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Maintenance vs non-maintenance: the implications of doing both

Maintenance is the repair and upkeep of existing equipment, facilities, buildings or areas in accordance with current design specifications to keep them in a safe, effective condition while meeting their intended purposes.

“Existing” means maintenance cannot begin until the new equipment, buildings and facilities are created. “Current design specifications” means equipment modification is not maintenance.

Non-maintenance includes:

  • Construction – The creation of a new facility or the changing of the configuration or capacity of a building, facility or utility.

  • Installation – The setting up of new equipment.

  • Modification – Major changes to an existing unit of equipment or a facility from original design specifications to perform a new function or the same function in a different or improved manner.

  • Relocation – Repositioning major equipment to perform the same function in a new location.

Key differences

Maintenance work is expensed. Non-maintenance projects are capital-funded. If mixed together, the maintenance budget will be quickly overspent.

{{quote-A:R-W:300-Q:"Projects should be completed on schedule and stay within cost limits."}}Unless maintenance has a dedicated “construction crew”, the use of maintenance personnel on non-maintenance work will quickly undermine the capability to perform the basic maintenance program.

Production leaders do not always distinguish non-maintenance from maintenance.

They may innocently levy project requirements on maintenance for equipment modifications, as if they were regular maintenance.

Maintenance often tends to get overly involved in project work. Poor experiences with low quality work done by contractors, for example, are often a key reason for maintenance to enter the project business.

Once in it, if unchecked, their involvement usually grows. Soon, basic maintenance suffers because non-maintenance projects have become the work of choice. Projects are much preferred to diagnosing and fixing difficult production equipment problems.

Maintenance personnel are often perceived as co-equal in getting things running again (maintenance) and building or changing things (construction or modification). Therefore, they are expected to get the “work” done no matter what it is.

Although crafts are thought interchangeable, construction craftsmen often lack the diagnostic skills that distinguish them from maintenance craftsmen. A construction-type craftsman may relish “building a stairway to nowhere” while the maintenance-type wants to get on with restoring existing equipment. If “frustrated contractor” type craftsmen are led by “contractor-oriented” supervisors, they may be soliciting projects rather than tending to basic maintenance.

Beware the maintenance superintendent who states that his “boys” can “do it for less” than the contractors. They rarely do and it soon becomes a maintenance/engineering dispute as costs escalate and maintenance quality deteriorates.

Workload and responsibilities

The proper maintenance workload cannot be determined by “can they do it?” Rather, it is the measure of work accomplished to yield consistently reliable equipment so production and safety goals can be met and profitability assured (see Figure 1).


Maintenance personnel incur additional responsibilities when they are performing non-maintenance project work. They must understand these responsibilities. Non-maintenance construction, installation, modification and relocation projects are  temporary activities that have a definite beginning and end. This distinguishes them from the continuous maintenance work. The project represents a temporary increase in the normal workload.

Therefore, a maintenance organisation asked to perform project work should carefully anticipate when its participation is needed, always weighing this temporary need against its full-time maintenance requirements.

Engineering should clearly define the project to include the criteria for determining its successful completion. Contingencies should be built into the project in anticipation of changes once the project is under way.

Such changes should be documented and provision made to adjust both the project schedule and capital budget. Each project should result in equipment or facility installation or equipment modification that performs as expected.

Projects should be completed on schedule and stay within cost limits.

Thus, the project plan should define work quality in the specifications, time constraints by the schedule, and costs by a budget. When any project is carried out, a temporary team is organised under a project manager, who may be from engineering. Individuals are assigned duties and responsibilities and they are trained.

Specific policies and procedures clarify how the team is to function during the project. When work on the project begins, the project manager co-ordinates the tasks of different groups such as shops, maintenance, engineering, purchasing and transportation. He must monitor the progress of the project and measure it against schedules and budgets.

As deviations occur, information on project status must be good enough to allow immediate corrective actions. As the project moves forward, project managers will provide feedback to team members and resolve problems on materials, supplies and services.

When the project is completed, documentation to include writing operations manuals, training personnel on use of the new equipment, reassigning project personnel and disposing of surplus equipment materials or supplies are steps that maintenance personnel must be aware of, and may be called upon to perform.

When contractors perform modifications or install new equipment, maintenance must be involved so they can properly maintain the new facilities and equipment once the work has been completed. Maintenance must understand how the work was done and should expect certain minimum documentation from contractors, including critical spare parts lists, wiring diagrams, operating and maintenance instructions, etc.

Work control

Is the work order system capable of controlling non-maintenance work? Either a contractor or maintenance department may perform the work, but since it is capital-funded the contractor’s work is authorised by a purchase order, while maintenance uses the work order system.

Cost accounting may become a problem since the contractor uses an invoice referring to the purchase order while maintenance uses a time card and a stock issue document to report progress and resource use.

As the project is being conducted, incremental information must be provided on the cost, project status and performance of the work.

At the completion of the work, installations by both a contractor and by maintenance should be subject to the same “commissioning” criteria to verify future maintainability.

Evaluating the project is the final step. This often includes an audit, along with a project report and a review with management. In each instance, maintenance personnel will play a part. Since other projects will follow, it is especially important that maintenance provides direct input to ensure future projects are made more efficient based on current project experiences.

Maintenance crews must be properly oriented and prepared to perform non-maintenance work, eg:

  • Have adequate job instructions been provided to preclude improvisation?

  • Has support been properly co-ordinated for on-site materials delivery, the use of supporting equipment or transporting people and materials to keep the project on schedule?

Maintenance departments may be called upon to perform non-maintenance work. If the operation has a dedicated “construction” staff, the process can be carried on routinely. However, if the non-maintenance work will be done along with regular maintenance work, steps must be taken to ensure it is done with proper consideration that it does not undermine basic maintenance performance.

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