Successful mining maintenance isn’t exclusively a maintenance department effort. World-class maintenance status is only achieved when ‘world class’ is the performance norm for an entire mine.

In a six-part series starting this month, the author provides a detailed road map for developing and sustaining a top-notch mine maintenance program

By Paul Tomlingson

A mining enterprise supported by a maintenance organization performing at the world-class level stands to reap many benefits. Sustained, continuing productivity will be realized and the operation can compete favorably with the best, most profitable mining organizations in the world.

But what does world-class mean, and how is it achieved? It is not the label “world class” that is important. Rather, it is the accomplishments realized that yield the benefits described as world class. Over the course of this article, the actions needed to achieve world-class mining maintenance status are explained in six consecutive steps that lead to recognition as a first-rate organization with productive employees performing quality work, and consistently reliable equipment to meet production and quality goals. The six steps are:

  • Identify improvement needs and priorities. Start by conducting an evaluation to identify improvement needs and priorities. Evaluations should include all mine departments as well as management so that all actions and policies that affect maintenance can be examined. No improvement action can occur nor will it be successful unless the situations that preclude effective performance are identified and actions taken to correct them.
  • Ensure support for maintenance. Create a positive mine-wide maintenance working environment by attaining the full cooperation and support from all mining departments and assuring mine management reinforcement. There are no world-class maintenance organizations. Rather, there are world-class mining organizations that include a world-class maintenance organization. Maintenance, by itself, is a service provider. Successful mining maintenance is not a stand-alone maintenance effort. World-class maintenance status is only achieved when world class is the required status of the total mine.
  • Establish an efficient program. Develop, document, test, and implement a quality maintenance program to spell out how work is requested, identified, classified, planned, scheduled, assigned, controlled, measured, and assessed to ensure continuous improvement and sustained, effective performance. Ensure the entire mining operation understands what maintenance does, who does what, how and why, so they will see their supporting and cooperative maintenance-related roles clearly and contribute more effectively to the success of the total operation.
  • Ensure effective use of information. A quality information system is the shared communications network system that controls execution of the mine’s maintenance program. It also controls other essential mining activities such as inventory control and purchasing. The use of a common integrated system implies the cooperative use and interchange of information. Its proper utilization enhances maintenance performance and guides the progressive steps toward the mine’s world class objective.
  • Organize properly. The maintenance program identifies what maintenance does, who does what, how and why. Program details can help to identify the best maintenance organization and specify the duties and responsibilities for carrying out the program. In addition, the program spells out the maintenance-related interactions between mining departments by advising the best ways in which their personnel can support maintenance.
  • Re-evaluate and confirm. By reapplying the evaluation process established in step 1, achievement of the improvement needs established in the initial evaluation can be confirmed and verification made that the revised and improved total mining organization can meet and sustain world-class performance.

Evaluations bookend the steps involved in the journey to world-class maintenance. An initial evaluation establishes the as-is status of the overall mining organization relative to maintenance and yields an improvement plan of prioritized actions. The plan aims at securing a supportive working environment; developing an effective maintenance program; utilizing a quality information system; and arranging the best maintenance organization to support the program. As each step is carried out, evaluations are repeated to ensure that the current step is accomplished before the next step is attempted. When all steps are completed, the evaluation is reapplied to verify attainments and assure they can be sustained. The evaluation process then becomes an ongoing measure of the mine’s continuous improvement effort (see Figure 1).

World-class maintenance is the pinnacle of achievement for maintenance organizations. It results when the organization carries out an effective program, utilizes quality information and organizes properly to help ensure a profitable mining operation. These operations will be characterized, for example, by a cooperative production group and supportive staff organizations like warehousing. They will be led by visionary mine managers who have created an environment for success with a sound business plan embodying clear departmental objectives and policies that guarantee harmonious departmental interaction.

Standards should be established as goals for organizations seeking improvement. Once established, an evaluation procedure should be applied to measure a candidate organization’s performance against the standards. Minimum levels of achievement should be set in order to gain necessary improvements. Unfortunately, no body currently exists to administer such evaluations as does ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) and their certification requirements. Therefore, emphasis should be given to developing suitable standards and the organization can apply any evaluation technique providing it yields information on how well standards are being met and whether performance progress is being made. Many mining organizations utilize evaluation teams made up of personnel within their organizations who possess suitable skills and backgrounds. Often, such teams come from sister mines in which there are reciprocal evaluation arrangements.

Standards can be developed from a number of sources: Existing KPIs (key performance indicators), the study of ISO 55000 (asset management and asset management systems), the principles of maintenance management, benchmarking and highly successful in-house operations are potential sources. But standards must satisfy the special, unique operating environment of the mining industry. The development and acceptance of performance standards must be the byproduct of successful maintenance operations in which procedures are established that consistently produce outstanding results.

For example, preventive maintenance (PM) procedures that reduce emergency repairs and extend equipment life might be considered. But when PM procedures enhanced with predictive techniques always find equipment problems far in advance of equipment failure to ensure that the majority of maintenance work can be planned and scheduled, those procedures could be seriously considered as standards. Standards for maintenance goals reach far beyond internal procedures like the conduct of preventive maintenance, planning and scheduling.

