How do you define World Class Maintenance?

DPA Insights

You’d probably agree that striving for World Class Maintenance status (WCM) is a good thing. It may even be in your mission statement. We all want to be the best of the best, that’s a given, but what exactly does it mean and how do we know when we get there?

An athlete knows there are world records to beat because records in any given event are measured in seconds or pounds or feet. These metrics signal if the athlete has beat previous records, elevating her or him to ‘world class’. In business, organizations such as Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s rate companies from AAA (world class) through D. Again, these services use generally accepted measures that let companies know when they achieve “world class” status.How do you define World Class Maintenance?

Given all the engineering and metrics involved, one would expect a similarly crisp, uniform, yes/no definition of WCM, right?

Try this: do a Google search for “world class maintenance”. I did, and got about 586,000,000 results (in .24 seconds, no less). Scan through some of the results. Do you see any common references cited or any uniform definition of WCM? Me neither.

To be fair, there are many consulting and engineering firms, ours included, that provide services for improving maintenance effectiveness and efficiency to their own definition of ‘world class’ and virtually all have a set of benchmarks they use to assess maintenance performance.

Here are some common examples of ‘world class’ performance from a much larger unofficial list that seems to have been developed by consensus over the years:

  • Maintenance Schedule Compliance > 90%
  • Maintenance Overtime < 5%
  • Maintenance Direct Work >75%
  • Planned Maintenance Work > 90%
  • PM schedule compliance is 100%.
  • Percent of work covered by a work order =100%
  • Work order actual hours / work order hours planned = 90 – 110%
  • Equipment Availability =90%+
  • Equipment Productivity =95%+
  • Overall equipment effectiveness =77%+
  • And so on…

Some say WCM means being in the top 5% of certain metrics. Certainly it would be great to be way up there but should that be the only measure of WCM? Or is this more akin to being the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind – you’re up here only because everyone else is down there?

In other words, is WCM just the result of achieving benchmarks that others don’t? What if the grading is not on the curve, as it were? My old math teacher used to say he didn’t care how well we did against each other but against the right answers. No one was guaranteed an A for answering more questions correctly than the rest of the class.

From the 4th page of search results I found this gem that goes more to the point:

“But there are no world-class maintenance organizations. Rather, there are world-class industrial organizations that include a world-class maintenance organization. Maintenance, by itself, is a service provider dependent on the support and cooperation of other departments. When that service is exceptional, it is made that way because maintenance is operating in an environment that requires that it be exceptional. Managers have created an environment in which maintenance can be exceptional.” – ‘World-class Maintenance: An Ambitious Worthwhile Goal’, By Paul D. Tomlingson, published in Coal Age, 14 April 2014

The quote was about the mining industry but it could have been said about any maintenance organization. I think this illustrates one of two key points I want to make about WCM:

  1. WCM is not just about the maintenance practices of the maintenance organization in a vacuum. It is about the way the entire organization uses all the means at its disposal to protect its ability to produce exceptional value for its customers.
  2. WCM is a journey, not a destination; a process, not a product.

There is no shortage of metrics, benchmarks, and strategies to help keep you on the WCM path of continuous improvement. But as the quote above suggests, exceptional performance comes from being part of an organization that requires it. This means we’re talking about having a WCM mindset that requires nothing less than excellence in all facets of maintenance and the production of value for the customer.

Does your company do all it can to consistently enable excellence within your maintenance organization? Do you have a WCM mindset?

Now we want to hear from you. Tell us about your WCM journey and the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you do to maintain a culture that supports WCM?


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Steve Mueller is Director of Operations for Daniel Penn Associates. He is responsible for project development, management and the delivery of results for our private sector clients. Steve has over 30 years consulting experience.

For more than 30 years, Daniel Penn Associates LLC has worked with maintenance organizations in healthcare, private industry, services and government. We offer consulting services that help you get lean, reduce costs and optimize your supply chain. Learn more at danielpennn.com.

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