Our client, a leading utility, saw an opportunity to increase productivity and reduce costs in their Above Ground Maintenance function. They had been set tough efficiency targets but because the capital programme (creating new assets) was under pressure, their dilemma was that more maintenance of existing assets would be required to sustain performance. So they needed to reduce the overall cost, but clearly not by increasing the risk of a catastrophic failure.
We started with a short scoping assessment which involved focus interviews and workshops with technicians, operators, managers and directors. The goal was to define the problem that needed fixing. Firstly, we confirmed that the three operating regions within the business had taken different approaches to maintenance in terms of structure, risk management approach, process/ways of working and performance metric reporting. Secondly, we identified that although the actual maintenance job was done well, everything else in the system wasn’t. There were no robust management processes around the KPIs, jobs were not planned or prioritised well, the crew’s schedule wasn’t optimised, productivity wasn’t measured and no-one appeared to be reviewing the data to eliminate future failures; they were mostly reacting to and accommodating failure.
Based on the scoping assessment, we prioritised four areas for developing a new operating model for the maintenance function that would drive operational excellence and performance improvement: productivity, value stream maps, ways of working, and accommodation vs elimination of defects. The subsequent discovery project gathered data from across each region to inform the analysis story of what needed to change and why. Data gathering took the form of desktop analysis, focus interviews and workshops and lean process mapping. We also ran best practice site visits using our contacts both from within the utility industry and internationally renowned maintenance departments from other sectors.
From the outputs of the discovery project, we designed an eight-week pilot. Armed with the insights from the pilot, we designed the rollout phase.
We uncovered inconsistency across the different regions in the end to end processes and ways of working. This, combined with blockages in the processes was leading to significant inefficiencies.
Poor productivity was driven by various factors, including up to 40% of jobs poorly prioritised, 38% of jobs not ‘good to go’, time ‘on tools’ (time spent fixing, not travelling, eating etc) just 39%, and 30% of team leader time spent on tasks that could be done elsewhere.
There were also pockets of good practice, for example using data to predict and eliminate failure rather than accommodate and react to failure. So there were opportunities to share best practise as well as improve poor practice.
We found big efficiency benefits from analysing how work was actually being done at the coalface and connecting this with business-wide failure data. For example, we found that inconsistent methods in lubrication were leading to asset breakdown which amounted to £0.5m of avoidable failure costs each year.
The productivity improvements benefits case was built from a combination of process improvements, restructuring, new roles and new management practices. The result was an estimated £1.1m benefits case, or 8% of the budget, money which was reallocated elsewhere rather than resulting in redundancies.