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To improve as individuals, teams, and Maintenance Departments, we first must look inward and examine ourselves through the eyes of others. Then, and only then, can true (and meaningful) change begin.

Over the past 35 years, I have performed hundreds of “Maintenance Operation Effectiveness Reviews” (MOERs) throughout industry. And I can attest to the fact that one of the biggest complaints (or frustrations) voiced in Maintenance Departments (by individuals and groups) involves the lack of respect and understanding shown for their work by others in their companies or organizations.

Due to the nature of its business, Maintenance must learn to understand and interact directly with various machines, as well as wiith the systems and facilities that support and house them. When questioning maintainers, it becomes clear that they have intimate relationships with the assets in their care (and react and communicate with those assets in a language of their own). Making changes and improvements in this area is an objective-driven task that is easily identified, quantified, and also rectified. But this is only one side of the relationship equation.

To be truly effective, a Maintenance Department must also learn to communicate with its partners and stakeholders within the organization. This subjective skill is rarely, if ever, taught as part of the maintenance-skill set. Once it’s recognized as a skill, however, it must be approached in a constructive and open manner.

As always, there are two sides to every story, and no story is complete without listening to both sides (and in the case of asset management, all sides listening to each other). During a MOER, all stakeholders (persons or departments that have a vested interest in asset availability and reliability) are identified and recognized as integral partners essential to the success of the maintenance operation.

For example, the Production Department is relied upon to give early notice of actual or perceived  machine problems, and more important, access to the machine to troubleshoot and repair the issue in a timely manner. Similarly, Maintenance has relationships with Engineering, Purchasing, Human Resources, IT, Accounting, and more.

Once identified, stakeholders are interviewed as part of the MOER process. Based on my experience, their biggest complaint (or frustration) is “Maintenance” (or, specifically, dealing with it). Maintenance is frequently accused of not listening, of being indifferent to stakeholder concerns, and of ignoring multiple requests for action, forcing everything to be rated as “urgent” to ensure timely responses. Even worse, some stakeholders admit they don’t understand what Maintenance does.

Before an asset relationship can flourish, the Maintenance/Stakeholder relationship must be clearly laid out and understood by both parties. Then, building on the perceptions of each side, a relationship-requirement map can be mutually defined and drafted as an initial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU.) This MOU outlines the “give and take rules” for what the parties must do to perform their respective jobs successfully and make each other happy. When that’s understood, an input/output diagram can be developed, from which a standardized operating agreement between the parties, including the measurable deliverables, can be instituted.

(Note: To help its stakeholders fully understand the role of Maintenance, the Department must provide them with manuals that include a corporate-aligned mission/vision statement; a set of Maintenance operating principles; and a customized stakeholder input/ouput map and operating agreement, along with detailed process diagrams of the “give and take” rules.)

Throughout the relationship-building phase, remember to meet regularly and listen with empathy (using both ears). When a formal stakeholder relationship is established, mutual respect and trust will thrive. This can lead to a team dynamic that’s hyper productive for all members.TRR


Ken Bannister has 40+ years of experience in the RAM industry. For the past 30, he’s been a Managing Partner and Principal Asset Management Consultant with Engtech industries Inc., where he has specialized in helping clients implement best-practice asset-management programs worldwide. A founding member and past director of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada, he is the author of several books, including three on lubrication, one on predictive maintenance, and one on energy reduction strategies, and is currently writing one on planning and scheduling. Contact him directly at 519-469-9173 or

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, asset management, planning and scheduling, work orders, work requests,  Maintenance Effectiveness Reviews, MOERs