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Maintenance management information systems.

The success of a maintenance program depends on key people making correct decisions. In turn the value of these decisions depends on the quality, timeliness, accuracy, and completeness of the information on which they are based.

It is the function of a maintenance management information system to convert field data into useful information so that the maintenance department can determine work needed, control the work, and measure the effectiveness of the work done.

Maintenance is emerging from an era in which few mine or plant managers considered it important enough to assign it a clear objective--much less prescribe policies which would ensure that the maintenance program held a vital, integral spot in the mine or mill's overall production strategy.

Recently attention has been given to the phrase "Total Productive Maintenance" (TPM) in which the Japanese have achieved enviable maintenance effectiveness and improved productivity through total plant involvement in maintenance.

Yet the ideas expressed in TPM are the same as the interest that management should take in its maintenance program by including it within the overall production strategy. That strategy, when applied to maintenance, means that everyone in the mine or plant is involved in supporting maintenance and each person can contribute to its success and thus the profitability of the whole of the operation.

Maintenance Management Information Systems|1~ by Paul D. Tomlingson emphasizes the supporting role of management and the involvement of all personnel in maintenance program successes--particularly its information development/utilization.

Not surprisingly, maintenance is getting attention as a result of the popularity of TPM. Yet the attention is also due to the knowledge that maintenance often accounts for over 30% of the operating costs in many industrial plants and its success can assure plant profitability.

Maintenance demands to be managed. The availability and technical advances of data processing have helped to fill this management need beyond the expectations of only a few years ago. But to capitalize on this, the maintenance department must ensure that quality field data is reported so that it can be successfully transformed into the right information and then properly used.

There are some sensible needs that maintenance must meet route to this objective:

* Essential information for the management of maintenance must be correctly identified.

* Field data necessary to produce this information must be properly collected--completely, accurately, and on time.

* A practical work order system must exist to focus this field data into an efficient data-processing scheme, which in turn produces the required information.

* The information once obtained must be presented in useful, easy-to-interpret formats.

* Those receiving the information must utilize it effectively to make correct, necessary decisions.

* An important element of success will be that the maintenance department first establish its information needs and then influence the development actions required to achieve information objectives with active, direct leadership and full participation.

Four phases are necessary to establish an effective maintenance management information system, put it into operation, and to attain improvements as a result of its use. They include:

* Conceptualization--the identification of needs and factors which influence development of the system plus an assessment of support for the system.

* Development--a plan of action for bringing the conceptualized information system to life considering the practical aspects of collecting field data, processing it, and converting it into useful information.

* Implementation--steps by which the newly developed system is integrated into the organization and put in the hands of its personnel so that value can be derived from its use.

* Utilization--the means by which personnel utilize the information to accomplish maintenance improvement objectives.

Since profitability is the mine's ultimate objective, the maintenance information system must in every way insure that maintenance information can support that objective.


Information is the ingredient that holds the maintenance program together. It is the basis for actions to insure maintenance program goals are met. Maintenance information has the primary purpose of gaining control of maintenance activities with three supporting objectives.

First--what must be done?

Study repair history data to learn the pattern of failure and observe the life-span of specific components to guide planners in scheduling their subsequent replacement.

Analyze the pattern of equipment failures to determine the basis for corrective actions which insure that the failure is not repeated.

Second--justification of actions. Why, when, and how much? Use the cost information to determine the highest equipment repair costs. Then, investigate specific problems through repair history in order to make repair decisions.

Observe unit costs. Based on the magnitude of these costs, prioritize units, those which units will receive attention first.

Third--confirming or measuring effectiveness.

Assess the use of manpower and overtime Determine whether materials were used wisely. By observing these trends, confirm how effectively work was done and resources controlled.

Observe the actual costs against the budget and determine the effectiveness of cost-control measures.

Not so many years ago when the master mechanic said "shut it down, we're going to fix it", the equipment was shut down and it was fixed. Today the master mechanic still exists, but he is a less powerful figure. Shut-downs must now be negotiated with the operations department.

Minimum maintenance downtime contributes to optimum equipment availability. Thus avoidance of downtime is a major, valid objective of maintenance. Downtime is the converse of production operating time, and its amount has become a principal index of maintenance performance.

Until recently, maintenance departments were staffed primarily with people who had always been in maintenance. Mine or plant managers placed a premium on the singular talent of "being able to make equipment run again" as a primary qualification for running a maintenance department. The need for managerial skills amongst maintenance supervisors was often overlooked in favor of technical repair skills as a requirement for maintenance supervisor and managers.

Today, and in future, maintenance departments will be more effective as a result of better, more complete and up-to-date information. Information warns the maintenance personnel of problems, helps them predict when actions must be taken, points out failure patterns, excessive costs, and poorly performing units.


Tomlingson focuses on 20 principles of maintenance management. Together they provide an appreciation of maintenance essentials for those who will be involved in the implementation of a maintenance management information system--and aspire to do it successfully. Some of these principles are elaborated below.

