December 6, 2022

| 3 min read

How data fuels greatness in maintenance

Data has become one of the most valuable assets a business can have. Data isn’t just numbers—it’s bigger than that. It adds credibility, helps solve problems, and influences decision-making. In short, it’s what makes good teams great and great teams the best.

For proof, you just need to look at the world of sports and the rise of the Moneyball approach to winning. For example, the MLB’s Oakland Athletics use data to find opportunities to increase their on-base percentage by a few points and win more games. And F1 teams use data to run simulations of every race to find ways to cut half a second per lap, helping teams go from the middle of the pack to a podium spot.

These teams all have one thing in common: They use data to create little advantages that they can keep using to improve until they become the best again.

In this article, you’ll learn how your maintenance team can copy this approach to data so it can achieve greatness.

Bridging the gap between good, great, and the best

“Going from good to great is one thing. Getting from good to great is huge, it’s a big deal, I’m not going to minimize that, and it takes a lot of effort. But going from ‘great’ to ‘the best’ is significantly harder,” says Stuart Fergusson, Director of Product Management at Fiix.

Going from a plant with no planned maintenance to 50% is no small feat. But getting a team to 50% is only half of it (literally). It’s much harder to bring planned maintenance to 80%. Once you’ve tackled all the obvious areas of improvement, you’re left with opportunities that are hard to see, changes that are hard to implement, and outcomes that are hard to measure.

This is where maintenance teams need to lean on data to make these opportunities more obvious. Whether it’s looking at the historical data of an asset to predict where failure might occur, or looking at work orders to calculate total labor hours. Data gives us the ability to improve our maintenance program with confidence.

Examples of going from zero,50 to 80% improvement in maintenance

Examples of going from zero,50 to 80% improvement in maintenance

Focus on the power of marginal gains

Marginal gains are all about finding ways to get one percent better every day, every week, and every month across multiple areas.

To understand the impact of marginal gains, let’s look at another example from sports. If a cyclist in the Tour de France can reduce air resistance by one percent, it could help them cut 15 minutes of their time through the entire race. Reducing that resistance by what seems like an insignificant number is often all that is needed to take them from the middle of the pack to the top three.

But getting that result isn’t always easy. To make the change, the cycling team would have crunched numbers and analyzed trends to look for opportunities where small adjustments could be made.

Now, let’s apply that same process to maintenance. Getting your team to be just two minutes quicker at shift changeovers might not seem like a big deal. But the data tells us that getting two minutes quicker has a big impact, it could mean the difference between completing a big order or not over the course of weeks.

Quicker changeovers to more throughput pyramid chart

Discover seven steps for building a maintenance analytics program by starting small

How to use data to find opportunities for improvement

Now that we have a good understanding of how marginal gains works, it’s time to look at how to find those opportunities for improvement in a process that’s scalable and repeatable.

Start with a goal: Having a goal to work towards is the first step of the process. It could be something like reducing waste across your facility. You could have multiple goals at the same time, but for this, we will stick to one.

Identify KPIs and metrics: For marginal gains to work, you need to have measurable KPIs and metrics to track. For this example, the KPI may be the facility’s scrap rate and cost of wasted material.

Pick a system to collect and monitor the data: The easier it is to track the data, the more you will do it. While you can collect data in filing cabinets and spreadsheets, it requires more work and is prone to human error, like inputting a number wrong. There are many options, but a CMMS can make the process easier, so you have access to the data you want when you need it.

Look at factors that could impact your KPIs: Look at factors that would affect production levels, like components that are deteriorating, repaired, or replaced incorrectly. These result in more scrap and rework and wasted time. From here, your teams can determine whether or not it’s feasible to make changes by looking at metrics like cost and time.

How to make them one percent better: Examining past trends in the data can pinpoint where to make small improvements. For example, it could be that adding one extra inspection on an asset catches a repair that was causing the quality of products to go down. That extra repair could lead to a one percent reduction in scrap for the month.

Rinse and repeat: Once you’ve gone through the process once, consider experimenting with other areas of your facility.

Marginal gains chart

Opportunities for marginal gains in your maintenance program.

Everything you just read in five sentences

By just logging the day-to-day task that your team is doing anyway, you’ve already accumulated a lot of valuable data. Each work order you log, each part you use, the labor hours your track, and the cost of repairs are all valuable data points that can be improved. Just like the sports teams we mentioned earlier, they didn’t get from good to great to the best overnight. They did it step by step, implementing change slowly with the marginal gains approach and using the data to guide their decision-making. And before you know it, you’ve gone from good to great to the best.

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