As the maintenance lead, you know it takes the right combination of tools and techniques to increase asset reliability and avoid downtime.
And you might think it’s the same with keeping techs happy and motivated. But with maintenance team management, it’s more than just finding a balance between the carrot and the stick.
It makes sense to start by asking "What are the goals of maintenance team management?"
But it makes more sense to start with an even more basic question: What is maintenance team management?
What is maintenance team management?
Maintenance team management is the collection of processes and policies you put in place so you can work with a focused team that consistently delivers the best possible results using the least amount of time, money, and effort.
How to lead a maintenance team?
It's related to all the ways you manage the maintenance team, including how you:
- Define their roles and responsibilities
- Schedule and assign tasks
- Track the quality of their work
- Support their professional development
- Provide clear, actionable feedback
- Reward good behavior and discourage bad
- Set an example through your own actions
That's a lot to manage, and while everything is important, you can make a lot of progress by focusing on motivation. Why?
When your team is unmotivated, getting them to do anything, even things that benefit them directly, becomes an up-hill battle.
How do you motivate a maintenance team?
The classic motivation metaphor is the carrot and the stick, where the carrot represents the rewards, while the stick represents the punishments. The idea is that with the right combination of things to work toward and things to run away from, your team stays motivated.
It's a great image. But according to recent research, it's not how motivation works. In fact, when it comes to their jobs, most people don't care that much about money. Instead, they want independence, opportunities to improve, and a sense of purpose.
As the head of the maintenance team, you can create a workplace that delivers all three.
PMs for independence
This one can be a challenge because in some ways, the department should be closely "micromanaging" what the techs are doing. The only way a maintenance schedule works is if the techs do the work they've been assigned, in the right order. The last thing you want is for your techs to come in each day and decide for themselves what they're going to do.
And you also don't want them deciding how they're going to do it. The benefit of having standard operating procedures in place is that regardless of who's doing the work, they're always doing it the same way. It needs to be just like the last time they did it. And, just like the last time anyone else did it.
Consistency is how you get quality. And in cases where the SOPs for a specific maintenance task are less than ideal, it's still important that everyone follows them. Otherwise, you get inconsistent results, making it harder to work backward to improve the SOPs.
But you can get around this by taking a step back and looking at why people want independence, which is that it gives them a sense of control. So, if you set up a system where techs feel like they are more in control, they are happier at work.
And in maintenance, a good preventive maintenance program helps everyone feel like they are in control of what work they do and when they do it. When you make the switch from reactive, failure-based repairs to proactive, preventive maintenance, your techs feel more in control of their time.
SOPs for improvement
Having clear SOPs for all you regular maintenance tasks has another benefit: it makes it a lot easier for techs to learn new skills.
Instead of having to track down senior techs who can explain everything to them, any tech can look up the associated parts and materials, safety hazards, checklists, and step-by-step instructions for inspections and tasks.
And because they have more opportunities for self-improvement, they're happier in their jobs, more motivated.
The process of collecting and structuring the information you need for the SOPs is also a good way to help techs feel like they have control over their work. Instead of using a standard top-down process, you can do everything collaboratively, encouraging your techs to contribute their ideas. In the end, you get to capture the department's "tribal knowledge," while also giving the techs a sense of control over how they work.
KPIs for purpose
You want to move the department in the right direction, so your first step should be finding ways to clearly communicate exactly where that is. Once the techs understand the maintenance metrics and key performance indicators you're tracking, they have a better sense of your definition of success.
But they have more than just that. They also now have a sense of purpose, both as a team and individually.
It's important to choose the KPIs carefully, though. You can't have too many, and they all need to be directly related to things techs can control. Remember, there is a direct connection between work motivation and having a sense of control. When techs worry that you're going to blame them for things they couldn't have prevented, they lose motivation.
How to improve maintenance department?
It starts with the data. Modern computerized maintenance management systems make it easy to capture, share, and leverage you data. The key is having a central database where all your data lives. Instead of piles of loose paper and endless spreadsheet email attachments, everything is in one place. And because everyone in the department can access the same data from anywhere, you can stop worrying about anyone being out of the loop.
Once your data is accurate, up to date, and easily accessible, you can help techs feel they have independence, opportunities for improvement, and purpose.
Preventive maintenance schedules
If you're trapped using traditional maintenance management methods, either paper or spreadsheets, setting up and tracking a preventive maintenance program is an exercise in frustration. Because your data is all over the place, work easily slips through the cracks.
Modern CMMS solutions help you set up your PMs on an easy-to-read calendar, where you can see everything all at once. And because you can set the software to automatically generate PMs based on time or usage, you don't have to worry about forgetting critical inspections and tasks
Data-packed work order templates
Planning out your PM work orders in advance is great, but for the system to really work, you also need to be able to pack lots of critical data into each work order. With a good CMMS, you can include:
- Asset maintenance and repair histories
- Customizable checklists
- Step-by-step instructions
- Associated parts and materials
- Digital O&M manuals, images, and schematics
Once you have everything set up in templates, you can add all that useful data to new work orders with just a few clicks.
Autogenerated maintenance reports
Data is valuable in many ways. It helps with the day-to-day operations, but you can also leverage it into actionable insights into your department. Finally, you can see the maintenance big picture. And once you have it, you can share it with the team in the form of maintenance metrics and KPIs, helping them understand where they can improve.
Although maintenance managers know a lot about keeping assets up and running, they might not know as much about keeping the maintenance team motivated. The first step is recognizing that the traditional carrot and stick generally does not work. Instead, research shows that most people are looking for three things from a job: the independence to accomplish goals using their own methods, opportunities to learn and improve, and a sense of purpose. Modern maintenance management software can help maintenance managers implement policies and workflows that motivate techs. By setting up a preventive maintenance program, managers help techs gain a sense of control over their work. Instead of being reactive, they're proactive. To help techs find opportunities for improvement, managers can create a central, easily accessible collection of standard operating procedures so techs can learn about and try new tasks. Finally, by using the software to track and share maintenance metrics and key performance indicators, managers give techs a solid understanding of their current performance as well as clear goals to pursue.