Figure 1—The journey to world-class maintenance begins with an evaluation to establish an improvement plan. The plan then (1) aligns the maintenance working environment; (2) develops an effective maintenance program; (3) adds a quality information system; and (4) adapts the organization to carry out the program. Evaluations are repeated as each phase is accomplished and at the conclusion to verify achievement of worldclass status and the ability to sustain it.
Figure 1—The journey to world-class maintenance begins with an evaluation to establish an improvement plan. The plan then (1) aligns the maintenance working environment; (2) develops an effective maintenance program; (3) adds a quality information system; and (4) adapts the organization to carry out the program. Evaluations are repeated as each phase is accomplished and at the conclusion to verify achievement of worldclass status and the ability to sustain it.

Standards must also embrace the working relationships between departments to result in harmonious professional interactions. Operations, for example, must apply and adhere to standards, which cause them to utilize maintenance services effectively. Similarly, warehousing, purchasing or accounting must recognize and adhere to standards. Even the mine manager’s actions must be included in the standards. Has he, for example, taken adequate steps to ensure that all departments are properly supporting maintenance?

If for example, a KPI requiring 85% PM schedule compliance is the only standard for PM, it is inadequate. An illustrative PM standard is illustrated in the accompanying sidebar above.

Once standards have been established, tested and accepted, the organization can determine the most effective way to evaluate compliance with the standards or assess progress in meeting them.

No improvement can be initiated unless the current situation is known. Improvement is only possible when one learns whether maintenance is a good organization only needing a decent program to follow or an organization besieged with unreasonable demands placed on an inadequate workforce. Evaluations answer this by providing the as-is status of current performance then utilizing the results to develop an improvement plan. Regardless of how standards are created, an evaluation procedure is required to discover necessary improvement actions and measure progress toward their achievement.

It is not unusual to witness resistance to being evaluated. This is especially true when worker performance can be adversely affected by activities over which they have little control such as warehousing failing to deliver needed materials on time. An evaluation strategy such as that presented below can overcome such resistance, particularly when every department is equally evaluated. Consider:

Developing a policy for evaluations—A management policy requiring that all departments be evaluated on a regular, continuing basis will preclude any doubt as to its value and redirect the energy of resistance into efforts to prepare for evaluations.

Providing advance notification—Advise personnel about the evaluation and make a preliminary statement about its content, purpose and use of the results. This will eliminate surprises and emphasize the policy of regular, continuing evaluations.

Educating personnel—Explain that the evaluation is a checklist describing what should be done. Results describe how well they did and provide a basis for improvement. The evaluation will identify what is done well and what was done poorly. It is an opportunity to help all departments account for their contribution to mine objectives. Emphasize the positive aspects of the evaluation through education.

Change unfavorable misconceptions of evaluations by telling personnel that the evaluation is a means of finding out how they can do better. Avoid comparing evaluation results with other mining organizations unless there is a clear benchmark accepted by all. The sponsor of multiple mining operations evaluations, usually a general manager, must convey a supportive attitude. He should provide encouragement to conduct the evaluation and follow up to see that something constructive is done with the results. If help beyond the resources of a single operation is necessary for improvement, the sponsor can help cement good relations by providing it.

Education continues through the evaluation process and into the results. In individual mining operations, for example, local managers will want to know how well their policies are understood and how effectively the procedures based on those policies are being carried out. Let them know. Although they are concerned with the quality of the maintenance program, they will be equally interested in learning how well, for example, production cooperates with the program. Therefore, in a multimine environment, they will be less concerned with what others may think and get on with the evaluation. They should assume that every other plant is interested and concerned but, also ready to help them rather than compete with them.

Scheduling the evaluation—Schedule the evaluation carefully to avoid conflicts. Peak vacation periods may find key personnel away from the mine. Similarly, recent personnel changes could limit knowledge of evaluation points, and personnel cutbacks or staff reductions might affect attitudes. In general, the evaluation should be carried out in a stabilized situation with few distracting conditions. With suitable advance notice, the organization can prepare for the evaluation and look forward to learning how they are doing. When evaluations are conducted on a regular, continuing basis, people will be constantly preparing thus, performing better. In addition, they will look forward to the evaluation as an opportunity to demonstrate their progress. Generally, if maintenance personnel feel that the evaluation is constructive, they will prepare for it without hesitation. In subsequent evaluations, if they have accepted the evaluations and are convinced of their value, they will make a conscious effort to improve on previous results. Soon the concept of evaluations permeates the entire organization and their outlook is transformed from one of fearing evaluations to welcoming them and their potential benefits.

Publicizing the content of the evaluation—By publicizing evaluation content, personnel can prepare in advance. This is unlikely to constitute a dramatic shift in performance. Reports will be ready and personnel scheduled for interviews will be prepared.

