Operational Excellence Lesson 2: Time to Get Our Maintenance House in Order

What do we want? We want it to work!
When do we want it? When we turn it on!

What are we talking about, our cash registers, security systems, our scales, extraction equipment, grow lighting, CO2 systems, water pumps, greenhouses, fire suppression, manual power tools, testing equipment, warehouse space, and mobile equipment. We need all of this stuff to work when we go to work. Good News, there is a whole world of expertise surrounding maintenance and reliable operations to help us. Although the cannabis industry is like no other, the principles of a low cost highly reliable operation are universal. Why should I care, it is a primary driver to stabilize operating costs!

Living in a reliable culture requires an upfront education on what it is and how we will align it into the business. The training should begin with our operational executives so we can develop a wide understanding to go back and lead our businesses. There are top notch companies providing great training available for all levels. These companies can hold training courses at your site as well as at their headquarters. Contact Life Cycle Engineering out of Charleston, SC or Allied Reliability from Houston, TX for training options. There are many options to choose from, the quality and dedication from these two companies are world class.

All efforts to drive reliability need to be aligned with the business goals. If we plan to triple in size in the next 5 years or if we intend to reduce product lines after the next crop season, we realign our production and reliability strategies to meet the business goals. A multi year operating plan will illustrate what assets will be needed.

A reliable culture requires sufficient asset data of three types! First, we need to have all of our equipment loaded into a computer system including critical information about each piece. What is the first thing the maintenance planner is going to need after the pump breaks down? The specs from that pump! This base level data is very important to get organized in a smart manner; it is the foundation that many business decisions & all work orders will be linked to.

Second, there will be a strategy applied to each asset. As an example, we monitor some, others will be fixed periodically, and some will run to failure (we treat our extraction equipment differently than a wheelbarrow.)
These decisions will dictate how much effort and expense is applied to each asset to achieve our business goals.

Third, just as important as the rest, will be accurate development of history per asset. This historical data gives each business invaluable information to make smarter business decisions. The historical data can change the frequency of repairs, justify capital expenditures, it can extend the life of equipment, historical data can help predict potential failures, this data can even keep operators and maintenance staff from getting hurt.

The compliance software we all have, although detailed from seed to sale, is not sufficient to drive your reliable culture. The government was not focused on our long term viability.

Maintenance software was first designed in-house or purchased as a system known as CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System). Over the last decade the EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) is an option to consider but likely will have significant overlap with our seed to sale systems. CMMS packages were sold as a software purchased with a number of users, locally loaded, and managed by our own IT departments. This option is still available but there are also options to set up a lease and pay monthly (web based) vs purchased system on all kinds of maintenance software. There are significant Pros and Cons with both, forethought is required primarily based on size of the business and how much IT stuff we want to take on.

There is no perfect software that will do everything, it will only be best fit. Also consider In the event there is an OSHA event that involves a piece of equipment, they will start by asking for the history of maintaining that equipment. A computer system for all aspects of asset management is inevitable. Seek advice on best fit software if you are not experienced at doing this.

In addition to a CMMS, when researching Agriculture and Farm software, a module was identified that easily records all the other stuff that goes on within a crop environment. For example, all the log books at the farm, all the strain differentials, illumination records, all the cheat sheets, new strain research, the equipment set ups that someone has memorized, even records on pest issues could all be recorded in one database. In addition, the crop results are included per stage – per season, and weather records per week. All of this data is critical to our long term success and must be held in a secure digital format. By using such a database, we no longer allow business critical information to walk out the door when someone leaves the company. The remaining modules of the farm and agriculture software are already supplied by our compliance software like the MMJ Freeway or the equivalent.

Equally important as the software, are the business processes of conducting effective maintenance to drive the reliable culture. For example consider:

  • How are the work orders scheduled and dispersed
  • How do the storerooms support the maintenance
  • Keeping operations informed of extended equipment repairs
  • What is the process for returning equipment to operations?

These key processes and dozens more are well defined and there are many examples to follow and adapt for your business. There is no need to start from scratch many templates are available to get started!

There is a group called AMP, Association of Asset Management Professionals that include the current thought leaders in reliability. There are over 50,000 members that have a wide variety of expertise in the arena of reliability. This group can answer any question about a maintenance or reliability issue. AMP subscribes to what is called the Uptime Elements which is a framework of all the elements of a highly reliable culture. It will be a good place to begin seeing the big picture.

AMP conducts an annual conference which will also be valuable for our operations and maintenance leaders to attend. Be aware, even a seasoned reliability professional can see the whole picture and see that it will be a long road, don’t get discouraged, this is a multi year journey. Set goals in the multi year operating plan to drive reliability further and further.

Engaging in a reliable culture increases safety and is also key to the lowest cost of operations. In contrast, a reactive maintenance group fixes things after they are broken, are 3-10 more expensive to operate. Don’t wait for the bills from the local hardware store and outside contractors to skyrocket, begin your journey toward a reliable culture today!

Joe Mikes, Community Volunteer: Retired Sr Operational Excellence Consultant living in the PHX valley and member of AMP: Association of Asset Management Professionals. He is an author and trainer in areas of Operational Excellence. He is available for more info at operationalreliability1@gmail.com.

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