What is this new maintenance system?
The new maintenance system is a combination of a new standard process by which all work is done, and a new software “Computerized Maintenance Management System” (CMMS for short). The new system incorporates all maintenance processes. These include how work requests are approved and submitted, how scheduled work is handled, how resources used to perform the task are tracked, and how the correct account is billed.
What was the old system?
The old maintenance process was based on tracking time and materials on a single sheet. These sheets were then submitted to Ruth (our bookkeeper) for billing once the work was completed. Ruth would enter the information into her spreadsheet template and then send that spreadsheet to the finance office. The finance office was responsible for keeping track of maintenance’s internal costs (against line items in our expense budget) as well as transferring money from other departments (in the case of work done on another department’s asset).
The system was entirely demand-based, with the exception of a preventative maintenance calendar. Max (our office clerk) would notice when a reminder came up and would create a work order to perform that preventative maintenance.
Why did we want a new system?
You’re probably familiar with the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Generally, this is good advice. That being said, why did we push for buying the CMMS software package? Why have I invested the many hours setting it up and implementing a whole new process? There are several reasons, and I’ll go over the main ones in this post.
First, “maintenance” has been expanding the scope of its responsibility for the past few years, and it was becoming difficult to accurately track our progress in handling these responsibilities using the old system. In 2014, when the hydro project was completed, maintenance assumed responsibility for this asset. This meant that we became responsible for billing power usage, performing regular maintenance, and planning for the major overhauls.
At the end of 2016, maintenance also inherited direct responsibility for over 100 hospital-owned houses. Similar to the hydro, these houses are assets that will have to be kept up long term, including major renovations and eventual demolition and rebuild.
These examples demonstrate a continuing change in the role maintenance plays on the hospital station. In addition to performing demand-type maintenance, the department is also responsible for long-term asset management for housing, hospital equipment, and the hydro, just to name a few. We needed better information than what the old system was able to provide in order to be able to make good decisions regarding these assets. For example, a decision regarding whether to sell an old machine, or keep repairing and using it. The old system technically could provide the data needed, only it would require a tremendous amount of work to make the data useful. In contrast, the CMMS system allows us to view all work done on an asset, as well as the costs associated with that asset. These data help us to make the best possible decisions with the assets that we have.
The second reason we wanted to invest in a new system is that it would help our work process to become more efficient in the long run. The inventory of materials and spare parts is now maintained by the same program that is used to record work orders and manage assets. We now implement a parts check-out process to ensure that every part that leaves the storeroom is correctly recorded. Also, instead of recording their time on the multiple work orders they worked on, every worker now has a single sheet to record his time.
These new processes encourage our workers to take responsibly in accounting for all of the resources they use to perform a job. They also make the process easier. Contrast simply writing down a part number and work order number on a check-out sheet with having to find the price from one of many places to write on the work order log sheet. When it comes time to bill a completed work order, instead of having to re-enter all of the materials and labor used to complete the work order, Ruth simply has to click “Complete” and send the electronic report to the finance office (this will be made easier when the network project is completed).
The third reason we chose to make this change is that we wanted to ensure that we were performing preventative maintenance on all of the equipment that required it. The CMMS program allows us to schedule maintenance on an asset, such that a preventative maintenance work order is automatically requested at a specified interval. We are also able to manage our inventory and maintain the required parts on-hand to perform these maintenance tasks. That way we don’t open up a machine only to find that we don’t have the parts needed to finish the job.
How is it working so far?
We are still working on getting kinks out of the system, so we haven’t noticed any remarkable improvements. However, some workers have commented that they are finding the new method of recording time and materials easier. After one more month, once our inventory overhaul is complete, we should notice that it is much easier to find and record materials. Right now Max and Ruth are struggling to enter all the inventory check-out sheets because not all of our inventory has been entered into the system. Instead of just adding parts to work orders, they have to add new parts, find prices when they are missing, and perform impromptu counts to update the database. Getting the electronic inventory up-to-date has been our top priority this month. However, it has been complicated to complete this while also keeping up with the day-to-day tasks. If all goes well, we should be finishing this job tomorrow!