Maintenance: Best and Worst Practices

What to Start, and Stop, in Your Maintenance Department
A maintenance department can experience unexpected battles, resulting in an upsetting loss or a well-earned victory.  The practices and values that play out on a day-to-day basis can help predict the end results.  To be able to run the maintenance department as a well-oiled machine, there are several “do’s” and “don’ts” that take place. Having worked with different companies and with people at all levels within the organizations I have learned the key do’s and don’ts of maintenance.


  1. Have clear communication amongst EVERYONE – Having had the opportunity to speak with people in all job classifications, from the CFO down to the maintenance technicians themselves, I have  noticed a disconnect in the communication chain. Getting everyone involved and on the same page is KEY to making successful changes, implementations, and for positive growth in the maintenance department.  With clear communication on what your goals are, and how to accomplish them, an organization will likely see positive changes in a relatively short amount of time.
  2. Make realistic goals – Only make goals for your team that can be met.  There is nothing wrong with having optimistic goals, but do not create unrealistic expectations for the department; instead, make sure all your plans can be met within guidelines that you have set, providing everyone the chance and the tools that are needed to be successful.  Hard work will be a key component, but feeling the success  of meeting a given goal will help give the department an positive attitude on their next project.
  3. Have a P-L-A-N — Many maintenance managers have found that the biggest challenge they face is preparing for “what’s next.”  There may be a general idea of what should be happening, but until it is written down and assigned with SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) it is often not executed properly or at all.  Having a good PLAN can help prepare the entire operation for what’s happening next.
  4. Move outside your comfort zone – Many departments today still follow a very “old school” approach; it has always been done this way.  With all the changes in technology, maintenance departments can really take advantage of these opportunities and have their work looked at as more of a profit center than a cost center.  This will most likely mean many will have step outside of what they are used to and try new things.  Without risk, there is no reward.
  5. Continue education – Keep everyone updated on what’s happening within the department.  If a new procedure  has been instated, make sure everyone is properly trained on it.  If a new piece of equipment, including software, is introduced, have the entire team learn exactly what is involved with using it and its safety precautions. This will diminish confusion or uncertainty.


  1. Lead with force– Having a negative or aggressive attitude from company leaders (or other colleagues) can cause conflict and lack of trust amongst coworkers. Don’t start the day thinking you have to force something onto others in order for compliance or success; this will only fan the flames! Instead, try leading with well vocalized expectations consistently and follow up on those expectations.
  2. Expect miracles or change overnight – It is possible to teach old dog’s new tricks, but thinking they’ll get it on the first try is another story.  When implementing anything new (machinery, procedure, software, etc.), from what is currently commonplace can cause confusion for a while. Don’t expect everyone to know everything right away, and don’t pressure them to know the new procedure, machine, or software immediately.  If something doesn’t instantly turn out the way you want it to, don’t sweat it.  It takes time to make a difference.
  3. WAIT – Procrastination happens to the best of us, but it doesn’t have to every time. When writing down your goals and plans, make sure you are also keeping track of when things are completed.  Once dates begin to be pushed back, it is easy to watch as more and more items continue on that path. Don’t get caught on that slippery slope!
  4. Make assumptions – This ‘don’t’ runs hand–in-hand with clear communication.  Just because you think your co-worker or manager is doing something, doesn’t mean the task is getting done.  Assuming anything is “taken care of” or completed properly can lead to consequences including missed assignments, delayed procedures, safety hazards or worse. It is never a bad idea to triple check!
  5. Forget to enter data and/or records –It makes no difference what your role is, logging work completed and work to be done is vital for any maintenance department. Organization is key. Logging data on a regular basis will minimize the amount of information omitted or recorded incorrectly.



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