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My biggest lessons learned from being Head of Maintenance

24 November 2020 by Add Energy

Before joining Add Energy as Technical Manager, Stuart Murray had worked his way up from maintenance, reliability and operations engineering roles to the Head of Maintenance for an international FPSO operator. 


Responsible for managing global maintenance execution and strategies, optimizing maintenance effectiveness and providing expert advice on maintenance issues, Stuart has experienced and overcome many common maintenance and operational challenges throughout his career. We have asked him to share some of the biggest challenges and lessons he has learned as Head of Maintenance..

It can be hard to get people to value maintenance and view it as an investment...

“One of the biggest challenges I experienced during my time as Head of Maintenance was trying to get the asset teams to value maintenance - shifting the perception of it being something that ‘just has to be done’, to a fundamental investment. 

"Maintenance is similar to exercise or eating well - you know you should do it and you’ll feel better, but the act of doing it takes discipline and effort. With maintenance, there’s an awful lot to it, and under the pressure of normal operations and trying to deliver results, sometimes it can be forgotten about or deprioritized. People often think “that can be done later, I did it a few weeks ago” - and that attitude and mindset can be difficult to change when the focus is on financially viable production. 

“This issue is typically linked to cost. Maintenance is often viewed as simply an outgoing cost, as you’re spending a good chunk of money on people or spare parts. But what they forget is that not conducting the maintenance or doing it well could cost you significantly more in the long run. In my experience, a piece of unplanned maintenance will cost 10x more than planned, as you have to react to it, and it could result in downtime depending on its function. 

“In my experience Asset Managers commonly come from a production background as opposed to a maintenance-focused role. It can be rare to find an Asset Manager with an extensive maintenance background. This means they tend to view operations through a profit and loss lens, and unfortunately, maintenance is commonly seen as an outgoing - and can therefore be seen as a "loss".

The biggest thing you can do to change this unfavorable maintenance mindset is to focus on risk - financial risk, reputational risk, environmental risk and safety risk. If you’re not going to do this piece of maintenance, how does the risk profile change? 

“You can also focus on the cost associated with potential failures or unplanned maintenance. Spending money on maintenance is cheaper than not doing, and having an effective maintenance program in place and following it will ensure the business is cost-effective.”

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Bring your team on a journey to maintenance excellence... 

“The other major lesson I learned from this and previous roles is that being a good engineer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good manager. 

“Leading a team to get the most out of them is not only about possessing technical skills - there are softer skills required too, such as high emotional intelligence, and this may not come naturally to some people. Even if you know how to do something, and can write a detailed process document, this doesn’t guarantee your team will follow it or do their best work.

“As a manager and leader, even if you have the answers in your back pocket, take a step back, and guide your team down a path to discover the answers themselves. Instead of doing things yourself, which may seem quicker and easier, bring them on a journey towards maintenance excellence with you. 

One of my top tips to help achieve this is to delegate ownership. By giving individual team members or groups full ownership over certain work, you will make them feel engaged, involved and valued, and ensure they truly believe in and buy in to what they’re doing - and ultimately this will deliver better results.

"A good example of this is the management of temporary equipment. This can be a significant risk area, but one that nobody tends to own, so giving ownership to a member of your team ensures someone is in charge of it.

“I would also recommend encouraging your team to think beyond their department. I’ve seen so many businesses with silos, where each department acts individually, and it can be hard going to operate in this environment. 

I found mapping out the maintenance management system as a venn diagram very helpful. This shows that maintenance touches and overlaps most departments, such as logistics, procurement, and HSE, and highlights where you and your team should be building relationships or collaborating to get the best results for the asset.”

Maintenance optimization


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