Operations & Maintenance

8 Tips on How to Get Ready for The Upturn

Ryan Chan

While things might be slow or paused at the moment, there’s still plenty of work to be done to prepare for the future. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the UpKeep has been reaching out to maintenance experts far and wide to ask for their advice on how to get ready for the recovery. We want to share with you all the tips and tricks we’ve learned from those experts, and also provide you with resources associated with those tips!

In our webinar, “8 Tips on How to Get Ready for The Upturn”, our Manager of Customer Success, Miji Zhou, and VP of Customer Success, Joe Schmitt, share the expert advice to our viewers. You can watch the full recording here:

Below, we have also recapped this session and provided further reading.

Tip #1: Focus on Safety

First things first, in these difficult times, our #1 focus should be on safety.

We talked to Rob Kalrowarosky, a Reliability Engineer and Asset Management Specialist for Enbridge. He’s also the host of Rob’s Reliability Podcast.

He shared this with us,

“To remain productive, you’ve got to remain diligent with safety and sanitation best practices.” 

And we can’t agree more!

According to a recent article from “EHS Today” titled  “Why safety is more important than ever in an economic downturn” they provide a few highlights. 

  1. It’s easier to retain people if employees see their company is committed to safety.
  2. It forms the basis for respectful relationships across the company from frontline to supervisor to manager, and makes union environments easier to navigate.
  3. An employees who believes the organization cares for them:
    1. Are more likely to have sense of ownership in their work.
    2. Accept changes to shift schedules, work assignments and restructuring.
    3. Bring high value to “getting the work done” and keep the focus on their work or customer.

To help everyone out and provide some guidance on achieving your safety goals, here is our Business checklists for safety during COVID-19: Best Practices for sanitation. On this checklists we include some tips on:

  • Hand washing
  • No-Contact food delivery
  • Cleaning checklist for manufacturing
  • Employee health checklist
  • And more!

Tip #2: Maintain Your PM Schedule

According to Florian Ferrier, Industrial Maintenance Innovator,

“This might be a good time to audit or update preventative maintenance tasks information, and document them! Since it is, for me, the biggest actual problem in maintenance…”

And, Doug S., Maintenance and Reliability Manager at Tiger Calcium Service Inc., shared,

“Do not defer your maintenance. Now is the time to ensure you are reliable and ready when this storm passes.”

Florian and Doug are not alone. According to an independent study performed by Whitestone Research in 2013, “Preventative Maintenance Program Comparative Analysis for Criminal Justice Facilities,” providing preventive maintenance, compared to not providing preventive maintenance, saves more than 13 dollars per square foot in maintenance costs over a 10-year period. 

As we approach the upturn and prepare for a recovering economy, now is the time to create the right maintenance program to realize the long-term return on investment.

As a helpful resource, we wrote an article on “7 tips for a better maintenance program“, which include the following suggestions: 

  • Focus PM tasks on specific failure codes.
  • Apply skills where they’re needed.
  • Create efficient routes.
  • Inspect frequently. 

Tip #3: Tackle Backlog

This was a popular one and our customers had a lot of great insight and tips on how they’re handling their backlog and downtime! 

Trevor H., an Equipment Manager at CASS said,

“Get all of your equipment pressure washed/cleaned. Have the maintenance team perform in-depth stress crack searches, fluid leaking and performance evaluation. Then, create a utilization report against what you find.”

Trevor had his team start at 6:00am, and in a few hours found faults/issues throughout their fleet of equipment. 

Next, we talked to Jay Kriner, a CMRP Service Manager at The Conair Group. He told us us to: 

“Complete that pesky backlog of PM’s. Getting the operations team involved gets more items completed and also provides a training opportunity.”

Lastly, we connected with Gregory Mecomber, Maintenance and Reliability Engineer/Consultant. He suggested: 

“Take care of the problems that you’ve become so used to overlooking: knock out that backlog, analyze chronic failures that have been put on the back burner, and take this as an opportunity to optimize your PMs.”

So how should we organize tackling that backlog?

According to an article from Reliable Plant titled “Why Backlogs are Important for Effective Maintenance”, combining all approved work orders into a single backlog can be overwhelming. 

Instead, it should be filtered into consistent segments. Here are some ways to filter your backlog:

Filter 1: Shutdown Work vs Non-Shutdown Work

Shutdown that requires us to pause operations, is work that must stay in the backlog until the appropriate shutdown is scheduled, which may take time.

