Q: My maintenance guys really love working on capital and improvement projects, but I am getting behind on my PMs and I am over my budget because of the projects. Any suggestions on changes I can make?
A: This problem is very common. You must understand that maintenance is not a one-dimensional plant function. In most facilities, capital projects must occur to sustain company growth and to keep up with equipment upgrades and replacements. Likewise, there are situations that arise which call for modifications to be made to existing equipment to improve productivity and efficiency. In both situations, the most economical solution commonly is to have the maintenance people execute these projects rather than having outside contractors perform the work.
The difficulty is determining how much of these activities is acceptable. To protect the integrity of your PM program, you should add up the total number of hours, by month, you need to be able complete the routines. This work load is a non-negotiable, provided you have confidence in the quality of your PM program. The project work allocation is trickier. For internal improvement projects, you need to arbitrarily set an hourly amount per month, track it and adjust it as needed. This work should be visible to your customer and they should agree the work has value. It should be recognized that if the work increases, additional labor will be needed.
The volume of capital projects, in many cases, is variable year to year. You can either suspend some of your productivity projects in lieu of the capital projects that need to be completed or you can perform the capital work on an overtime basis. In the end your job is similar to that of the police; to PROTECT (your PM program) and SERVE (your customers).
This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Food Processing Magazine.