Mr. Mullen’s statements drive home the fact that a maintenance manager holds the key to a plant, site, or mine’s success. That person’s knowledge of the site’s maintenance strategies, how they are executed and their effectiveness is key to a successful maintenance manager. It is also the difference between high performing and poor performing operations.

Think about Rick Mullen’s statement and its relation to Figure 1.

What is the goal of a maintenance manager? To ensure that all maintenance to standard so that the company meets its business goals 100% of the time.


The maintenance manager begins the day by spending 30 to 60 minutes visiting with each maintenance supervisor for five minutes after their shift has begun to look for abnormalities from the past 24 hours that may impact this week’s production goal or maintenance’s schedule.

Example: Breakdown last night on line one caused production loss of 12,000 units of production because of loose bolt; investigation initiated by maintenance engineering; one mechanic assigned to assist ME. Report due to maintenance manager within 48 hours when the loss exceeds a specific amount.

Production Manager Informal Meeting (10 to 15 minutes max): The maintenance manager meets with production management first to determine if any issues have occurred in the past 24 hours that he or she was not aware of, or any issues that may arise within the next 24 hours. They both review the 24-hour production rate, quality and problems.

Key Performance Indicator Review (10 minutes): Next, the maintenance manager takes a quick look at the maintenance Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboard to see if any problems exist or may happen in the next week to one month. There should be KPI owners listed on the dashboard who will send a report to the maintenance manager if a KPI is acting in a state that maintenance and production leadership would consider unacceptable, along with an exception report for any exceptions to expectations. Here are some examples of what a maintenance manager looks for in a key performance indicator review:

  • Emergency versus PM/PdM labor hours (is the PM/PdM program working?)
  • Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) of critical assets
  • Production/Quality rate stability
  • MTBF by maintenance supervisors’ areas
  • Preventative maintenance (PM) compliance using the 10% rule on critical assets by crew
  • Schedule compliance
  • Safety incidents and near misses within the past 24 hours.

Exception reports are sent to the maintenance manager if any of the above metrics are not within the agreed upon range.

Plant, Mine, Operations Site Manager Meeting (60 minutes max): The maintenance manager takes about 10 minutes to describe any issues within the past 24 hours that caused losses or issues that may cause losses in the next seven days. If additional time is needed to discuss these items, this should be addressed outside of this meeting with specific individuals.

Plant Visit: Randomly, the maintenance manager should visit each crew area to see what is happening. Sometimes, a picture truly is worth a thousand words. The maintenance manager first talks with the maintenance supervisor to review any issues he/she is facing and need to be resolved. A meeting time to discuss the issues may be scheduled later in the day, or on another day, depending on the importance to the maintenance supervisor. While on the visit, the maintenance manager greets everyone and asks operators and maintainers how things are going. The maintenance manager generally spends no more than 30 minutes in each crew area.

Guiding Principles for a Proactive Maintenance Manager

Leadership Principles:

  • Treat everyone as your equal and demonstrate respect and humbleness.
  • Know each maintenance person by name.
  • Know each planner by name.
  • Take time to talk to someone who has an issue at a scheduled time and place, and respond back to that person within 48 hours. Make it policy.
  • Maintenance management should not be rude or report on trivial things that do not matter to anyone in the organization.
  • Know yourself and seek self-improvement every day.
  • Never ask anyone to execute a task you would not do yourself.
  • Treat others as you would like to be treated; put yourself in their position.

Organization Principles

  • Randomly check on planning, scheduling, stores and tool storage areas.
  • Require wrench time studies be conducted of each crew by specific crew members after they have been trained and certified in the process. These should be conducted every three to six months depending on previous trends. All reports should be presented to the maintenance manager by the maintenance supervisor and no one else. This should be a private conversation.
  • Ensure that work order data is under control and providing accurate reports.
  • Ensure that a Failure Reporting, Analysis and Corrective Action System (FRACAS) is owned by each maintenance supervisor and request monthly reports from them.

Management Principles

  • Guide your organization through the use of KPIs so you know your group is headed in the right direction. If a KPI is driving in the wrong direction, initiate a team to identify the problem and recommend a solution within 48 hours.
  • Post only KPIs that may be important to each maintenance crew.
  • Require a 30-minute Single Point Lesson to be presented and discussed by each crew on a weekly basis. These training workshops should be technical in nature, not safety related. Safety meetings should be scheduled separately.
  • Maintenance and Reliability Engineering should have direct access to the maintenance manager during specific hours of the week and exceptions should only be made on an emergency basis.

Maintenance managers hold the key to success or failure of any maintenance organization. If the manager is weak, then he/she must be given assistance first and only removed from the position after a three-month period of not showing improvement. Proactive maintenance managers are the unsung heroes of any organization. People look up to them with respect and calmness, even in tough situations. It’s a difficult job, but maintenance managers who feel they have areas that need further development should find a mentor to assist them. Just be sure the mentor is competent and studious.

Ricky Smith, CMRP, CPMM, is the Senior Technical Advisor for Allied Reliability. Ricky has over 30 years in maintenance as a maintenance manager, maintenance supervisor, maintenance engineer, maintenance training specialist and maintenance consultant, and is a well-known published author.

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