We’re all guilty of using the term “world-class” when referring to a maintenance department or program. Clearly, world-class is important because there are books (2,951 on Amazon, but not all are about maintenance world-class), papers at conferences and consultants doing extensive assessments all based on world-class maintenance.

So, where does world-class come from and who gets to say what it is? The first question is easy to answer. Calling one’s self “world-class” makes one feel better about one’s activities. But the criteria is defined by each person who uses the term. Some leading practitioners and major consulting firms have informally agreed that what they see as being needed in maintenance is world-class. Others not in their camp are somewhat at their mercy.

There are several misconceptions about world-class maintenance:

Misconception #1: There is a world-class standard. Actually, there isn’t.

Misconception #2: Everyone should aspire to the world-class standard (if there was one in the first place). Realistically, they shouldn’t, since being inappropriately world-class might cause bankruptcy!

Misconception #3: ISO55000 defines world-class maintenance. Sorry, ISO55000 is not concerned with world-class maintenance at all.

One thing is abundantly clear. What is considered a world-class maintenance program in one industry might be just a run-of-the-mill program in another and even suicidal in a third. Compare, for example, two industries, such as lumber processing and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Lumber: The cost of just the log before it is processed is over 80 percent of the COGS (cost of goods sold, including all costs plus factory overheads and maintenance), so 20 percent is left for everything else, including maintenance, overhead, etc. In the lumber processing industry, you process a lot of trees to get a bit of gross profit. While maintenance is important (not the least reason is to avoid fires), the raw costs are essential to manage. Over maintenance is as great a sin as under maintenance. The sweet spot is hard to hit since it moves daily with the lumber market.

Pharmaceutical: The total of all manufacturing costs is 27 percent of the COGS. Here, the actual maintenance cost is less important to the success of the company. The heavy hitters are keeping within validation (i.e., FDA oversight) and avoiding even a hint of product contamination so as not to ruin a batch of product, which might be worth $500,000 or more. The sweet spot is to do everything they can think of to make the system as reliable as possible.

Now, back to world-class. What if you designate what is required to be world-class for a pharmaceutical manufacturer and apply it to a lumber processor? What would happen to the viability of the lumber processor if you put in place pharmaceutical maintenance standards? It literally would be suicidal!

Can you apply the endlessly debated maintenance standards for an automotive assembler and compare it to the needs of a theme park? No, and it seems silly to compare maintenance efforts between industries. While there is often a great deal to learn from maintenance operations outside your industry, comparing a nuclear power plant to a chicken processor and calling one world-class is not the way to learn.

Access to World-Class Requires Thought

There is access to world-class, but it takes some thought. Every organization has a reason for being. In the Uptime® Elements™, this is called the AIM or the published mission, vision and values of the organization. It is that organization’s reason for being.

World-class should be a measure of how well the existing organization’s structures, policies and procedures deliver value to the AIM for the long term. You might look at the long-term numbers for how a company is doing with its assets within an industry:

Gross profit for Nucor 15.79%

Gross profit for X (U.S. Steel) 1.27%

And then make a conclusion about whose practices are, indeed, world-class. In order to simplify things, it should be noted that gross profit is being used as a proxy for world-class. If viewed over the long term within an industry, this is a fair assumption. In some industries, such as refining, power generation and transit, there already is a great structure for this type of comparison. In other industries, company secrets might (properly) block this kind of comparison.

Conclusions

  • Don’t get too upset about your maintenance effort when compared to some world-class standard.
  • Don’t worry if you do not have all the software or technology bells and whistles that are introduced.
  • Worry every day whether you are providing value toward your AIM safely and for the lowest long-term cost.
  • Be alert for ways you can increase the value provided from your assets or reduce the risks in your business.
  • Become the world’s expert in providing more value with lower risk for your particular asset base.

Joel Levitt

Joel Levitt, CRL, CPMM, CRL, CPMM, is the President of Laser Focused Training. Mr. Levitt has 30 years of experience in many facets of maintenance, including process control design, source equipment inspector, electrician, field service technician, maritime operations and property management. He is a leading trainer of maintenance professionals and has trained more than 17,000 maintenance leaders from 3,000 organizations in 25 countries in over 500 sessions. Since 1980 he has been the President of Springfield Resources, a management consulting firm that services all sized clients on a wide range of maintenance issues. Prior to that Mr. Levitt worked for a CMMS vendor and in manufacturing management. 

He is also a frequent speaker at maintenance and engineering conferences and has written 6 popular maintenance management texts and chapters of 2 additional reference books. He has also published dozens of articles on the topic. Mr. Levitt has served on the safety board of ANSI, Small Business United, National Family Business Council and on the executive committee of the Miquon School. He can be reached at JDL@Maintrainer.com or visit www.Maintrainer.com www.maintenancetraining.com

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