metrics involved, you would expect a similarly crisp, uniform definition of world-class maintenance. However, if you do a Google search for "world-class maintenance," you will get approximately 586 million results. When you scan through some of the results, you will not see any common references cited or any uniform definition of world-class maintenance.

To be fair, there are many consulting and engineering firms that provide services for improving maintenance effectiveness and efficiency to their own definition of world class, and virtually all have a set of benchmarks they use to assess maintenance performance.

Below are some common examples of world-class performance from a much larger unofficial list that seems to have been developed by consensus over the years:

  • Maintenance schedule compliance is greater than 90 percent.
  • Maintenance overtime is less than 5 percent.
  • Maintenance direct work is greater than 75 percent.
  • Planned maintenance work is greater than 90 percent.
  • PM schedule compliance is 100 percent.
  • The percentage of work covered by a work order is 100 percent.
  • Work order actual hours / work order hours planned is 90 to 110 percent.
  • Equipment availability is at least 90 percent.
  • Equipment productivity is at least 95 percent.
  • Overall equipment effectiveness is at least 77 percent.

Some say world-class maintenance means being in the top 5 percent of certain metrics. Of course, it would be great to be way up there, but should that be the only measure of world-class maintenance? Or is this more akin to being the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind – you're up here only because everyone else is down there?

In other words, is world-class maintenance just the result of achieving benchmarks that others don't? What if the grading is not on the curve, as it were? My old math teacher used to say he didn't care how well we did against each other but against the right answers. No one was guaranteed an A for answering more questions correctly than the rest of the class.

World-class maintenance is not just about the maintenance practices of the maintenance organization in a vacuum. It is about the way the entire organization uses all the means at its disposal to protect its ability to produce exceptional value for its customers. It is a journey, not a destination — a process, not a product.

There is no shortage of metrics, benchmarks and strategies to help keep you on the path of continuous improvement, but exceptional performance comes from being part of an organization that requires it. This means having a world-class maintenance mindset that requires nothing less than excellence in all facets of maintenance and the production of value for the customer.

Does your company do all it can to consistently enable excellence within your maintenance organization? Do you have a world-class maintenance mindset? What do you do to maintain a culture that supports world-class maintenance?