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Setting Maintenance Priorities

Perhaps you, or one of your management team, feel that a better way of setting maintenance work priorities is needed. This usually happens because it seems that important work is not being done as soon as it should, or it appears that maintenance people are working on jobs that are not particularly urgent.

The first step is to ask "Why do we need to set priorities?" From our observations, where there is a strong Maintenance/Operating partnership, maintenance priorities are seldom an issue. Operating people believe in good preventive maintenance and Maintenance people understand what's important to the operation, such as meeting a shipment deadline or conducting a test for a new product. This understanding comes from frequent and honest formal and informal communication within the partnership. With this communication, priorities are very clear and no formal priority-setting process is necessary.

So instead of setting up a priority-setting process, look at the things that may be creating tensions inside the partnership. Often there are conflicting objectives, performance measurements or budgets which encourage the wrong behaviour. For example, if lost production is assigned to Maintenance or Operations based on "who's to blame", then its unlikely that the root cause will be revealed. If the partners focus on the root cause, then the maintenance action that results will have a very clear priority to both partners.

IDCON's new book "Maintenance Planning and Scheduling" provides a risk-based formal priority-setting process which is objective and minimizes the "me first" approach to priorities. However, no formal process is likely to give good results if there is not true agreement on real priorities between Operations and Maintenance. This only comes when there is a strong partnership, with good communication and common, aligned objectives.