There is always room for improvement and I’ll wager if you ask most maintenance professionals they will, without hesitation, agree that their operation isn’t an exception. Every organization is different, special and unique, but maintenance is maintenance no matter where you go. The equipment and the people change, but the core hurdles of maintenance management remain the same. The question is, what are the universal issues maintenance managers face?
- Leadership—Having an effective, active leader is essential for a successful department. Leaders motivate their workers and get the job done. They are able to delegate, to prioritize and to organize. They can see the big picture, and not just the problem in front of them.
Managers must be leaders, willing and able to direct their staff to greatness. Perhaps the most common path to becoming a maintenance manager is simply moving up the chain of command and becoming the highest ranking maintenance person in an organization. While knowing the ins-and-outs of an organization, the people, the equipment, these managers are not always strong leaders or have any background in managing people. Sometimes there isn’t a vision of what the department could be, just a focus of continuing along the well-worn path of maintenance within the organization. In some cases you can coach a person to become a leader. Others just seem to have “it” in their genes. Getting the right person into the maintenance manager position is a critical step in managing a successful maintenance department.
- Culture—Everywhere we go we hear, “we’ve done it for years, why would we change now?”, and “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks”. Change is scary. Change is hard. Change is not always fun. But in today’s competitive world, change is necessary to stay in the game. Culture within a group has deep roots and is often the hardest thing to change but is also the most important. Overcoming objections and negativity in maintenance is often an everyday battle. Fostering a teamwork environment builds morale and community.
- 3. Accountability—Everyone has a job to do and often we get so busy there is limited follow up to make sure the job was completed properly or fully. Even the most dedicated worker may have trouble completing tasks if s/he doesn’t see the value in fully finishing the project or knowing that the work will not be reviewed. As maintenance managers it is vital for employee morale as well as our own well being and the well being of the facility to make sure people are held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.
- Communication—Whether you have three maintenance shifts or just one, it is vital that communication is open and flowing freely. One shift cannot effectively complete their tasks without knowing what happened on the previous shift. Maintenance personnel cannot fix a broken machine if they don’t understand the operator’s complaint. As a manager, if you cannot relay to your staff what you expect to be accomplished, nothing is ever going to get done. And similarly if you cannot communicate your needs to upper management, things will not improve.