How Can Maintenance Managers Improve Their Career Prospects?

Nov 13, 2020 9:09:07 AM

By: Gerard Wood

Over my years working in corporate maintenance roles across multiple sites, I watched some maintenance managers careers get cut short just due to the relationship between them and their direct GM.

On occasions I watched a relationship break down to the point where it could not be saved. In these situations, the maintenance manager was asking for more people/resources/money and the GM did not like what they were saying. Then the GM replaced the maintenance manager and after the replacement arrived, they also asked for the same additional people/resources/money and received it.

Maybe they asked in a different way? Maybe the GM thought, well this maintenance manager is also asking for the same so it must really be needed? I don’t know for sure, but it is definitely about confidence and doing what you say you will do.

I was also working on a project recently where I reviewed the corporate approach to Asset Management, it reminded me of the situations where these relationships break down. The corporate AM team were trying to improve the AM capability in the business, however there was a perceived lack of buy in or ownership at the executive levels.

The strange thing is that everyone wants the business to improve. However, when the AM team or maintenance manager are talking about AM concepts such as improving policy, work management or strategic objectives such as an improved defect elimination, renewed strategy using RCM, the understanding is lost. In my opinion few senior leaders from a finance, mining engineering or other background really understand or genuinely buy in to these AM concepts.

Not because they don’t want more from their assets, but because they don’t really understand what it means and as maintenance professionals we continue to communicate in our own language. Sometimes we even find it difficult to directly show how initiatives such as defect elimination process, RCM or work management concepts have clearly improved equipment performance outcomes.

Some years ago, I provided a guy as an interim maintenance manager for a GM. I told the guy, who had never been a manager before, do not talk about more money, more downtime, more resources or AM jargon. Talk only to the GM about reduced risk, more tonnes, and more profit. That relationship worked out very successfully and even to this day the GM still holds this guy in very high regard. 

When this maintenance manager arrived, they asked for an additional project manager to look after a shovel shutdown that was imminent, but they asked for the resource by asking would the GM like less downtime on the shovel shutdown. Of course, the GM said yes, and the maintenance manager got the additional project manager, who then did actually deliver a reduced shovel shutdown duration. 

I believe that if the AM community truly wants to improve the businesses that we work in and further our own career prospects then we need to talk about the same things that drive our GM, COO, CFO and CEO. Usually this is reduced risk, more tonnes, and more profit. While strategic initiatives like Defect Elimination programs, planning systems improvement, master data improvement and improved strategies should deliver these outcomes, nothing is as clear to the executives as seeing the machines operating with more production and less cost. If we link our language with the direct drivers of the mining plans such as machine productivity and uptime, then we align our strategic plans to these outcomes. Then, of course, we must deliver what we say to build more executive level confidence. 

I also developed a "AM strategic plan" that had the main machines, their production and cost outcomes as the “strategic pillars”. The initiatives such as improved strategy using RCM for a specific machine was then linked directly to the machine performance outcomes and could be directly measured. This was much easier to digest for the executive team and drove improved accountability to demonstrate the value of AM improvement concepts. 

So, in the end I believe, and I have witnessed improved career prospects from the maintenance managers that speak in the GM language and deliver on what they say they will do.


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