Involve plant management in the utilization of maintenance as an integral part of the plant's production strategy. Maintenance is a service. Its primary task is to insure the safe, effective operation of production equipment so that production targets can be met on time and most economically. Maintenance cannot compel production to follow its program, nor can it force staff departments to support it. Caught in the middle, the maintenance department is dependent on plant management to take the steps to insure production cooperation and staff department support for the overall maintenance program.

Clarify the objective of maintenance within the mine's production strategy, and insure policy guidelines are supportive of the assigned objectives.

An effective work-order system must be established. The work-order system is the communications network of maintenance. It is the means by which all types of work are requested, and, thereafter, planned, scheduled, controlled, and measured. It also links with the accounting system bringing field data into the information program. It must have the capability of handling all types of work from routine preventive maintenance (PM) services to unscheduled, emergency, planned, and scheduled work, and even non-maintenance work (such as construction for example).

PM services must be effective. The heart of a PM program is equipment inspection and testing. These services are intended to uncover deficiencies in time to avert emergencies. As major problems are uncovered in advance, there is then time to plant the work. Thus quality PM services afford opportunity to plan more work. In turn, each such job can be carried out more effectively because of the advance preparation afforded by planning. PM services also include lubrication, cleaning, adjusting, and minor component replacement (belts, filters, etc.). PM services are carried out routinely and repetitively, thus, are able to be controlled with a standing work-order.

Figure 1 shows a maintenance labor utilization report that emphasizes this. The manhours reported against categories of work yield a picture of the effectiveness of labor utilization. In the instance illustrated, 7% of manpower spent on preventive maintenance has resulted in 47% of manpower being used on scheduled maintenance while holding manpower spent on unscheduled and emergency repairs to 18% and 12% respectively.

Selected major jobs must be planned to insure better resource use and reduced downtime. Two comparable major jobs, one planned the other unplanned, result in significantly different performance data. The planned job is usually completed with less manpower and less elapsed downtime. Thus the job cost is reduced and the unit can be returned to productive status sooner. Downtime can be three times as costly as the maintenance that could have prevented it.

Scheduling is a joint maintenance department/production department activity. Therefore when major jobs like component replacement are needed, the production department makes equipment available while the maintenance department provides resources to do the work. For routine services like PM inspections, production agrees in advance to the scope of services, their frequency, and to abide by the results of the inspection (e.g. a serious safety deficiency found requiring immediate shutdown and repair). When maintenance and production observe each other's needs and constraints, the scheduling procedure results in the successful achievement of its objective--least interruption of production and best use of maintenance resources.


The phrase "set goals, observe feedback, make corrections, improve performance" is especially meaningful in maintenance, because performance is linked with productivity, and in turn, profitability. When the maintenance department does not measure its performance on a regular continuous basis, needed improvements are not identified or corrected. Thus maintenance makes no contribution to profitability. By contrast, when it measures maintenance performance regularly, improvements take place and maintenance adds to profitability. Therefore the information system must provide correct performance indices.

The establishment of an effective maintenance management information system will have repercussions throughout every level of a mining or processing operations' activity. Management, for example, can determine what information it needs to assess maintenance performance. It can also judge the level of support and cooperation that maintenance is receiving from the production department and staff departments like purchasing.

The operations department will be made aware of essential information it must have and how to use it to get the best value from the maintenance organization and its program.

The maintenance department can evaluate current information systems and determine what must be done to improve them as well as how. Those developing their first information system will see how to conceptualize needs, implement the system, and utilize the information effectively. Planners can better utilize information to perform their tasks. Maintenance engineers can obtain the information necessary to insure equipment reliability and maintainability. Supervisors and craftsmen will see how their actions can contribute to better maintenance.

The accounting department will see the essential interface of its programs with maintenance systems. Similarly, maintenance can express information needs clearly, allowing accounting to better accommodate them.

Warehouse supervisors, purchasing agents, or shop personnel will make a greater contribution to the effectiveness of material control through the accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of the data they provide.


1. Maintenance Management Information Systems, Third Edition 1992, Paul D. Tomlingson. (Available E&MJ Mining Information Services, PO Box 6500, Chicago, IL 60680, United States. Also available in Spanish. Cost $40.00 (overseas airmail $11.50).)

Figure 1


                    PREV   SCHD   UNSC   EMER   NON-    TOTAL
                    MTCE   MTCE   RPRS   RPRS   MTCE    WKFCE

MILLWRIGHT          55     276    102      88     67      588
MECHANIC            46     244     96      66     42      494
ELECTRICIAN         23     122     54      32     46      277
WELDER                      72     58      21     66      217
INSTRUMENT          18      32     30      12     45      137
PIPEFITTER                  48     12       9     12       81
LABORER                    121      6       5     41      173
TOTAL MH           142      915    358     233    319   1,967
DISTRIBUTION (%)     7       47     18      12     16     100
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:E&MJ - Engineering & Mining Journal
Date:Dec 1, 1993
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