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Beginner at Project Management? Here Are Some Learnings of 20/20 Hindsight

by Leo Faykes

In August 2012, our maintenance team made the decision to move forward with upgrading the bolt-on computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) program on our Unix-based legacy system to a more advanced product that offers modern asset management functionality, such as builtin key performance indicators (KPIs), a standalone database to reduce integration and data storage issues, and the ability to define assets in a true hierarchy, rather than the flat list of assets stored in the legacy system.

We had been running an earlier version of the bolt-on, but our end users and our business needs had outgrown the capabilities.

We had the functionality of our existing CMMS, which afforded us the luxury to manage the project in-house, thus avoiding the high costs of hiring consultants or a vendor implementation team. Looking back, here are some references to our project charter that may be valuable for those about to undertake a similar project.

Takeaway #1: The value of the project charter is not to be overlooked!

Simply typing “project charter” into a search engine can give you the basis to write one. If you have the knowledge to attain the certified reliability leader (CRL) or the certified maintenance and reliability professional (CMRP) designation, then you have the knowledge and capability to write one. What’s important to take to heart is the value of the project charter once it is written. The value increases exponentially as your project moves along. The amount of front-end work that you do will help you and your team remain focused. Experience will teach you the following:

  • You will need the support of your stakeholders at times, so be sure they are ALL identified.
  • You will need to remind those stakeholders why certain details are important when asking for that support.
  • Your communication plan should be detailed to your project scope.
  • Identify not only the scope of work, but also the out of scope items that are foreseeable.

Takeaway #2: Identify all stakeholders. These are the people who will want you to succeed and will be resources when you need them.

The numbering system, description and details of your assets affect more than just the maintenance department. Accounting and the supply chain may or may not be affected by certain aspects of your registry, so conferring with them before you start should be considered. It goes without saying that operations should be represented for this process as well; they own the asset, it is maintenance’s responsibility to ensure it is available when needed.

Takeaway #3: Develop a skills matrix required for your team members.

Selecting the team is a daunting task that requires careful thought. You are likely surrounded by people whom you’ve worked alongside and know to have the skills and personalities that you are looking for in team members. While it’s convenient to quickly choose from your planners, supervisors and maybe some of your more experienced tradespeople, it’s helpful to document the skills criteria required. It’s important to know exactly what skills will benefit the project the most.

Developing the skills matrix ahead of time also gives you the opportunity to pin-point the gaps that may be overcome with training to ensure you get the most from the people you want to include. Each of us can likely relate to the older tradesperson who is close to retirement and wants nothing to do with a computer, yet has all that valuable knowledge and experience locked up inside. As we moved forward through our objectives, we involved different people from respective areas and found that we had some hidden talents in our midst.

Takeaway #4: Involve not only the whole team when discussing the scope, have conversations with all of your stakeholders. They may see things that you’ve overlooked out of familiarity. Review it multiple times before committing to the scope.

Scope creep will happen! Yes it will, it will happen all over your carefully planned and laid out project, and when it does, it is your project charter that will be there for you to refer to. Not that the items that arise won’t be important, in fact, they will likely be unavoidable. The more detailed your original scope is, the better you can plan your work and assign responsibility.

Having a communication plan in place ahead of time will make tasks more manageable as you move along. Considering that some people from your maintenance group may not be well versed in reliability centered maintenance (RCM), include other stakeholders, even if some of your reasons might not make any sense to them. A few PowerPoint slides explaining how the new maintenance software and process will benefit everyone in the end may be of use.

Takeaways #5, 6, & 7: a. Match your communication plan to your scope of work. Different tasks may require different plans. b. Presentations detailed to the tasks of the project will reduce the ‘flooding’ of information’ at one time. c. Presentations at new milestones provide opportunity for motivation and review of successes.

Communicating the success of your milestones allows your team to celebrate their achievements and renews motivation for the tasks ahead. It also allows the rest of your maintenance people the opportunity to see the work being done that contributes to the overall acceptance of change.

Takeaway #8: Standardization! As always it is one of the watchwords of our business.

Standardization is one of the most important terms in RCM and with good reason. Each industry may have different terminology and even individual regions will have their own. What we needed to overcome was our own departments and, in some cases, our crews having their own terms. Where possible, we used regulatory standard terminology as it related to electrical and fixed equipment. However, that may differ from country, state or province.

Your asset hierarchy is a simple chain of parent-child relationships and referring to your own family unit will help outline a structure for you to visualize. Choosing your plant as the starting point, it’s as simple as following the chain of children that your plant encompasses. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this process is when you take into consideration that you are not only arranging the assets of a single fixed plant. The multiple examples of water treatment or power generation that can be found are, at first glance, no help when compared to having to include underground crushing/conveying systems, a fleet of mining equipment, milling operations and an underground power distribution system that rivals a small city.

The aha moment for us was when we realized exactly where our separation of hierarchy by physical and functional location began. Dividing assets into surface and underground is the obvious place to start. From there, it’s simply a matter of breaking out your physical locations and then proceeding to break down your functional asset hierarchy within those locations.

With the conclusion of the hierarchy and asset criticality ranking stage of the overall CMMS project, we are now nearing the completion of the entire CMMS upgrade. Moving into the last stage of the project, the application of what we learned in the beginning phase about shareholders and detailed communication plans has allowed our efforts to progress much more smoothly. We are blitzing our job plans and BOMs using our existing planning teams and tradespeople and the value of skill assessment, and then tailoring the training has also proven itself for this type of project.

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