A Guide to Selling the ROI of Maintenance During COVID-19

Answered November 05 2020

selling roi of maintenance

As the world settles into the reality that COVID-19 is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, companies continue to retool their daily operations, revamp their products and services, and, in many cases, reinvent their businesses to survive and thrive in this new market. For those who earn their living in the maintenance industry, that can mean an opportunity to educate owners and management about the return on investment (ROI) that you and your team bring to the table during and beyond the current pandemic environment.

It’s All About Perception

Throughout life, there’s always a difference between perception and reality, and that’s often true in the business world. Even if your maintenance department is doing a great job of cutting costs, reducing downtime, and improving reliability, it can be easy for management to perceive maintenance differently.

Historically, maintenance can be seen as a “necessary evil” or simply as a “cost of doing business.” This is often the perception when maintenance technicians are called in for emergency repairs or other immediate problems. When management and other team members see the reactive side of maintenance, that perception is understandable.

As companies begin to get back to work alongside COVID-19, many changes in communications and processes are occurring. This can be a great time to better communicate and share how your maintenance department is contributing to your business’ future success. You may want to assign communications to a key member of your maintenance team, so it’s a priority as you move forward.

Translate Maintenance-Speak to Business Language

We’re all familiar with jargon that accompanies particular industries and trades. If you’re fortunate to have executives that have some maintenance background, that can certainly help. However, this may not be the typical situation, which makes communicating value all the more important. Maintenance staff may understand terms such as job kitting, wrench time, FIFO/LIFO, and CMMS, but those in the corner office may have little idea of how those things affect the bottom line beyond costing the company money.

Here are some areas that are often top concerns of executives. If you can put maintenance within these scenarios, it can help you gain management attention.

Competitive Advantage

Management teams are frequently focused on their own company’s competitive advantage over other businesses. Organizations that are seeking a comparative advantage will want to drive down costs while those looking for a differential advantage will want to improve equipment efficiency. Maintenance reliability results can be translated into both these competitive advantages.

Health and Safety

For many manufacturing and industrial companies, the health and safety of employees is paramount. Not only is this an important value from a purely human standpoint, but accidents and injuries can be costly to any business. When maintenance efforts can directly improve the health and safety of a workforce, that’s something a management team can clearly understand.

Highlight Cost Avoidance

It’s important to understand that cost avoidance is not the same as cost savings. When the maintenance team “catches” a problem before a major impact occurs such as significant downtime, a major breakdown of critical equipment, or a serious safety incident, that’s cost avoidance. Learning to communicate the savings because “something didn’t happen” is key to illustrating the ROI of maintenance.

Set KPIs

One effective way to better communicate with management is to set measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that are important to your company and will illustrate the maintenance team’s contribution. This may include dollars of maintenance spent as a percent of RAV or the maintenance cost per unit.

Share Successes Broadly

Like many things, boosting understanding and appreciation for maintenance starts with frequent and clear communication. There’s nothing like success to encourage activities that duplicate that success elsewhere. As you move through initiatives that your company is putting in place to deal with the COVID-19 market or operational changes, be sure to share how your team has contributed to the effort. Here are some possible examples:

Avoiding Downtime

Preventive maintenance, scheduled when a production line is not operating, results in optimizing production of a large order. Share the results of eliminating overtime labor costs, avoiding idle labor time, or meeting customer delivery promises.

Reducing Failures

Let’s say you have a critical piece of equipment that fails due to temperature variations. If you install a temperature sensor system that sends an alert when temperatures fall out of range and triggers an immediate work order, you can catch that problem before a loss of product, saving significant money for your company. Talk about it.

Decreasing Costs

By implementing a maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) asset management system, you may be better able to track tools, supplies, and spare parts. Share how this system means fewer overnight emergency shipments, elimination of double purchases, or reduction of shortages during critical periods, all of which translate into dollars.


Over the next year, as companies continue to find their stride in the middle of the COVID-19 business landscape, maintenance teams have an excellent opportunity to share their value and ROI. Management teams will be looking for innovative ways to reduce costs, increase profitability, and run leaner and more efficiently.

In many cases, maintenance departments are already helping companies do just that. However, it’s important that the improved processes, innovative technologies, and reliability initiatives are clearly and frequently communicated. Not only in business language but also illustrated in success stories, so that management and other employees understand the ROI generated by the maintenance team.

Joe Anderson
As an active columnist in Plant Services Magazine, Joe shares his over 25 years experience in plant turnaround for various Fortune 500 companies with the world through his writing. He has also brought humor to the world through his experiences, and it can be seen in the character creation of Captain Unreliability. Captain Unreliability also has a monthly column in Plant Services. He is a CMRP, CRL, CARO, MLT2, MLA1, LSSGB, IAM-55k, CRL Black Belt and was recognized as one of the top 50 leaders in the country by the United States Congress, being awarded the National Leadership Award.

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