Maintenance & Reliability Consultants - Why Use Them?

Its very simple. There is an old saying attributed to a wise man from long ago. I will paraphrase it, "A prophet is not welcome in his own town". Unfortunately this piece of wisdom is true in most businesses today especially when viewed from the lens of the maintenance organization.

Over the years maintenance has taken on a persona that it is not a core business function. Worse yet, it is often viewed as a"cost", necessary evil, and, for some, a place of exile. For those who are unenlightened the maintenance organization is viewed as primarily a service organization whose function in life is to respond to the demands of the production or operations team. With this type of appreciation maintenance might as well be outsourced to a "body shop".

A body shop is a maintenance company that makes their living by providing bodies to a client to perform maintenance. Because their margins are so "tight" they make their money by maximizing the bodies on the shop floor. This type of arrangement is counter and opposed to a companies business strategy to lower operational costs while maximizing production, throughput, and availability.

I digress. So maintenance has been relegated to the basement of the business. In some cases the maintenance organization is so far down the food chain that some managers are sent there for punishment. Now you have set in motion a set of organizational beliefs and stereotypes that maintenance is evil. They are evil because they are a cost. If the business could they would outsource. Fortunately there are a few sages left in the business who know this can't work. For years they have been telling the management team that if they would develop a coherent maintenance and reliability strategy the company could lower costs and increase uptime and most likely improve quality and safety. It's fallen on deaf ears.

This is where an experienced maintenance and reliability consultant provides value. Not just a little but in some case the consultant can act as powerful catalyst for creating change and jump starting the organization in their journey to achieve excellence.

Here is how it works: the consultant by their nature is an outsider. If you hire one who is recognized professionally and has a track record of success he brings in credibility and experience that management does not have in most cases. Because of their background and authority he/she most likely will get the ear of the managers.

In most instances the consultant will want to conduct an assessment of the business and gather some metrics from the processes, plus collect some financial figures. In most cases this will be enough to build a business case. In addition interviews with the maintenance team can provide valuable insight into where the opportunities for improvement are at and their impact on the business if improved. This will be essential when describing the current situation and building a business case to sell to management.

Once the consultant has assembled a business case to sell to management the next step is to get him an audience with the senior leaders in the organization. The higher up the better. Maintenance needs to be brought to the table with the rest of the organization. If the consultant has done their homework, the figures are accurate plus and the information gleaned from interviews is powerful, management will see a strong case for a maintenance improvement effort.

At this point the maintenance manager will probably say "I have been telling them this for years but they haven't listened". My advice to the maintenance manager: accept this as natural and common in many companies. Hitch your wagon up to the consultant and work as a team get your organization heading where you want it to be. You are the prophet not welcomed in his own town. Use "the prophet" from the outside to your advantage.

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