Business success doesn’t occur in a vacuum - when an organisation is running like an efficient, finely tuned machine, that’s a good indication that the maintenance department is working its magic away from the spotlight. Put simply, an effective maintenance department structure is key to organisational success.


Understanding the importance of your maintenance department is easy. Ensuring that the moving parts of said department are firing on all cylinders to keep your assets performing at peak levels presents more of a challenge. In most cases, optimal maintenance department structure starts with good organisational design. With this article, we’re going to explore some ways that you can achieve this moving forward.


First Things First – Let's Define Effective Maintenance Operations:


Generally speaking, the maintenance department’s primary responsibility is to keep your assets operational. But let’s add an extra element to this definition:


Your maintenance department should keep everything operational within the scope of your organisation’s budget and goals. A maintenance department structure that ensures peak performance of individual assets while blowing through your budget and wasting employee labour is not effective.


It is well known that preventive maintenance is integral to production and has a material impact on the reliability and uptime of your assets. In fact, according to the Marshall Institute, A Measured approach to Uptime, "It is widely accepted in the maintenance industry that a well-planned Work Order is about 3 times less expensive than the same unplanned reactive Work Order and that Emergency repairs may cost as much as 5 to 7 times more than planned work, which can obviously have a huge impact on the bottom line".


Is your maintenance department structure conducive to supporting a proactive planned maintenance program? Are you constantly trading off preventive work to handle emergencies?


Are you able to optimise your cost structure with effective maintenance planning? To be cost-effective and efficient, a maintenance department needs to be structured well to at least have a chance for success.



The First Steps


To improve the structure of your maintenance department, it is important to have clarity about and prioritise the department's goals. One industrial maintenance team might prioritise reducing costs through inspections and preventive tasks, while another focuses on rapid response time to minimise production downtime. The specific goals vary from department to department but it’s always important that you know where you stand today and what should be your priorities. For the purposes of this article, let's assume that our maintenance department is responsible for:

  • Ensuring all operating systems are available and running 
  • Performing routine checks to prevent unexpected breakdowns 
  • Repairing equipment breakdowns quickly to limit downtime 
  • Collaborating with other departments, such as production 
  • Maintaining a safe working environment 
  • Delivering high-quality results, in other words…fix-it-right the first time 

Once you’ve determined your priorities, then evaluate whether you are able to manage the department to those strategies. If inspections and routine preventive work are a priority, but the backlog is full of old work orders for low-priority work, then your actions aren’t meeting your goals. If work requests come in all urgent, high priority, or safety, when they are not an emergency, then you might have a structural (and behavioural) issue.



5 Tips to Optimise Your Maintenance Department Structure


Of course, your priorities and goals will likely include both delivering high-service levels for responding to emergencies AND conducting regular routine maintenance activities to prevent breakdowns. How do you structure your organisation to successfully meet all your goals?



1. Organise Around Your Priorities


Teams are often organised around their craft such as plumbing, electrical, mechanical etc. 


To better meet department goals, it may be better to organise the team around your priorities instead. For example, if the same team (or person) is assigned to preventive work then pulled away when there is an emergency, then you are structured to primarily respond to emergencies. To successfully run a preventive program, you will want to consider creating teams that have a primary focus on PM work while another team focuses on emergency repairs.


An example to consider – three teams with complementary roles:

  • Preventive Maintenance (PM) Crew. A dedicated team of various disciplines who can become experts in preventive maintenance tasksThey can maintain documentation on the various equipment and support the implementation of predictive technologies like sensors to deliver further efficiencies. These people can work a regular day shift, 40 hour week.
  • The Repair Crew. A dedicated team of various disciplines who are wholly responsible to respond to urgent, high priority, and safety issues. This team would need to be made up with knowledgeable technicians who are good at making quick decisions and adapting to the changing needs. They would not be responsible for heavy corrective repairs or planned projects.
  • Production Line Crew. Depending on the production line, this can be a single person assigned to a single production line to basically conduct daily inspections, make adjustments as needed, and complete scheduled corrective repairs. This could be a day crew working a regular 40-hour week and also handle emergency repairs during their shift while the night crew is only the “Repair Squad.”

Depending upon your environment, the mix of teams and roles will shift of course, but the idea is that by organising in this way, you can achieve a more balanced effort towards the preventive tasks to better manage headcount, reduce overtime and reduce costs in the long run.



2. Structure Roles for Accountability and Employee Retention


It’s important to create roles with clearly defined responsibilities so that your team knows what is expected of them. Assigning people to teams aligned around department key goals will give them a sense of purpose and clarity in how they and the team will be measured. The PM crew can focus on reducing the backlog (Maintenance Effectiveness), the Repair crew on Mean Time to Repair and the Production Crew on asset uptime (Overall Equipment Effectiveness and Mean Time Between Failures).


