The maintenance industry today faces a huge problem of our own making. Our overreliance on technology and digitization has made us forget that people remain the heart and soul of any plant, facility or manufacturing process.
Managers need to get away from their desks, unplug their IP phones, and step out of their offices to take a long hard look at the teams working to keep their company’s machinery running smoothly.
What maintenance needs today is a smarter, more connected workforce. But giving everyone the latest tech won’t cut it - you need a comprehensive communication strategy to ensure everyone is on the same page. Here are 6 tips to help you achieve that.
1. Speedy, efficient communication matters
It goes without saying that communication is essential to any team, but consider why it is essential to maintenance. Communication is the key to better coordination among team members to spot problems and fix them.
If every team member feels heard, it leads to better morale. This is the natural result of people who feel valued and motivated to contribute more. Higher engagement leads to higher employee retention, which is particularly important to the maintenance industry, with a severe shortage of skilled workers in the maintenance domain. In addition, teams with high employee engagement are 21% more productive than those with low engagement.
In our fast-moving industry, we cannot rely on outdated methods of communication. Maintenance teams should make use of modern communication tools, both software and hardware, to keep each other up to date on the latest changes or activities.
2. Improve access to key data, records
As managers, we spend a lot of time breaking down silos and getting people to share information freely. To make this easier, make a single point of access for data for everyone, from technical sheets to equipment records. This can be achieved by storing all of it online, and giving access to both managers and technicians.
This single-source-of-truth access point makes searching for key data faster, helping improve the response time as well as recovery time. It also lowers the amount of time required to diagnose the problem because the equipment’s work history will be immediately available.
3. Leverage mobility
To take full advantage of having all of your data in one place, the data need to be accessible through a mobile device. Gone are the days of walkie-talkies or manual worksheets. We live in an age where everyone is connected 24/7 through smartphones and other smart devices.
Workers today expect modern solutions to modern communication problems, foremost among them the use of smartphones to share information, collaborate and assign tasks.
Along with mobile devices, consider which technology can be leveraged by your team to boost communication. Tools like Slack and Trello are making team management and collaboration easier than ever, and mobility is a keystone of successful communication strategies.
4. Optimize the workflow
One of the ways to boost communication is by having a more standardized maintenance process. Start by creating balanced maintenance schedules that give everyone time to rest, recover and recharge.
Have a designated communication channel for both regular tasks and emergencies, so that people know how to get in touch when it’s urgent. Don’t expect technicians to multi-task, instead, keep it simple and focused. This will help the team stay focused on their priority tasks.
Consider having a process analyst map your maintenance processes and optimize them, using business best practices. There’s always room for improvement, and some surprising process flaws may come to light.
5. Make use of CMMS
With a CMMS software, you no longer need to waste time waiting for handwritten reports. All the maintenance operations can be tracked and supervised in real time. Information about any equipment can be viewed in just a few clicks.
A CMMS can offer some additional advantages, such as easy access to all the past records of maintenance or repairs, online tracking of all equipment, and real-time reporting of equipment failures.
Other than these, you can check and confirm scheduled interventions with other employees, prepare automated intervention reports, and deliver them to those who need it.
6. Eliminate unnecessary communication
Inefficient communication leads to inefficient results even if your entire team has access to modern equipment. And inefficient communication can lead to delays in production and a fall in productivity, duplication of efforts, and low priority work being done before high priority work due to miscommunication.
Other issues may include missed deadlines, and work delays because critical spare parts run out of stock without anyone knowing.
Poor communications can mean no preventive measures are set out for the team to follow, and also lead to machines and other equipment not being available in the inventory. This in turn causes prolonged downtimes and reported problems not being resolved due to poor documentation.
Clearly, you can’t afford to ignore communication as a major pillar of your maintenance strategy. Inefficient communication can lead to severe consequences for your maintenance team and overall readiness, as it lowers employee engagement, productivity, and retention rates.
On the flipside, focusing on improving communication through mobile devices, communication tools, better processes, and clearly defined plans can significantly boost your company’s competitiveness and profitability.
Getting started isn’t that difficult, either. It’s just a matter of unplugging your phone and stepping out of your office.