When it comes to improving reliability, many organizations focus on their machines and forget about their people. Frequently, the individuals behind the machines who make the reliability program a reality are overlooked. While it is easy to talk about the importance of maintenance culture, it is much more difficult to actually change it. "Easier said than done" is quite accurate in this case. However, you can improve your culture by gaining a better understanding of the various causes of maintenance issues and adopting a focused approach for change. A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) often provides the best way to achieve this.

What Is Maintenance Culture?

Maintenance culture is a hidden hierarchy of people and communication processes that binds an organization together. In "The Workbook for Improving Maintenance & Reliability Through Culture Change," Stephen J. Thomas describes the cultural infrastructure as being comprised of:

  • Gossips — The hidden day-to-day communication system
  • Spies — Passers of sensitive information to those who may or may not need to know
  • Symbols — Mechanisms for conveying what and who is important
  • Language Terminology that describes what is done and often how

When examining your maintenance culture, ask yourself if a cultural infrastructure exists within your organization, and if so, is it a cause for concern? Consider company values, role models, and the rights and rituals of your organization.

How to Change Maintenance Culture

Effectively changing the behavior of people trickles down to the reliability of machines. Setting new levels of accountability and new expectations will help to break old habits. From a culture perspective, these are key success factors.

Data

The data success factor enables all the rest. Trustworthy and reliable data points to the opportunities for improvement. Data also measures the progress of the reliability-improvement actions. If your maintenance team is overwhelmed or downtime is increasing, reports and dashboards within a CMMS can provide in-depth insights into performance. This data can lead to staffing justifications, maintenance schedule optimization and more. Good data is an enabler in improving reliability, asset management and the culture that goes along with it all.

Focus

A focused improvement approach provides rapid payback as well as opportunities for improving the reliability-improvement methods every step of the way. The focus should include maintenance staff throughout the process. For example, a direct way to influence culture is to interview mechanics and technicians and identify their pain points. How can your organization focus on rolling out improvements to their daily processes? Having a phased implementation approach for both your CMMS and cultural improvement initiatives is the most effective way to spark positive results.

Constraints

Reliability is a moving target, and every project has constraints. To improve your maintenance culture, it is essential to recognize these constraints. Accept that your team members do not know what they do not know and then plan accordingly.

Causes

Often the true causes of unreliability are out of the direct control of the maintenance organization. Decisions made and actions taken during the design, procurement, installation, operation, scheduling and even maintenance of equipment all contribute to unreliability and a poor maintenance culture.

Process

An equipment item is frequently part of a process that delivers a product or enables a service, but maintenance cultural requires thinking beyond equipment reliability and considers the process reliability as a whole. The process is a foundational element of implementing a reliability program. Documenting standard operating procedures (SOPs) enables culture and consistency as well as CMMS and asset reliability success.

In addition to documenting SOPs, it is important to offer training on new initiatives and the CMMS. With CMMS training, users learn to perform functions correctly and save time spent in the system to allow for completion of other tasks. A greater understanding of processes feeds directly into one of the cornerstones of maintenance culture: rights and rituals.

Mindset

Top-level management generally models the behaviors and mindsets of other leaders, managers, supervisors and their crews. An organization's reliability mindset begins with top-level management because the true causes of unreliability often extend beyond the maintenance organization to other stakeholders.

Success Stories

Secant Group engineers biomaterials to facilitate the repair, recovery and regeneration of the human body. Reliability and facility manager Michael Manacchio joined the company with the goal to improve maintenance scheduling and asset management as well as to shift maintenance behaviors within the organization. In order to accomplish this culture change, Manacchio involved his team to establish asset libraries, the associated tasks with assets. The company now has 47 mobile technicians and 11 full users logging their work time to track labor resources, which has helped support a shift in maintenance behaviors by increasing accountability. Every week, Manacchio's team holds CMMS project improvement meetings where they analyze their progress and plan the next steps.

C.B. Fleet began as a small pharmacy in Lynchburg, Virginia, with the mission to provide people with personal health and beauty products. As part of its goal, the C.B. Fleet team wanted to achieve a proactive approach to maintenance via a high degree of excellence through revamped business processes. Five key pillars were developed to create this focus: people, material management, workload management, basic care and reliability. The team kicked off CMMS implementation by interviewing mechanics to collect their insight into daily activities and identify which aspects of work were the most challenging to assess where C.B. Fleet stood as a facility. The company involved employees at all levels of the facilities management process and explained important metrics.

Remember, if you notice an issue in your maintenance culture, it is critical to take action. This will make employees happier in the long term. By taking an active role in changing the culture, you can ensure greater efficiency, standardization and more.

About the Author

Greg Perry is a senior consultant in professional services at eMaint. He has 13 years of experience providing leadership in maintenance and operational best practices. Perry is dedicated to establishing positive relationships with clients while bringing a broad base of experiences in maintenance, MRO and operations. In addition to serving as a project manager and delivering implementation services to clients, Perry has presented at eMaint events and industry conferences.