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KPI Metrics to Improve Your Maintenance Department

July 2, 2024
Focus on these seven metrics that will have an outsized effect on your organization.

You probably already track key performance indicators (KPIs), such as meantime between failure (MBF), unscheduled downtime, work order completion rate, and work order backlog. If not, you should — and in your CMMS, you probably have many options to choose from.

On the one hand, looking at a lot of KPIs can produce a sort of numbness where you can’t really dig into one to improve it. On the other, even with all the KPIs that are normally used, you are missing some important metrics that can have an outsized effect on the maintenance department and the plant as a whole.

Try using these seven metrics. It might be good to pick one to focus on until you’ve got a good handle on it, then add a second until you’ve got a good handle on it. Then keep adding until you have them all.

Critical equipment downtime response time

Suppose a machine is responsible for 20% of revenue and the company can sell everything made by that machine. The perceived downtime for this machine is exponentially greater than it is for a machine that barely adds to the plant’s revenue. You want the perception to be that maintenance is “on it” rather than “we are waiting on maintenance.” Have a dedicated emergency contact, such as a crew leader or maintenance supervisor available by radio. Ideally, this person will arrive at the equipment in less than two minutes. He or she can begin the initial analysis, talk with the operators, and prep the area (move boxes, etc.) while the cavalry is on the way.

Operator happiness grade

When a maintenance tech performs a PM or responds to a trouble call, how does the operator feel? In the typically technical world of maintenance, this seems like a silly metric. In the real world of corporate politics, it’s a critical metric. Residential service firms long ago figured this out, and they do things to get a good score. These include listening to the operator (e.g., homeowner), asking questions about the problem, having a professional demeanor and appearance, cleaning up behind yourself, and doing a thorough job so there’ s no callback.

Maintenance tech professionalism grade

Each supervisor needs to assess his or her reports for their professionalism. How do they dress, and what is the condition of their clothes (especially notice if shoes are shined or not)? This is taken directly from the residential service industry playbook. It makes a huge difference in the confidence your customers have in that tech and in your department. When a given tech speaks, is it in a manner that respects and reassures the operator? Is this person generally positive? Any maintenance tech who chronically complains or badmouths management is not behaving professionally. 

ROI score for purchases

When you make purchase decisions on test equipment or tools, are you looking to get by with the least expenditure or do you seek to invest for the best outcome? For example, going up $80 on a DMM purchase to get a particular feature that would likely reduce troubleshooting time by $3,000 per quarter makes more financial sense than saving the $80. 

The problem is the savings go into the production budget while the investment comes out of the maintenance budget. If you provide a quarterly report to the plant controller, plant manager, and heads of the production departments with the raw numbers and this particular score, then maintenance is properly credited. Providing this particular set of math to the people who have direct influence over your department’s budget and your own future with the company is well worth the time.

Training effectiveness score

Training can be expensive, not just in the price paid for it but in the cost of pulling people out of the work pool to participate. Ideally, you could send everybody to every kind of training and have a crackerjack A-team. But in the real world, you must make choices. When evaluating training options, tie a given option to particular equipment and estimate the revenue saved and repair costs saved due to that training. For completed training, do the same thing using actual data instead of an estimate. There’s a bit of an art to this because you must be able to identify where a given tech took longer due to lack of training and where a given tech took less time due to having the training. Ask people to provide this information when completing their work orders.

Maintenance tech turnover

If you are not retaining people, you have a serious problem that will cause all of your metrics to degrade. Some turnover is to be expected. Talk with your HR rep to find out what that expectation should be for the area where your plant is located. Ask about ways to reduce the turnover rate. You’ll probably get a response along the lines of it’s almost never about the money, which is true. The main reason people leave their current position is they do not feel appreciated. Yes, some will leave for higher pay and some will leave for advancement. But generally, the social aspect of work (belonging to the team) has a strong tribal pull.

So how do you make people feel appreciated? Tossing around generalized compliments is not among the ways to do that. Instead, make a point of asking people about their work. Then compliment them on something specific. When they have a complaint or suggestion, don’t dismiss it. Show an interest by asking for more information. And, if warranted, act on it.

One highly-validating way to address a complaint is to respond with, “Show me.” Always focus on that person as if they are the most important person you will meet that day. Even three minutes of this can work wonders. If you have no time to listen further, interrupt the person and say something like, “Not because of anything you said, but I am late to a meeting already. Can you please send me an e-mail about it later today? This sounds important and I want your input.”

If it’s a safety concern or an issue with environmental danger, stop whatever you are doing, and address the problem. Never table one of these problems, even if you are running late. Anything else can wait. If you don’t understand this principle and act in some other way, the disrespect you communicate will feed the “I hate this place” vibe like nothing else can.

Safety and regulatory compliance rate

This is the most important metric of all. Even if you score perfectly on everything else, a single major event can be catastrophic. Chronic violations are chronic failures, and they should not happen.

Check your safety program documents. Are they clearly worded? Do they comply with 29CFR1926 (OSHA) requirements?

Watch what people do in the plant. Randomly conduct “no penalty” safety audits of people as they work. Are they using solvent to clean parts and then disposing of it in the waste oil drum? That’s an EPA violation. How many ladder safety errors can you spot in a 30-minute walk through the plant and admin offices?

Learn from incident reports. What safety failures added up to this injury on the job? Identifying those will instruct you as to where training must be beefed up.

Make everyone a safety and regulatory compliance officer. Teach people not only what must be done for compliance but how to check compliance by their coworkers. It’s easy to make a mistake or forget, so if your coworker can coach you when you make a mistake (or vice versa), then everyone is better off. DuPont pioneered this practice with their safety training observation program (STOP). It hasn’t fueled conflicts between employees. On the contrary, it has helped employees work better together through the shared responsibility and respect that are core aspects of the program.

About the Author

Mark Lamendola

Mark is an expert in maintenance management, having racked up an impressive track record during his time working in the field. He also has extensive knowledge of, and practical expertise with, the National Electrical Code (NEC). Through his consulting business, he provides articles and training materials on electrical topics, specializing in making difficult subjects easy to understand and focusing on the practical aspects of electrical work.

Prior to starting his own business, Mark served as the Technical Editor on EC&M for six years, worked three years in nuclear maintenance, six years as a contract project engineer/project manager, three years as a systems engineer, and three years in plant maintenance management.

Mark earned an AAS degree from Rock Valley College, a BSEET from Columbia Pacific University, and an MBA from Lake Erie College. He’s also completed several related certifications over the years and even was formerly licensed as a Master Electrician. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and past Chairman of the Kansas City Chapters of both the IEEE and the IEEE Computer Society. Mark also served as the program director for, a board member of, and webmaster of, the Midwest Chapter of the 7x24 Exchange. He has also held memberships with the following organizations: NETA, NFPA, International Association of Webmasters, and Institute of Certified Professional Managers.

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