Building blocks for successfully implementing Smart Maintenance

Maintenance has ended up on the strategic agenda for many industrial companies in line with the development of digitalisation. Many companies want and need to be developed to work with Smart Maintenance - an organizational design for maintenance in a digitalized industry. Smart Maintenance is based on four key principles:

  1. Data-driven decisions, i.e. make decisions based on data
  2. Wider competence profile such as social capacity and cooperation
  3. Internal integration, i.e. more collaboration within the company
  4. External integration, i.e. increased collaboration with others outside the company.

Implementing Smart Maintenance and these four key principles can be equated with an innovation of the maintenance organization where both managers and employees are committed and interested in taking maintenance to the next level. There are mainly five components, or building blocks, that need to be taken into account when implementing Smart Maintenance:

  1. Relative advantage – to be able to understand and describe the benefits of Smart Maintenance.
  2. Compatibility – to get Smart Maintenance to fit in to the organization.
  3. Complexity – to keep down the complexity of development work.
  4. Trialability – to gradually implement new technologies, working methods etc.
  5. Obeservability – to continuously monitor and show progress.

Below is a deeper description of each building block, including examples of how you can work with these to achieve an organizational innovation in maintenance - and succeed in implementing Smart Maintenance.

Relative advantage is about the ability to understand and describe the benefits of Smart Maintenance. There has long been a need (and a challenge!) In the industry to quantify the value of maintenance. For this, researchers have developed a number of different methods and models to make it easier to calculate the value of maintenance, the cost of lack of maintenance, categorize different maintenance waste, etc. Some examples are "Cost of poor maintenance", "Life cycle profit", and models for to calculate how vibration-based maintenance can increase both product quality and productivity. These models can definitely be used to support and describe the benefits of Smart Maintenance - but what really matters for organizational innovation is to believe in benefits. Here, the maintenance manager plays a central role that needs to communicate the need and benefits of Smart Maintenance - both up to the management and to the employees. Overall, the maintenance manager has a key to ensuring that all building blocks are taken into account.

Compatibility is about shaping the work with Smart Maintenance so that it fits into the current organization. In the event of too great a gap between new ideas and current values ​​of the organization and its individuals, there is a great risk of resistance. Thus, it is important to meet the organization and its individuals where they stand here and now. One way is to take advantage of employees' ideas about development and improvement activities - they often have lots of good ideas that can develop the organization and working methods. But to identify which activities are relevant right now, it is important to have a picture of the organization's current situation. There are a number of different tools that can help with this, e.g. maintenance audits, maturation models for digitization, Smart Maintenance assessment (SMASh) and digitization stairs. When you know your current situation, it is easier to form a suitable plan going forward. This plan is then advantageously developed together with employees, e.g. in workshop format. Well-designed workshops have the ability to create engagement, as employees get a chance to express what is important to themselves. Another part of compatibitliy relates to a particular challenge for the maintenance organization: to attract competent staff. It is especially difficult to attract young people, newly trained to the maintenance organization, as they often equate maintenance with heavy work, oil and dirt. Many want to work with the latest technology and make demands on personal development. Here it is up to the maintenance manager to convey that Smart Maintenance is about working with the latest technology and that it is continuously developed, ie. meets the expectations of many competent potential employees for the employer as well as values ​​of constant development. This also makes it important to have individual goals and a development plan for maintenance staff.

Complexity simply means not to bother with it - keeping the complexity of its activities down, and the plan in general, increases the chances of successful implementation. Understanding your current situation and why and what you want to achieve with your improvement initiatives can help keep complexity down. Working in a structured way with a defined concept, such as Smart Maintenance with its four dimensions (data-driven decisions, collective competence, internal integration, external integration) is also an advantage, instead of running on a number of different technologies without understanding how these technologies should help the organization as a whole. However, one should not be afraid to take on difficult or complex tasks, but it is important to do things in the right order. Start with what feels easy and advance as it goes - which leads us to the next building block.

Trialability relates to the ability to divide implementation into small steps. Organizational innovations in particular tend to have better outcomes if the implementation is divided into stages, where new technologies and working methods are implemented gradually to devote time to learning the new. If you have had a workshop to identify improvement and development activities (see compatibility), these can advantageously be placed in a roadmap where low-hanging fruit comes first. Start small - test - scale up - take the next step. This may sound rather banal, but this is especially important for small companies that may be discouraged by Smart Maintenance, that it is "too big", "not for us", "overpowering" etc. You should remember that you can work with different levels of Smart Maintenance. To take an example: working with data-driven decisions can range from manually measuring and analyzing vibration signals to using automatic data collection and advanced AI. Regardless of level, there is room for improvement - but take it with the steps you master. Start e.g. not with advanced AI unless the maintenance system is fully used.

Observability is about the ability to follow up and continuously show progress. Many organizational innovations fall precisely due to lack of follow-up and feedback. In order to maintain the motivation among those involved, continuous feedback is needed on how things are going - both with the planned activities and what effect the work has had so far. However, this is something that is often forgotten or ignored - but it is very important as it is not at all as easy to follow an organizational development compared to a physical/technical installation by just "looking" at it. When it comes to measuring effects, many people ask themselves what to measure when working with Smart Maintenance. There are a lot of key figures to choose from, and the problem in organizations is that too many key figures are often measured and followed up. This is not unique to maintenance, but the maintenance organization needs to review which key figures are used and select the ones that link to the company's overall goals. Especially important when working with Smart Maintenance is to integrate the use of key figures. Smart Maintenance is expected to lead to a number of more effects than the classic key figures technical availability, MTTF, MTTR, etc. It is also expected to lead to financial performance at company level, better security, attractive workplaces and satisfactory work to name a few examples. It may not be the maintenance organization's primary task to monitor the number of people applying for each position (a measure of how attractive the workplace is). However, this should be in their interest, especially given the challenge of attracting competent employees (see compatibility). Thus, the maintenance manager, or another person in charge, should follow this up with the HR function. Similar reasoning can be used to follow up key figures together with operation / production and quality. It is only then that you can see in its entirety what effects Smart Maintenance contributes.

Camilla L
Camilla Lundgren

This article was written by Camilla Lundgren from RISE (Research Institutes Of Sweden)


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This article is categorised as Intermediate  |  Published 2022-05-13  |  Authored by Maja Eriksson