September 23, 2022
Writing Skills for Maintenance - Part I
Many times, I find it fascinating how life skills, personal skills, concepts, and ideas from one type of business can be adapted for others. Since I'm in the business of writing both for Mapcon Technologies and as a published author of novels, I see how the previous statement holds true in so many ways. For this series, I'll take fifteen points—presented in three parts—I've learned from writing, writing conferences, and critique groups and see how a facility's maintenance department—and one that uses a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS)—would benefit.
The first thing that came to mind when I was preparing this could be considered a bonus point. It's the sharing of ideas. In writing, I see this as the goal of seminars at writing conferences. Whether the discussion is about one of the writing crafts, the various stages of writing a novel, or genre-specific topics, the instructor passes along ideas other authors can adapt and use to improve their own writing.
A sub-point of this is jotting down or remembering anecdotes from friends, family, and coworkers that will later be included in a book. Often, everyday events, news articles, and casual conversations can spur an idea for a scene or an entire novel. Jeffrey Deaver, a nationally known author, once conceived one of his mystery novels from observing and talking with an electrician he'd hired for a home project.
Maintenance departments are no different. Employees go through training and engage in real-life practice. They gather helpful tips from various sources—trade magazines, maintenance workers from other companies, and industry conventions.
For departments using a CMMS, talking with other companies who also use a system is a great way to share new ways to utilize the software. Similar to writers, many ideas are exchanged at a CMMS user conference.
What other writing-related tips and benefits could be adapted to work for a maintenance department?
The foundation for anything else. One of the rules of writing I've heard is: Never be boring. A second rule is: Never confuse the reader. If a writer cannot deliver the 'message' in a chapter—or throughout the entire book—readers will be turned off. If a writer has to defend the selection read to a critique group ("Well, I meant to say this…") then it wasn't clearly communicated in the text.
Work orders are prime examples of needing excellent communication. If a worker doesn't understand the job, it may not be completed, not completed correctly, or maybe with risky corners cut.
Supervisors using a quality CMMS should look to see how much clarification can be put into the work order. This includes checklists to follow, a bill of material ready to be issued, and attachments so the worker has a visual guide like images, documents of job steps or safety protocols, or a weblink for video instruction.
It's the prime mission of critique groups. Commenting on the writers' works, encouraging improvement, and offering advice. Proper critique is usually done in a three-part process. Give a positive statement, focus on weaker points in the selection, and end with positivity. We encourage the attendees who aren't writing to get cracking.
Support also comes in the form of not just a team effort, but one-on-one time. A friend and I meet regularly to discuss issues within our stories. A bit of give and take and some motivation is always helpful.
A maintenance team supports all members, sharing ideas and the workload. A CMMS admin supports the team by striving for the best productivity possible through reports for on-time compliance and attainment stats. Support could come from giving certain users more authorization within the system.
One result of critique groups is keeping the writer's story coherent and in a logical order. If scenes aren't working, it may require some restructuring of the outline. While I won't get into a debate about whether a writer needs an outline, I will say that in many ways, one helps keep the writer better organized in the direction the story takes.
A CMMS is made for better control over maintenance and other operations. It provides organization for:
Equipment and PMs – Preventive maintenance is necessary for longer equipment life and reduced unplanned downtime. A CMMS should have a scheduling option for those regular PMs.
Inventory – Knowing location and quantity are keys to controlling costs. A quality CMMS should be able to help you lay out the stockroom, reserve tools, and track quantities.
Vendors – If the company also handles purchasing of inventory and supplies, the CMMS can keep vendor information, purchase orders, and invoices organized, once again, helping costs.
Employees – Is your CMMS comprehensive enough to take care of human resources, employee information, and timecards?
At any given time, I could be working on two to five projects. Actually, I have more, all in various stages of completion. Only outlined, in the beginning/latter phases of a first draft, rewrites, other edits, etc. Based on how a particular story progresses through the reading-to-critique-groups phase, I'll know if I can work on something else or if I need to 'fix' issues in the current story. If I can switch back and forth between projects, what do I work on first? What is most important? I If take the time to jump to a story that is farther down the priority list, I'm not completing more important work that deserves attention. If my time isn't used wisely, I have a slew of partial projects with me spinning wheels to complete something.
Preventive maintenance and repairs can be prioritized in a CMMS. I mentioned scheduling before and that's also included in time management. A supervisor should have a complete overview of the day-to-day, week-to-week—and so on—work situation and how best to distribute the responsibilities.
Many CMMS features overlap in these points. Stockroom layout to reduce search time is one example. Attainment reports are another that contribute to time management.
Writers are encouraged to reach farther than expected, to expand the horizon, if I may use a cliché. Does a mystery writer want to try his hand at romance or a sci-fi gal to explore westerns?
For me, it's constantly saying to other writers that I don't write poetry, even though I'll scribble a stanza or two now and then. Usually, if I'm writing poems, I'm relieving myself of some emotional build-up in one form or another.
For a CMMS to fulfill the needs of companies, it must be versatile, offering not just maintenance control, but purchasing, HR, and barcoding depending on what the business wants. Then, it has to be scalable enough to where companies use only the features they want, but with access to more should the time arises when the company grows.
Five important concepts that both writers and the maintenance department 'share' and adapt for their work. All are important and some are vital—in varying degrees—for success. Next week, I'll continue with five more points. Meanwhile, if you're looking for a quality CMMS that has all the above benefits, visit Mapcon Technologies. 800-922-4336