Comprehensive Guide to Building a Maintenance Excellence Team (Part 1: Crawl)

Maintenance team

This is the first in a series of four articles on how to evolve your maintenance maturity over time. Taken together, this series will provide a roadmap for becoming a first-class maintenance team. Each article will cover one step in the process: crawl, walk, run, and sprint. The material is based on the author’s experience implementing it in his own organization.

Crawl - Starting Out - 20 to 40 Weeks to Develop Before Moving On

This is the beginning and most important step to ensure that your maintenance team will prosper and continue to improve. This is the time to set the playing field and communicate to everyone what is starting to happen. In this article, we’ll go over the necessary steps that must be established at this stage. 

Evaluate Your Work Requests

Since anyone can make a work request, you don’t want every request going into your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to junk it up. These requests should first be vetted by a department lead or manager to ensure their authenticity. If the request is signed off on, then it officially becomes a request and is entered into the CMMS. That is, if the request is something simple and to the point. 

Example: Light bulb over main operator’s station (coiler) is not coming on, and it’s dark. (This request would be moved to an unreleased work order type.)


Example: We would like to have a fan installed at the coiler. (This would go to the weekly maintenance meeting to be discussed. There is not enough information to just go and put a fan up.)

Below is a template to use when submitting a work request. There is no other way for anyone to have planned maintenance done unless there is a request in for it. However, the maintenance technician or department can skip this step and go straight to a work order. Then the only type entered into the CMMS should be unreleased or breakdown. This is something that you must hold true to, or you’re not going to be able to become A FIRST-CLASS MAINTENANCE TEAM.

Work Request Template

Requestor Name

Reason for Request

(Please select One)







Description of Request
Approved by


Area Manager

Approval Date

Recommended Work Order Types 

This is a very easy step, and I recommend three types: released, unreleased, and breakdown.


This type of work order means that you have reviewed the task, modification, or information on the work order. You are committing to have it completed within X number of days from the release date. The release date is when you change an unreleased work order to released. The clock starts ticking. My recommendation is 10 days to complete. 


This type of work order means that you’re aware of the work that needs to be done. The parts, manpower, machine availability, or things that are not that important on the priority scale to get completed—these are the types of items that are kept here. 


This type is just like it sounds, meaning whenever there is a stop in production and maintenance is called out to restart the machine. This could be due to an electrical/mechanical failure of a part or system, or a structural failure. When an operator causes the shutdown, it’s not a maintenance downtime occurrence. That would be operations downtime, which is set up during your first maintenance meeting. Decide then on how to classify these. 

Metrics to Be Established for Maintenance Team

This will be left to you and your team to decide. The ones that I feel need to be in place are:

1. Preventive maintenance compliance - How well you're doing on getting your preventive maintenance tasks done.

2. Preventive maintenance work orders - This is all work orders being found during your preventive maintenance. You should see around 5% to 7% being generated to assure that you have a good preventive maintenance program in place.

Note: Preventive maintenance is simply an inspection of some sort. The items you find that need addressed are to be considered preventive maintenance work orders. 

3. Planned maintenance compliance - On a weekly basis, set a goal to complete X amount of planned work orders and grade yourself on how well you’re doing with this.

4. Breakdown work orders - This is a key metric and should always be tracked. The more information on what and how the breakdown occurred is important. This will provide necessary information to you as your team matures. 

Shift Change Meetings or Turnover Reports

This step is a must, and I recommend doing both. It only takes five to ten minutes to accomplish and sets the pace for both incoming and outgoing technicians. Cover a safety topic, review the prior shift’s tasks, and allow the incoming shift to ask questions to make sure they understand where or what is still needing done. The only time this is excusable is if everyone is working on a breakdown, outage, or downturn. Then the manager or lead will just update the incoming shift. The turnover information should also be displayed on an interactive board. See photos below of what you could use to give you an idea.

Communication Board to Align Maintenance Team Members

A communication board designed by the maintenance team is another must-have step. This shows what staff is doing for the day, and when special work is going to happen (e.g., downturns, outages, contractor work, etc.). The metrics are displayed here along with whatever else the team decides to post. The key to the board is to use it, add to it, and continue to build on it.                 

How to Set Up Regular Maintenance Team Meetings

There needs to be a set day and time to have a maintenance meeting for your entire plant. If you can break it down by departments or areas to get smaller groups, it works a lot better. In this meeting, you should have area managers, leads, shift leaders, engineering, and the ops manager. This is the time and place to communicate what’s going on (current status) and what’s being planned for next week. In order to accomplish this, you should have a person who deals with issues as they happen (maintenance floor lead/manager), and a next-week person whose only job is to set up for next week (planner). 

Plant maintenance meetings should occur early to midweek. The reason for this is because on Friday there should be an additional maintenance meeting just for the key maintenance players (e.g., manager, mechanical lead, electrical lead, maintenance planner, maintenance shop floor leads, etc.). It’s important to have this second meeting with the key maintenance players. They should also attend the plant meeting earlier in the week, so they’re aware of the issues that are out there.  

Meeting Example

Every Wednesday from 8:00am to 9:00am is the plant maintenance meeting. 

  • From 8:00am to 8:30am, Department A is reviewed. Covered topics: work orders on their machines, safety issues, modifications, submitted planned maintenance requests, new equipment, etc. It will take most of the allotted time in the beginning, but as you progress forward, the time will begin to shorten. When Department A is done, they may leave and head back to work. 
  • From 8:30am to 9:00am, Department B is reviewed. Same topics covered as the Department A portion. 

This is your plant, and you will be able to decide the breakdown, time frame, and how to build your meetings to meet your needs as a maintenance department. 

Setting Time Aside for Planned Maintenance, Downturns, and Outages

Downturns need to be established at LEAST three months in advance. They should also not extend past eight hours or one shift. Then determine how often these are going to be done in a three-month window. This is a topic of discussion that should take place at the maintenance meeting and have full support from everyone involved. Downturn time is used as planned maintenance to address work orders that can be completed in the time frame allotted. This is also a metric that can be used to grade your planning and understanding of job tasks.

For example, ten jobs were planned but only one was completed. This is not something to be ashamed of; this helps you get better. Then discuss this in detail at the next maintenance meeting with the department. How you can improve, and can they help by letting maintenance use production employees (e.g., painting, cleaning, and labeling) to help on the downturn. Keep building to get better together. 

Outages follow the same path as a downturn. The difference is that outages need to be scheduled and established at LEAST 12 months in advance. Additionally, an outage is more than 16 hours of no production.

The Importance of Communication

Everyone needs to know that they are involved in the process and how the process works. Once you have established the rules and how it will be rolled out, set a date and begin. If you decide something needs corrected, altered, or removed from the original plan, communicate and communicate some more so no one is left in the dark. 


This is the basic start-up path (Crawl) and can be tailored to fit your maintenance department’s needs. It has been tried and tested over an 8-year period. To recap:

  • EVERYONE should be able to make a work request.
  • There are three types of work orders: released, unreleased, and breakdown.
  • Your team should decide what metrics to be established.
  • Shift change meetings or turnover reports are a must-have item.
  • At minimum, you should also have a communication board designed by the maintenance team.
  • Maintenance meetings should be established for the entire plant. They need a set day and time. 
  • Downturns needs to be established at LEAST three months in advance. A downturn should not extend past eight hours or one shift.  

To read part 2 of this series, Walk, click here.
To read part 3 of this series, Run, click here.

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