Leaving this inactive work in the backlog complicates the management of ongoing non-shutdown work, so it should be hidden until the time comes to prepare for the shutdown.

Of course, the preparation work for shutdowns is very important and should be prioritized along with all other non-shutdown work. Separating shutdown and non-shutdown work is also necessary for efficient shutdown planning.

Filter 2: Mechanical and Electrical Work

Grouping your backlog by teams or specialties is a powerful way to provide an effective delegation of tasks. This also would include work for all other categories of maintenance.

One thing to remember, the backlog for a maintenance crew should be limited to the work that applies to that crew. If there are cross collaboration efforts, you should include references and/or include these other team members on those specific work orders. 

Filter 3: Preventive Maintenance vs Corrective Maintenance Work Orders

Preventive maintenance work should be pre-planned and pre-scheduled. 

Any instructions for inspections and other routines should be in CMMS and included in the actual preventive maintenance work orders.

 The work should be automatically scheduled by your CMMS to help keep you in compliance and on track.

Typically, PM work and corrective maintenance require the same resources and need to be scheduled together, but for the purposes of backlog management, they can be separated. 

Backlogs are more easily managed if PM work is filtered until the time comes for it to be scheduled.

For additional resources, we found a great guide from Facility Executive on “How to tackle deferred maintenance and avoid costly downtime”. 

Tip #4: Education and Training

When we asked Bob Amacker, Sales Engineer at IJ White, he said:

“Training, Training, Training!”

He’s a man of few words and he’s right! TrainingZone published a great article called, “Reasons to invest in training during a downturn”. They do a great job of outlining the ‘why’, so let’s start at the top! 

Get it Right the First Time

It’s well known that you reduce costs when you deliver your products or services right the first time, every time. Training your staff to understand this, and importantly, do it, lowers overall costs and improves the experience you deliver to your customers, which then creates revenue.

Keep Employee Satisfaction High

Employee satisfaction directly relates to customer satisfaction and to sales. When bonus payments and pay rises are not in the budget, then training becomes a personal investment that you can make in every employee’s future.

Train Your Managers

Many of them may not have had to manage in tough times before. Investing in management development training builds the skills they need to manage your people through challenging times. It also helps reduce the loss of the best talent from your organization.

Focus on Customer Experience

We are all about customer experience here at UpKeep. I think we all know that retaining loyal customers is much cheaper than finding new ones. Most of the experience that your customers have is driven by your people. Customer experience training can create competitive differentiation and be the deciding factor when customers make critical purchasing decisions.

Spend Less, Get More

When training budgets are being reduced, the best suppliers may be the smaller, innovative companies with great ideas and low overheads. They understand the need to keep budgets tight, deliver great value, and help build for the future. These guys don’t bid the highest price and they don’t charge you to cover the costs of their own big HQ buildings, but they do give you value for money, lower cost per head and a better ROI.

Be Ready for the Upturn

While the virus news may be tough, we will overcome this as a country, and the most successful people and companies will be ready to take advantage of the upturn as soon as it arrives. Retaining and enhancing skills now will mean you’re first to the new opportunities when they come, rather than scrambling around trying to hire back and retrain the talent you lost.

As a resource to help you get you or your employees trained, UpKeep has compiled a list of “Free learning resources for maintenance workers in self-quarantine”. It will help you stay current and keep busy!

Tip #5: Update Your Documentation  

Bruce S., an Operations Manager at Unity International Group, told us this,

“Now is the Perfect time to update, or write a first draft, on your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Emergency Operating Procedures (EOPs) and Preventive Maintenance Instructions (PMIs).”

Let’s go over a good SOP or Standard operating procedure, format.

An SOP is a document used in business and industry to give a consistent set of information and directions to an employee doing a particular job. They’re very helpful for teams of all sizes because they ensure the right work is done no matter which teammate performs the job. 

A good SOP will include the following:

  • An overview of the safety hazards associated with the job.
  • A description of what’s needed to prepare for the job.
  • Directions for performing the job that are clear, concise and can be understood by a trained employee even if he’s never performed this particular job before.
  • Guidelines to follow after completing the work, including how to return to normal operation and what details need to be reported or recorded.
  • And a list of potential issues or problems that could occur, and the normal troubleshooting steps and solutions to apply.

As a resource we’re going to provide you with a great guide we found called, “The recommended method of documenting preventative maintenance“, which should help greatly with your new documentation project!

Tip #6: Set Goals for the Future

Jocko Willink, retired Navy Seal, said it best, 

“Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on discipline.” 

