April 26, 2016
Smart Guys Who Finish First
One of the most interesting aspects of professional quality CMMS software is its very powerful potential to erase many thousands of otherwise wasted expense dollars from the facility bottom line. Sound thought-provoking?
Consider the case of the parks maintenance director for a well-known American city who carved a huge slice from his municipality's parks and recreation maintenance budget without moving a single worker to the unemployment rolls. In trying to trim his assigned budget to fit within new tighter restrictions, this maintenance chief began looking for more efficiencies rather than simply lopping off heads. He had supervisors use their Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software to search for avenues leading to possible savings. One foreman in the field disclosed that the city had a huge number of makes and models of ride-on and walk-behind lawn mowing apparatus. A lot of different engines and a bunch of different manufacturers all requiring different parts, different preventive maintenance specs and various lubes and fuel blends. The foreman pointed out that such diversity might be hiding a good deal of wastefulness.
Digging through the data
There was a lot more to consider. For instance, the CMMS data reported, as might be expected, that the city was paying much more for one manufacturer"s riding lawn mower than for the same equipment produced by all the others. Was there an error in judgement?
Yet, along with that information, there were other surprises. On one brand of nationally known riders, the primary deck belt required replacement after only 2 weeks during high-use periods. The mower would typically take 2 precious days to repair, that is if the model"s deck belt was not on backorder. Still, another make of riding mower suffered from frequent clogged carburetor breakdowns. And, possibly because of that, that particular model was intensely disliked by experienced crews because it was so unreliable. Instead, staff frequently assigned those mowers to summer-hire crews. Summer crew productivity, in turn, was significantly less efficient than was expected. Might these issues be related?
- MOST EXPENSIVE MOWER – On the first pass, one might not be blamed to assume that purchasing the most expensive equipment available is an unacceptable mistake when cheaper models are readily available. In fact, that was precisely the initial verdict of the maintenance director and his team. An immediate embargo was placed on future orders for that brand. However, that decision was later overruled when it was eventually discovered that this particular brand cost less, over time than any other competing mower.
- WORN-BELT MOWER – While deck belts vary somewhat between models and brands, in the end the part (typically under $30) is relatively cheap. What is expensive, though, is the out-of-service time and labor expense. Other riding lawn mower makes have a more durable deck belt installed as standard equipment. Every time one of these models loses a belt in the field, the crew must divert to the shop and back to the equipment barn to search for a replacement. Hours of scheduled work must be postponed and overtime paid to crews to play catch-up.
- CLOGGED CARBURETOR MOWER – Now, the failings of this model of riding mower were hiding in plain sight. After all, experienced crews were unwilling to even load those riders on their landscape trailers! The issue was buried, however, by assigning these mowers to inexperienced crews. These summer crews were reacting to continual stoppages by improvising field-expedient repairs to keep the machines mowing further damaging the defective carburetors. CMMS reports had finally revealed the culprit carburetors. Simultaneously, the maintenance director had an "Ah ha!" moment and summer crew productivity promptly improved.
Moral of the story
In an array of equipment purchase choices, the most expensive model may, in the long run, be your best buy because it is quality-built and, properly maintained, follows the least costly repair and replace option. Or, perhaps the least-expensive brand may be the "worn-belt" mower if upgraded with an after-market deck belt. Either way, standardization of equipment based upon price, reliability and future inventory and labor costs can usually cut a huge slice from any maintenance budget.