Starting your political campaign: Selling maintenance as a profit center

July 22nd, 2015

How do plant maintenance teams convince their higher-ups to invest more in the necessary maintenance and technology? By treating it like a political campaign. That’s how Joe Anderson, Reliability Leader at J.M. Smucker’s plant in Toledo, Ohio framed his presentation at Ultrasound World XI in June 2015. He also covered other topics outside of the metaphor to illustrate how reliable maintenance adds value to an industrial plant by eliminating unnecessary costs.

Anderson outlined and described the importance of the three types of value and the three directions of management. Then, he described how plant maintenance leaders can structure their campaign for better equipment and processes. In addition, he noted the state of many plant’s maintenance programs: reactive. Rather than anticipating needs, many factories jump from problem to problem as they arise. This is an inefficient and ineffective method, and Anderson described how to improve those tactics through reliability centered maintenance.

What does a political campaign have to do with reliable maintenance?What does a political campaign have to do with reliable maintenance?

What is value?
Before a plant maintenance manager takes his or her case to the higher-ups, it is necessary to define value not just in objective terms but also in terms of how management sees it. By understanding what value is and how managers prioritize different cases, facility maintenance teams can appeal for better processes and resources in a more compelling manner.

First, the three types of value:

  1. Convenience: These are things that make life safer, better and easier.
  2. Process improvement: This will allow lines to run to plan, bring downtime to a minimum and fully utilize assets.
  3. Financial: As its name implies, this is reducing costs, freeing up cash flow and increasing profits.

Once maintenance leaders understand value, they can better appeal to the business minds of managers and other DMs. But how do they contextualize value? In other words, how does value apply to business situations? For that, it’s important to have a grasp on certain basics. These are listed in more detail below:

  • Competitive advantage: The edge a company has over its competition. Differential advantage refers to the services or products a company can offer, while comparative advantage refers to the amount of money one company makes over another.
  • Cash flow: The cycle through which a company receives investment, spends money on assets, manufacturing and labor, and sells products to make money.
  • Cost savings: The amount money a proposed action will save a company.
  • Cost avoidance: The prevention of a future cost by a specific action, when it is clear the cost would have appeared without the action.
  • Opportunity cost: The benefits a company might have gained by taking a different course of action.
  • KPIs (Key Performance Indicators): Include maintenance cost per unit produced, cost differential compared to the year prior and other metrics.

Now that value has been thoroughly defined, maintenance leaders can take this knowledge to their superiors. But to do so effectively, these maintenance professionals must know how to manage. Here is where the “political campaigning” really gets going.

How to manage in three directions
Facility maintenance strategies impact everyone in the company: Executives must consider the cost and benefits, maintenance teams must learn how to implement the changes and employees must know how to work with the new standards. Maintenance leaders must therefore persuade each group using versatile management techniques.

To “manage down” means to appeal to the needs of subordinates. These employees respond to the first type of value: They want convenience, benefits to day-to-day tasks and fewer obstacles. Reliability centered maintenance achieves these by preventing equipment from failing and helping it operate optimally at all times. It isn’t an excuse for laziness – it’s the power to become more efficient.

To “manage out” is to work with peers and bring them on board. Here it’s about the stressing the second type of value and forming partnerships. Other plant managers need to know the process will improve, and they will have fewer frustrating interruptions. As a result, managing out might mean offering to work with them and train their employees.

Finally, “managing up” is bringing the proposal to bosses and executives with the intention of having them sign off on new expenditures. For these professionals, it’s all about the bottom line. Maintenance managers must convince them of the financial benefits, the third type of value. It’s also important to understand the business side of the job. The goal is to make money for the company and provide reliable service to clients. These corporate leaders may need some education, but they’ll listen if they understand reliable maintenance could result in significant financial gain.

“Gather enough research to build a compelling case.”

Prepare for the campaign
The final step before finally taking the benefits of reliable maintenance to the appropriate people is to gather enough research to build a compelling case. Collect as much data on cost savings and cost avoidance as possible. Demonstrate how to plan and schedule for profit gains. Examine and share what has worked so far, as well as how it can continue.

These don’t only appeal to peers and bosses, but employees. Plant managers can send out an email detailing downtime avoidance due to early detection of failures or create a newsletter that shows examples and celebrates best practices.

Finally, determine which equipment is the best for the job. Anderson pointed out that Ultraprobes from UE Systems are more than just a maintenance tool – they come with a software program that can help quantify the benefits they provide. These spreadsheets can even determine the cost savings of identified and remedied compressed air and gas leaks.

It’s important to show the evidence of these tools and processes. Anecdotal evidence won’t cut it in a political campaign – nominees must have examples of actions and solutions. Similarly, plant maintenance leaders must be able to show how they’ve improved processes and saved money already, then show how more effort projects into even greater benefits. By doing so, these managers will appeal to every level of the organization and ultimately improve the financial, convenience and procedural practices of the company.

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