Even if you don’t organise teams around preventive vs. breakdown tasks, you can develop job roles and a set of responsibilities that vary in focus by employee. Some employees can be the first to be assigned to urgent situations while others are generally focused on day-to-day PM work. This gives you the flexibility to recognise that certain employees are more suited to the data analysis and documentation required for a solid preventive maintenance program, while others thrive on the rapid pace and excitement of responding to an urgent situation.


Structuring roles with focus and clarity in metrics then assigning to the employee with the right temperament and talents will improve performance and employee satisfaction. Plus, there’s a financial incentive to keeping employees happy – Forbes estimates that disengaged employees could cost you 34% of their salary. Even by conservative estimates, that could be over $20,000 a year per employee!



3. Create Clear Lines of Real-Time Communication


The most qualified, highly skilled maintenance department in the world is useless without proper communication within the department and within the organisation as a whole. Clear lines of communication, laser-focused processes, and well-documented roles within your maintenance department structure allows each employee to see how they contribute to the overall department goals, while also embracing their position-specific tasks and responsibilities.


Fully utilising SAP PM is a key tool to establish clear processes and maintain access across the organisation to the real-time status of notifications, work orders and more. This means, that more than just a few specially trained individuals need to be able to access and update SAP. Providing an easy interface to SAP for the whole maintenance staff with mobile devices enables real-time coordination, collaboration, and results in greater employee engagement and motivation.



4. Standardise and Document Procedures


Want to improve morale and productivity at the same time? Starting from onboarding and training, make sure that your entire department has easy access to standard maintenance operating procedures, O&M manuals, EHS guidelines, and preventive maintenance checklists. With the right structure and access to documentation, when you change your procedures or update your EAM software, your team should know where to look and what to do without asking.


And again, mobile technologies are key to standardising and reinforcing key department procedures. A mobile app guides the work steps and can even be set up to require a step, like a safety check, before submitting a work order as complete.


Tech adoption is also another way to boost employee retention, particularly amongst the younger generation. Outdated technology and inefficient procedures might even dissuade tech-savvy candidates from applying for work.



5. Pursue Continuous Improvement


Without constant improvements, what was once a lean, cost-effective maintenance department structure can become an outdated, inefficient drain on your company’s resources. To ensure that you stay ahead of the curve, you need to remain up to date on the latest technologies and best practices for operating a maintenance department with SAP Plant Maintenance.


Rafael Padilha, The Director for Reliability and Continuous Improvement at Ingredion has been in the centre of reorganising maintenance organisations for success at several large production operations including Ambev (a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch), and Unilever. He found that change starts with establishing and gaining alignment across the organisation to a few clear goals. The next step is to start the process with the help of technology to structure the work, improve communications, measure and show results against the aligned metrics. Then take it to the next level, as in Ingredion, “The maintenance staff could now spend their time on building proactive maintenance plans, evaluating different spare parts to extend the lifecycle of the assets, driving improvements, and pursuing cost reductions.”


It doesn’t matter whether you are focused on industrial maintenance in an automotive plant or are looking to optimise the structure of your resource extraction field maintenance team, the path to long-term productivity and optimal performance starts by optimising your Enterprise Asset Management systems.



Why Choose Sigga?


With 20 years of experience in digitising maintenance processes with Enterprise organisations, Sigga knows what it takes to support the establishment of an effective maintenance organisation structure – we provide maintenance departments across the globe with scalable, mobile apps and automation software for SAP EAM that get results.


Working with clients from multiple industry sectors, including Oil & Gas, Mining, and Manufacturing, our leading solutions make it easy for maintenance departments to establish clear roles, document processes, and track progress with increased data visibility.


Sigga Mobile EAM is a proven mobile solution designed to digitise the activities of the maintenance and repair worker. The solution replaces tedious, manual paper-based processes with a direct interface to SAP for immediate access to manuals and repair instructions plus the ability to quickly create a notification and coordinate tasks. Sigga Warehouse and Inventory extends the mobile benefits for further cross-organisation collaboration benefits.


Sigga Planning & Scheduling enables the planner to replace tedious spreadsheet work with a solution to automatically create a baseline schedule for maintenance and repair activities. This allows the planner to focus their time on finessing the schedule with ad hoc requirements and making their own value-added inputs.


Talk to our consultants about organising for success and utilising digital technologies to enable the change.


Contact Us

Learn more about Sigga and our digital and mobile solutions for SAP EAM.