When your team is manufacturing widgets, it is a must to be efficient and productive, isn't it? The more widgets we make, the more sales are up. The more sales are up, the more the company makes. The more the company makes, then better the chances of long-term employment for you.

Of course, I'm not forgetting quality in the equation of success. We can't be so concerned with getting more widgets out the door that quality suffers. In that case, all bets for the company's success are off — not to mention your long-term employment.

But we in maintenance don't produce widgets and thus don't contribute to higher sales. I know what you're gonna say: "But we do contribute by making sure the manufacturing equipment keeps churning out the widgets, that the production people have lights and the proper heating/cooling environment."

You'd be correct in making that statement. But why should a maintenance team be concerned with efficiency and productivity?

Let's pretend that your team is responsible for the preventive maintenance (PM) of your equipment. Depending on the size of your facility, this could be your only responsibility or it could be combined with other maintenance duties, e.g. handling emergency calls.

Even if you know full well the importance of PM and fully embrace the responsibility and you look upon the equipment as your equipment can you imagine the boredom of performing the same tasks on the same pieces of equipment day in and day out for your entire career?

Do you think the temptation to "skip a task this cycle" would enter your thoughts? How quickly do you think you'd go about your daily tasks? "I know the routine, so I'll just go fast enough to get my route done and find someplace to nap." How long would it take before your attitude goes from being proud of your equipment to "Is it payday yet?"

So what is the solution?

Look for efficiencies, first of all. Is there a better way? Perhaps a better tool cart that the stockroom personnel can load with tools/materials that will be needed for that day's PM tasks.

Change up responsibilities. Maybe have two guys work together on certain pieces of equipment? Or, conversely, break teams up into one-man "teams" where possible and safe? Or, maybe better still, break up the day's tasks instead of breaking up teams?

Now back to the "why" in my headline. Why should we do this?

Isn't it a given fact that all maintenance crews are understaffed? By making the men more efficient in their primary duties, there is usually time for training classes and time for mechanical space cleanup/fix up.

If your workers are unmotivated by the redundant tasks, then most likely their workspaces are neglected. Do more than simply sweep the floors. Make sure all cover screws are in place on hatches. If they have to be accessed often, change the fasteners to some sort of quick-release type.

Paint the walls, paint the equipment, paint the piping by color codes, paint the floor with epoxy paints and then mark the aisles with striping. There are many ways to make your mechanical spaces a place to be proud of and nicer to work in, much less bring them into compliance with certain regulations (fire prevention, fire extinguishers, etc).

Another time saver I discovered is if you have to remove the fan shroud to visually inspect the belt, think about cutting an access in the shroud and covering it with Plexiglas or expanded metal.

I had a second-shift crew once that only did PM, and the largest time consumer was changing HVAC filters. They had to disperse them from a central warehouse to the several air handlers in about nine different mechanical penthouses.

Let me interject here that these penthouses, and the equipment they contained, was vintage 1950s and 1960s. They were kept fairly clean but lacked paint and sufficient lighting.

So, after changing the filters, the dirty ones had to be taken down to the trash dock. Because we, at that time, changed filters every quarter, you can see that many weeks were used up on this one aspect of the PM tasks.

I was able to find a local company that made their own filters, would deliver them, replace the old ones and even carry the dirty ones offsite, lessening our dumpster costs. Visions of updated mechanical spaces began to dance in my head, plus one other benefit that I haven't mentioned yet.

The extra time gained would enable the guys to get involved in some predictive maintenance techniques real maintenance, fun maintenance, a chance to use more sophisticated tools. We could get into vibration analysis, steam trap maintenance and all the other fun stuff.

I'll not go into how well they took to that idea as it’ll make you shake your collective heads. Suffice it to say that they saw it as "taking their work," and I could not make them see that it would essentially give them more (and fun) work.

Hopefully, you have gained something from this, and my example hasn't discouraged you. Perhaps your team isn't "as far gone" as mine was after a generation of the stereotypical mindset.

Gaining the extra time to do other important tasks is the main reason for gaining efficiency and productivity out of your maintenance team.