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1st Maintenance Priority - Understand Your Customer’s (needs)

I have spend the last 22 years in maintenance, operations and quality. When I looked back I noticed that I became a different maintenance manager after an assignment in operations. By now it is still one of the most remarkable and beneficial learning's in my career.

When I look at some maintenance crews and their leaders today I see them thinking and acting the same way I did before my operations assignment. Maintenance and operations look at the same things but from an other perspective. They talk about the same things but in another language, they listen to each other but tuned on another frequency. They're together alone. I know this doesn't count for all maintenance departments but I've seen to much to ignore it. It is always there in some level. How can we deal with it and level out this human behavior?

Organizational Setup - It already starts with the design of your organization. Choose for a flat organization with as minimum layers as necessary. The more hierarchy you create, the more your communications and decisions will slow down and the more bureaucracy will be installed.

Act Like One Big Company - With a compact leadership team and a flat organization you can more easily induce the spirit of acting like one big company. It's like an operational family feeling.

Choose a Holey Grail - When you act like one big company, your departments need one common goal. Supporting departments should have objectives that support that common goal - That is your Holey Grail, i.e. OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). Too often you see maintenance metrics that do not sufficient support the operations objectives. All operational and technical meetings should be based on the performance of this Holey Grail. That way we speak one language and preferable the data comes out of one source.

Build Your Maintenance Organization Based on Customer Needs Apply the 5 steps of wasteless processing when designing your maintenance organization. Ask your operations customer what VALUE you must offer. The customer will probably describe a blue sky and next - after some negotiation - you will both agree on a more down to earth compromise that takes budgetary and social boundaries in account. Define VALUE STREAMS in your organization that can deliver these and only these values (i.e. PM Process, Work Order Flow,.). Create FLOW in your processes so that interruptions are avoided. All activities in maintenance should be based on a PULL principle instead of the push principle. That means we perform an activity because there is a need for it, otherwise it is considered waste. And finally we maintain a culture of continuously improvement and strive for PERFECTION. There is always a way to do things better. Tomorrow we should review what we invented today.

One priority - Respond To The Request For Help All employees within our organization should be aware that there is one common goal. The Operational Value Stream is the most important element of our organization. It is the path where we add value to the product, earn customer satisfaction and that delivers our earnings. People working on that Operational Value Stream (Gemba cfr. Shop floor) are considered to be the most important assets of our family. If there is a request for help on the Value Stream the entire organization should be there to support with a Sense Of Urgency. An escalation process can trigger different levels of support when a problem
arises. This approach moves your organization from a controlling to a supporting structure. That is changing your DNA.


From a classic maintenance perspective becoming more efficient and effective is often referred to technological improvements in terms of tools, techniques and equipment. The biggest challenge however is installing the right mindset, culture and DNA. Creating a work environment where all people understand the bigger picture and their personal contribution on the end result. Build a lean solid organization that acts as one big company with people that are encouraged to think with you and participate.

Learn to understand your customer. The best way to do so is sending your technicians and engineers for one week to the operations department. Have them perform operations tasks and experience the heartbeat of the shop floor. Your maintenance efficiency and service level will double and your customer will become part of your family.

Reader Tip provided by Chris Vanschooren, Supervisor Team Development and Operational Effectiveness, Packaging and Warehouse Department, Pfizer NV. PUURS, Antwerp Belgium - Europe

Thank you for that great Tip Chris - your hat is on the way!

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