Using the most appropriate evaluation technique—Evaluation techniques should be considered based on the mining situation. Some operations may require an evaluation in which every detail must be scrutinized. Other operations, having established the essential pattern of evaluations, may simply check progress by measuring only a few critical areas. Other mines utilize forms of self-evaluations made possible by the existence of standards they have set for themselves.

Announcing evaluation results—By sharing evaluation results, the good and the bad are acknowledged with an expectation of a commitment to help attain improvements. Discussion is encouraged often resulting in the best way to accomplish improvements. Conversely, keeping the results a secret will decrease credibility and make improvement actions more difficult.

Taking immediate action on evaluation results—The most convincing way to demonstrate that the evaluation was a constructive step is to organize an improvement effort immediately. Obtain commitment to the constructive use of the results by converting them into an improvement plan and immediately organizing the improvement effort. This is the main objective of the evaluation. If the evaluation is one of a series, results should be compared with the previous evaluation. This demonstrates progress as well as the identification of areas that need more work.

Separate the good from the bad. Offer congratulations on the good performances and organize the activities requiring improvement into priorities. Actively solicit help from anyone capable of providing it. If there are corrective actions beyond the capability of maintenance, don’t hesitate to seek help. Mine managers are usually pleased to be asked to help. It is also gratifying to learn that corporate managers, particularly those responsible for multiple operations, are eager to help as well.

Set up an advisory group and let them determine why certain ratings were poor. Then seek their recommendations for improvement. Change the members of the advisory group frequently to encourage different views. As recommendations are made, try them in test areas before attempting mine-wide implementation.

Announcing gains from the maintenance evaluation—As soon as any gains that can be attributed to the evaluation can be identified, announce them and give credit to the appropriate personnel. People like to know how they did. Tell them. In the process, candor will invariably encourage a greater effort in future evaluations.

Specifying the dates of the next maintenance evaluation—Announce the dates of the next evaluation immediately to reinforce the policy of continuing evaluations. Identify any additional activities that will be evaluated. As necessary, establish new, higher performance targets for the next evaluation.

World-class maintenance is an objective that requires a total mine effort. It cannot be achieved through maintenance efforts alone. By starting the journey toward world-class status with an evaluation of the total mining operation, all of the factors that impact maintenance performance are assessed.

The initial evaluation defines and prioritizes overall mine improvement needs as they relate to maintenance. Once these needs have been identified and prioritized the maintenance working environment must be aligned so that maintenance can work harmoniously with all departments.

Next, the maintenance program must be developed, documented, implemented and explained, mine-wide, so that internal maintenance activities and interdepartmental actions can be carried out in an atmosphere of full cooperation and support. Then, quality, timely and accurate information must be applied so that the program can be controlled and managed effectively. Then, a suitable maintenance organization based on the details of the maintenance program can be determined and implemented.

With these elements in place, the organization can carry out the maintenance program effectively. Finally, evaluations are utilized to ensure that each phase of the journey to world-class maintenance has been satisfactorily accomplished and when that goal has been achieved all of its gains are able to be sustained.

Next month: Step 2—How to ensure mine-wide support for maintenance.

Paul D. Tomlingson ( is a Denver-based maintenance management consultant. His latest book, “Maintenance in Transition—The Journey to World-class Maintenance,” contains the detailed performance standards on which evaluations discussed in this series of articles can be conducted. Copies of the book (ISBN 978-1-4675-9069-3, 395 pp.) can be purchased from the author. He welcomes inquiries concerning these articles.

The PM program should successfully avoid premature equipment failures and extend equipment life, and through timely inspection, condition monitoring, testing, lubrication, cleaning, adjustment and minor component replacements. As a result, there should be fewer emergency repairs and more planned work so that personnel will work more productively, yielding higher quality results, less downtime and reduced costs. The major elements of a valid standard follow:

  • There is a well-defined and publicized PM program understood by maintenance personnel, all departments and management.
  • Management understands and strongly supports PM by requiring proof of compliance and its effectiveness.
  • The PM program is detection-oriented to identify deficiencies in advance of potential equipment failures.
  • PM emphasizes the careful inspection and testing of safety equipment and conditions.
  • PM emphasizes preserving equipment functions and avoiding consequences of failure.
  • PM has reduced the amount and severity of emergency repairs.
  • PM has increased the amount of planned work.
  • Manpower needs for each PM service and the entire program have been established.
  • Completion of PM services is verified and management advised of exceptions.
  • New equipment is added to the program and equipment modifications requiring program service changes are made without delay.
  • The overall PM program is reviewed regularly to ensure its adequacy.
  • PM services are carried out diligently by maintenance personnel and, as required, equipment operators.
  • Supervisors ensure services are complied with and completed on time.
  • Operations cooperate with the program in making equipment available for schedules.
  • Equipment operators perform PM-related tasks completely, efficiently and correctly, when required.
  • Condition-monitoring using predictive techniques (PdM) are properly integrated into the PM program and skillfully used. Maintenance personnel interpret and utilize diagnostic information effectively.
  • Each service has a checklist describing required services and how the service is carried out.
  • PM services are properly identified with the work order system to ensure proper scheduling and control.