Setting goals and sticking to them requires an enormous amount of discipline. And, now is the perfect time to get into the disciplined habit of creating and sticking to your new goals! 

H.V. MacArthur writes about navigating the unspoken rules in today’s workplace and she recently wrote, “How to set goals that actually work”. She gives you six easy steps to achieving your goals.

Step 1

Identify the three core areas you are responsible for. These should be expansive enough that anything you do during any given day falls under one or more of these areas. Keeping your core areas broad provides flexibility. Instead of your goals being tied to such things as projects or people, they will be tied to the three things you get paid to provide, regardless of any changes that happen in your business.

Step 2

Imagine what success looks like in these three core areas a year from now. Most people build a plan by focusing on putting out the biggest fire in front of them. But, that sets us up to be reactive versus proactive. Instead, build your plan with an eye toward creating positive outcomes in the future, not preventing bad things from happening. 

Step 3

Assess your current reality. Ask yourself, what is the current level of my skills, the organization’s readiness for change, and the available support/resources? 

This is when you decide what is a priority and what is not. Too often, we pick priorities based on timetables (e.g. – what’s the next thing due?) and the proximity of “important” people (e.g. – if that VP thinks it’s important, then it must be!).

You never want to choose a priority based on a deadline. The deadline should always be in service of the priority, not the other way around, because deadlines are made up by people, and they only really matter if they somehow help you create future success for your organization.

Step 4

Determine the key actions needed to achieve results.

Your key actions simply constitute a reference guide or map of where you want to drive your performance throughout the year. But, it is helpful to provide some context for what you’ll be busy doing throughout the next 12 months. Your key actions should consist of tangible activities that you can see. They can include how you’ll use key projects, processes, or responsibilities to accomplish your goals. Always remember, you’re not getting paid for how busy you are; you’re getting paid for your results.

Step 5

Assign an appropriate time frame. When will you be taking key actions and when do you expect to see some or all of the results you are looking for? Your timeframe can be a combination of deadlines, frequencies, and milestones.

Step 6

Write three to five goals that will guide your performance throughout the year.

When writing the goals, use the formula CONTEXT + ACTION + TIMEFRAME = RESULTS.

  • Context: Write a little about the current situation. What are the current challenges or opportunities that you are going to tackle? 
  • Action: List the one or two core actions you will be taking to solve the context.
  • Timeframe: Add the dates you are looking to take those actions within. 
  • Results: Clarify the results that would equal success.

As a resource we’ll provide you with “10 Steps to setting and achieving goals at work”.

Tip #7: Focus on Morale Building Activities 

Our Founder and CEO, Ryan Chan, shared some great thoughts during one of our webinar last week:

During this crisis, keeping the team motivated, focused, and most of all safe was our first priority so we could, in turn, continue to provide value to our customers.”

A happy and healthy team is the main driver of any organization’s success. 

Forbes recently wrote an article titled, “3 ways to keep employee morale up during the COVID-19 outbreak”. Here are some great insights from this article.

Be Intentional About Communications

It’s crucial that leaders don’t get sucked into the panic. Employees look to their leaders and model their behavior especially in times of crisis. Therefore, it’s important they remain calm and manage emotions. 

Employers should keep employees and contractors updated on the situation and invite them to engage in the discussion. To prevent the spread of misinformation through rumors and gossip, companies should only share credible sources like CDC and the WHO.

Relax Policies And Adjust Guidelines

Daycare and school closings threaten to disrupt the daily lives of working families who have no other options for childcare. 

Employers should be empathetic, understanding and flexible as workers try to navigate the unexpected changes to their lives. 

The last thing an employee needs is their employer being rigid about employees taking care of their family until they find an alternative solution.

Mitigate Risk And Educate

The, CEO of Kissflow, decided to bring in a doctor who was also a member of the Diseases and Infection Control Team from a reputable hospital. 

The doctor provided employees with real facts about COVID-19 and helped them to tell the difference between real news and myths around the disease.

The CEO said this helped remove any misconceptions around the virus and employees felt less paranoid as they were equipped with what they needed to do to keep themselves safe.

Last week we hosted a webinar called, “How to keep your team motivated during uncertain times.” It’s filled with resources around keeping your team morale up and in turn keeping your customers happy. 

Tip #8: Stay Positive!

We’re going to end today’s talk with a positive quote! This one is from Ralph Marston: 

“Being positive in a negative situation isn’t naive. It’s leadership.” 

Those were all of our tips and tricks! We hope you found this helpful in preparing you for the upturn!

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