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3 big challenges faced by Maintenance Managers in North America in 2021, and how to overcome them in 2022

13 December 2021 by Susan Steyn

Maintenance Managers across the world are faced with a huge variety of challenges every day, with the Covid-19 pandemic adding a whole new layer of setbacks and issues to deal with. 

Many of these challenges can significantly impact the effectiveness of maintenance programs, reduce production, and risk the safety of their team. And while there are similar challenges across the globe, we want to focus on the key issues faced by maintenance teams in North America.

Susan Steyn, Vice President of the US and Canada Add Energy offices, shares 3 of the biggest issues she has identified while working with maintenance teams across this region, and offers tips on how best to overcome them and improve maintenance and inspection programs.


Challenge 1: Creating a culture of teamwork and shared responsibility

“We all know it takes teamwork to effectively manage and run a group of assets, but a challenge I have witnessed is when maintenance teams are working within embedded functional silos (e.g. maintenance, operations, engineering), that reflect the historical culture of the plant. 

“While teamwork remains a priority and a valued trait, I have seen a pattern of operations being separate from maintenance, which can result in less efficient communication, shared learning, inefficient use of resources, and ultimately higher maintenance and inspection costs.

“With social distancing measures now in place, many facilities are reducing the number of people on-site, meaning staff who can work from home are adjusting to a new way of operating whilst being expected to keep work functioning at the same level as before. This new way of working can be very isolating and can make teamwork difficult.”

Tips and considerations:

  • Every plant needs a rally point to tear down silos - a reduction in OPEX or an increase in stream time usually works
  • Take the time to understand the issues experienced by both silos when working together previously, and construct joint team building sessions to work through those issues together - in person where possible or via video conferencing
  • Change the way business is conducted by instituting new lines of communications and inviting members of all silos to participate in necessary planning sessions 
  • And most importantly, get senior-level buy-in by instituting a legitimate and generous recognition and rewards program to boost morale during trying times

Challenge 2: Implementing effective Covid-19 contingency planning

“Throughout Covid-19, we have seen many companies go through redundancy processes, which has resulted in a lack of resources. Organizations are now required to do more with fewer people, putting added strain on maintenance teams, with workers now wearing multiple hats and taking on more responsibilities. 

“Getting workers on-site and offshore has become a big challenge due to time-consuming quarantine periods, expensive testing kits and vaccination guidelines. If employees are to catch Covid-19, they will then have to isolate for 5-10 days, meaning the company can’t bill them throughout this period. This becomes a larger challenge when the employee who is unbillable in isolation has a certain skill set that is difficult to replace in the short term.”

Tips and considerations:

  • Efficiently cross-train workers from the beginning, so when the time comes, they can execute different responsibilities with ease rather than feeling overwhelmed
  • Adapt to Covid-19 related issues by implementing contingency planning into the project scope from the beginning, rather than dealing with problems as they arise 
  • Have contingency workers who can step in when inevitable Covid-19 related issues arise, such as isolation periods and testing

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Challenge 3: Getting the most out of your CMMS

“The sole role of the CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) is to provide teams with accurate and up-to-date information, to enable them to make the best decisions possible. 

“There are typically two extremes of CMMS users:

  1. The plant with missing, inaccurate, and inconsistent data, which forces the maintenance team to spend a great deal of time on hardcopy reports and spreadsheets. Reporting to management can also be late, and data can be out of date.
  2. The site whose CMMS is accurate, consistently well-populated and maintained, with clear ownership and accountabilities. In this scenario, the trained maintenance team is wasting no time with manual reporting or planning, and the CMMS is used to gain helpful insights to make their work more effective and streamlined, and can be accessed in real-time. 

“It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and monetary resources to have a successful program, especially if it’s an older site. It is particularly important in the Covid-19 environment to have an accurate CMMS as companies are trying to do more with less people, while also adhering to onsite social distancing restrictions.

quote graphic small (3)“At the end of the day, your CMMS is only as good as the data that you put into it. It’s like any other tool; you must maintain it and make sure that the data you’re putting into it is validated and correct. And there are a few simple things you can do to ensure this…”

Tips and considerations:

  • Conduct a site-wide physical asset verification (PAV) to ensure the data in your CMMS is correct. Using electronic tools like our ePAVTM software helps to complete PAVs faster and also requires less manpower, which will in turn help to adhere to any social distancing regulations  
  • Give ownership of the program to a single individual with senior management support and funding
  • Implement a cloud-based collaborative master data build software such as EffioTM which will allow functional location hierarchy development, visualization and trackability of data 
  • Don’t accept one-off spreadsheets for reports. Always depend on the accuracy of the CMMS, and insist on using that data
  • Invite the wider team to attend user group meetings hosted by the CMMS software provider, whether these are in person or online eLearning courses to learn about the latest releases and to share experiences and learnings 
  • Track success through appropriate KPIs, and always look for ways to improve 
  • Look into transforming your workflow digitization which will in turn allow you to do more with less people

For more tips and considerations to help overcome the challenges faced as a Maintenance Manager in North America, download our educational eGuide.

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