It seems that reporting a stoppage or faulty operation of a machine is really easy. In fact, at this first step a lot of companies make mistakes and deprive themselves of a chance for significant improvement of results. So how to report failures effectively?
First of all, avoid reporting problems by phone or during a face-to-face conversation. Verbal notifications are effective at the level of a several-person organisation, where a separate maintenance department does not exist. However, if a plant has a maintenance team, the fundamental basis is to standardize activities, including tickets.
Recording is the basis
The first rule which should be adopted is the fundamental condition: an unrecorded maintenance request does not exist. It doesn’t matter if registering of requests is carried out using a computer or on paper. In order to be able to analyse and improve anything it is necessary to have knowledge and information. The goal may be to decrease a number of breakdowns, faster repairs or other results having an impact on the performance of the whole plant; however, we are not able to change anything without information.
Therefore, all arrangements without a formal “proof” should be automatically rejected as hindering work, distracting and contributing no value to the implementation of the company’s strategy. A ticket is also a form of protection for an employee, who can easily prove what he has worked on recently. Without it, it is impossible to assess his performance or reward his good work.
After you have managed to convince the staff to record maintenance requests, the next step should be their standardization. Not only will the standardization enable the company to determine a number in incidents, but also it will be possible to compare gathered information. The analysis will allow to eliminate trivia and focus on real problems. At this moment paper begins to be an obstacle, and definitely it is an archaic means of communicating information, which takes a lot of time. When using electronic registration, breakdowns can be reported much faster or even automatically, so at this stage an IT solution, which will provide the effective support in the efforts to achieve high effectiveness (not only at the level of maintenance requests!) is worth considering.
Moreover, computerization of the maintenance area causes that recording and gathering data is necessary, so it is an ally in the efforts to acquire knowledge. Nowadays, modern companies are not able to function without this element of their operation.
The standardization of tickets should include defining a set of information which is required to accept a work order and carry out a specific job. A ticket of the type: “the pump stopped working” are not sufficient. A ticket should contain more details including a detailed identification of a piece of equipment, description of failure, the time when a problem occurred, symptoms, etc. Thanks to the extended information (the preparation and communication of which does not take much time) it is possible to gain valuable knowledge in at least two aspects:
- Technician’s preparation for a repair;
- The analysis comparing all tickets gathered.
After obtaining a detailed description of a breakdown a technician is able to estimate its duration, take suitable tools and spare parts, shorten (or even eliminate) an initial inspection, and in a result restore a machine to a working state faster.
On the other hand, the analysis of data from a selected period helps to make decisions that improve work. It enables to identify the areas that require improvement, realise the scale of a problem and implement real (and not only apparent) corrective actions.
Putting off recording a breakdown is not beneficial for anyone. First of all, it delays taking actions, which prolongs the idleness of a machine. What is the reason for delaying reporting or failing to report? There are a few reasons but the most common ones include:
- unwillingness to report anything;
- the fear of reporting incorrectly, the fear of being unfamiliar with procedures, the system as a tool, etc.;
- preferring to settle a matter without waiting, with a colleague, omitting the system;
- an attempt to independently handle a problem, not having sufficient qualifications (overzealousness);
While operators can remove minor failures themselves (as defined in the strategy and the scope of responsibility), putting off reporting a serious breakdown should not occur. Try to eliminate all reasons which discourage employees from reporting problems, whatever they are.
Determining the order of maintenance jobs is the next step on the way to significant improvement of results of the maintenance department. However, priorities cannot be given by persons raising tickets (usually operators) but it should be done by maintenance managers, so persons having a wide picture of the situation. It is obvious that for every person raising a ticket “their” fault is the most important. This is why every ticket should have a default priority, which will be changed to a higher or lower one, if necessary.
Priorities will help to address first the most urgent tickets, even if they are recorded as the last ones, and will move down less important jobs.
Use automatic notifications
Suitable persons must be notified of a new ticket so that they can do the job. Of course, simple IT solutions such as Excel do not offer such a feature, but when using a professional CMMS system, you will certainly get information about breakdowns.
E-mail, SMS or mobile application notifications will certainly speed up technicians’ response and help them to plan better their daily schedule. This is one one the features which are highly appreciated by modern maintenance departments because of its usefulness in everyday work.
Close completed tickets
Handling a request does not finish as soon as a machine is started up. Technicians should be required to provide at least a short report, which will help to optimize handling a given type of tickets in the future. After a repair a technician should describe causes of a problem and methods of removing it. During the analysis you will also appreciate information on worn out parts , duration of a repair (which is recorded automatically when using a CMMS system).
In the plants where the strategy of prevention is already well established, a ticket is closed only after its acceptance by the person who submitted it. Thanks to this, an operator rather than a technician, who may be interested in closing a ticket as soon as possible and not always in real solving a problem, decides if a repair has solved a problem.
Regardless of the current method of closing tickets, make sure that this action is really done. In this way you will avoid the mess resulting from thousands of tickets, 90% of which are out-of-date. Taking care of the “hygiene” of the database with requests is also part of handling them.
In short, effective handling tickets can be presented in a few points:
- standardization of behaviours and procedures,
- their implementation and consequence in following them,
- correct formulating and efficient preparing tickets (time safety),
- giving priorities, and
- the regular analysis of tickets along with drawing conclusions and taking care of their database.
You should remember that recording the basic, and sometimes it may seem banal, information on everyday work highly impacts the effectiveness of maintenance. Tickets are not a corporate invention which is to make life more difficult, but a way for keeping order and more efficient work. Their analysis will help you to plan tasks better, estimate minimum inventory levels or schedule maintenance of the machine park. So it is recommended to ensure that the procedures facilitating the implementation of the preventive strategy and TPM are already in place at the interface between production and maintenance.