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  • MauricioBoada

Risk vs. Resources in Maintenance

When we do maintenance, it is frequent feel like there is a lack of resources to complete all the technically defined needs. However, the problem does not always lie in a lack of resources, but in an inadequate administration of the available resources and its associated risks. This is an even greater challenge when the allocation of resources does not depend directly on the maintenance department. Despite having management tools (for example: RCM), an excessive reduction in resources can erode machine reliability. Therefore, it is important to have a defined criteria and measures of success that are related with the financial result of the organization and are understandable by other areas of the company.

Primarily, it is important that Maintenance Directors understand the context in which the company operates; external and internal factors. The industry in which it operates, market share, country and legislation, are some of the external factors and objectives of the company, financial health, maturity in asset management, labor relations, cost models and method of budgeting, among others, are internal factors. With this in mind, a level of risk can be proposed to discuss with senior management and other internal stakeholders, so that the company's risk appetite within, is aligned.

If we understand the context, agree on the risk that we are willing to assume and define a methodology to measure and predict the risk of each decision (this last point will be discussed in detail in another blog), we can have a framework to determine the activities and resources necessary. It is recommended to be able to measure the risk at the machine level and determine a risk profile for the portfolio of machines that we manage. If we can measure risk at the company, plant, management, line and machine level, the criteria can be aligned across the organization and make it easier to relocation resources to balance the portfolio, when necessary.

The additional tools implemented in maintenance management must also be aligned with the defined risk criteria. For example, one of the key issues is the implementation of analysis methodologies and problem solving. There are hundreds of tools such as parettos, Ishikawa, PDCA, FMECA, 5w, 5W1H, among others, that help us define root cause, impacts, occurrences and possible solutions. These tools are very useful, but when implemented, there is a part of the process that we often don’t close properly: Where do the resources come from to execute the task resulting from the analysis? If we do not have additional resources to execute the tasks, what are we going to stop doing and how do we prioritize it?

Sometimes we assume that resources are unlimited and we focus on executing what was defined as a task to solve the problem (for example, increasing the frequency of an inspection), but later this creates another problem when we don’t have resources to execute other tasks that we thought were doable. This is much more evident, when the analysis comes from another department (safety, environment, production) and we must articulate the management of the root cause and resources with them.

If we align the analysis and problem solving methodology with the concept of risk control, we should be able to ask ourselves questions such as: What resources do we need to eliminate the root cause? Is it a specific effort or does it change our required resource base? Where could we get the resource to execute the task? And what is the risk that it generates in another part of the process? And this, in turn helps create synergies between short-term and long-term goals.

Ultimately, reliability becomes an output of how well we manage the risk of each decision. And the focus of the discussions is on how to find the best relationship between resources and risks.

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