There is a resurgence in the desire to find direction, create vision and support this with good leadership to move the maintenance function forward in South African organisations, says skills and training company Alusani Skills & Training Network course leader Allan Tarita.
“Until recently, there has been a lack of vision, strategy and leadership in the maintenance departments of local companies. There is often limited understanding of the benefits associated with routine work management and preventive maintenance, which form the core of any maintenance function. Preventive maintenance is so important that organisations and business structures are created to support the ongoing health of a business’s equipment,” he says.
Without a good core preventive maintenance programme, companies will not achieve the life-cycle benefits that assets are designed to provide, owing to the high costs of reactive maintenance.
Routine work management is a process through which companies can execute a preventive maintenance programme and implement corrective and breakdown maintenance techniques.
Tarita notes that despite only a few South African organisations implementing a routine work management strategy, more companies are realising that this is a necessary business function to become more cost effective.
“The lack of formalisation with regard to the routine work management process in many organisations’ maintenance departments is another challenge. Often, small or medium-sized maintenance organisations use foremen and supervisors to do maintenance planning and scheduling. This becomes difficult to achieve, as these people are under pressure to attend meetings and perform and deliver with limited maintenance resources in a reactive environment, which is not possible and will result in failure,” he says.
Tarita adds that there needs to be a sepa- rate planning and scheduling department, guided by specific leadership and qualified people who understand the business pro- cesses of the organisation in which they work.
“Good training and solid performance measurements will help ease the unrealistic reliability requirements of enterprise resource planning and computerised maintenance management systems. The answer to maintenance excellence is not in these systems, but through solid business processes, roles and responsibilities, key performance indicators and a commitment to profitability, not only production.
“It is with a profitability mentality that an organisation can discover how maintenance can cause a business to grow and become a strategic competitive advantage, compared with simply being a cost centre,” he explains.
Another maintenance challenge Tarita identifies is the lack of general workmanship among South African artisans, owing to a lack of leadership and managers and leaders not having the time and resources to train personnel, as the daily tasks of running the business require all their time and attention.
“National and provincial governments will not step in to rectify a poor apprenticeship programme. Good artisans come from within companies and artisans, therefore, need to be developed in-house,” Tarita argues.
He also notes that companies have too many meetings that do not have solid agendas and objectives and no gatekeepers, who promote the participation of people in meetings.
“A meeting is like work, it takes work hours to execute and the role meetings play in the daily management of South African businesses needs to be governed by careful consideration, as they unnecessarily tie up human resources,” concludes Tarita.