Maintenance teams are a special kind of problem for managers, often because managers come out of business programs. They didn’t spend years tearing machines apart to find the broken bits that kept them from working. They often lack a common frame of reference with trained technicians. That doesn’t mean you can’t work effectively with your maintenance team. Here are a few tips to help you smooth the way.
Unless you come out of a maintenance background, your maintenance team will treat all but the most general directives as silly. For example, saying you want a malfunctioning machine fixed by the end of shift sounds like good leadership. Of course, it assumes that the machine can be fixed in that time frame. If you don’t know that it can, you only damage your credibility with the maintenance staff by issuing orders that can’t be achieved.
Most people want to work efficiently. Instead of saddling your team with new equipment, someone recommended, ask them what equipment would make their jobs easier. The odds are good that they won’t ask for some obscenely expensive machine. They’ll likely ask for somewhat better versions of equipment they already use. After all, they already know those tools. A newer but similar version won’t disrupt their existing routines and processes.
Repairing machines is expensive. As long as the machine is down, it’s not making you money. The people who work on that machine are not making you money. Depending on how crucial the machine is, the whole business might grind to a halt while you wait for it to get repaired.
Yes, machines will inevitably break, but you can put off that moment with a stringent preventative maintenance policy. Make it clear that you see this as a priority, and the team will get on board.
Your maintenance team should have goals like all your other employees. You can make that happen even if you don’t know about maintenance. Sit down with the maintenance team supervisor and discuss what can be done better. Then, work out a schedule for implementing those goals.
Managing a maintenance team can prove challenging for anyone with a background in engineering and machine repair. It can, however, be done. You need to acknowledge what you don’t know. Facilitate efficiency where you can. Get serious about preventative maintenance. Set goals with input from the maintenance supervisor. While not foolproof, these tactics will take you a long way with most maintenance teams.
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