Primarily, maintenance policy must answer the question of the extent of activities and the size of the maintenance department. With regard to the extent of activities practices vary across companies. Small plants, for example, use the maintenance department for simple repair and replacement.
A major non-production engineering job in these plants, such as an addition to the building, is handled through outside specialists with only token aid from in-house maintenance department. Large companies, on the other hand, with more specialized staff, tend to turn over all major non-production engineering jobs to their maintenance departments. In some companies, responsibility for planning and suggesting building construction changes is placed with the maintenance department, but the actual construction is let to outside contractors.
With regard to equipment maintenance, two practices vary. One practice is to have a well-planned and organized maintenance program designed to secure maximum life and utilization of machinery. Other practice is to adopt a policy of minimum maintenance and maximum wear. This policy is more economical because, the equipment is usually superseded before it wears out. With regard to size of the maintenance department, manufacturing people tend to have maintenance crews large enough, so that, every job can be done on a momentâ€™s notice. What should happen to the maintenance staff, when there is no overhauling work, is not the concern of the maintenance manager. For the management it amounts to a trade off between large maintenance crew (and corresponding cost) and prompts service and skeleton staff (with lower cost) and delayed maintenance services.
The other issues which deserve consideration in establishing the maintenance policy are:
1. Contract out some work during peak periods to avoid getting far behind and also to avoid hiring temporary extra help.
2. Defer some maintenance work until slack periods so as to keep the workforce intact during such periods. Overhaul work and painting projects are often handled on this basis.
3. Replace machine and equipment at the optimum time. This time is difficult to determine, but many machine tool manufacturers are willing and able to assist in such determination.
The point is to replace machines before they get too old and require too much repair work.
These and similar items are policy matters, pertaining to the maintenance department and should be decided by the top management. It is necessary that once a policy is formulated, everyone is informed of the decision. In addition, the limits of responsibility and authority of the maintenance department needs to be carefully defined and everyone informed as to which jobs are maintenance jobs, who is to do them and when they are to be done.