MRO Magazine

The role of a maintenance supervisor

As the planner develops the maintenance plan to service the equipment, the supervisor then determines when the job will be done and who the work will be assigned to.


Photos: wavebreak3 / Adobe Stock

One of the primary duties of a maintenance supervisor is scheduling work. In other words, the supervisor will create a schedule to execute the planned work. The job of scheduling work orders is not a job to be taken lightly.

There is always more work to be done than available manpower and time. The supervisor needs to take in consideration the nature of the work, time needed and equipment. Priority equipment comes first and preventive maintenance (PM) and repairs must be completed on these machines, but other work order considerations need to be made. There are safety work orders, request from other departments requiring assistance from maintenance techs for equipment modifications, production, and quality improvements. Therefore, it is easy to see that the supervisor walks a tight rope trying to include everyone’s needs, at the same time maintaining the equipment to prevent failures.

In most manufacturing facilities, there is a limited amount of time to complete maintenance and repairs. Maintenance departments struggle to keep up with demand and often fall far behind with the multitude of maintenance requests. PM often suffers the most and PM work orders are not completed on time. In general, there is usually considerable back log of work orders.
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The planner and supervisor work hand in hand to keep the work order backlog to an acceptable level. They can do several things to cope with the ever-mounting workload.

1. Work orders can be separated into work that can be done when the equipment is running and work that needs the equipment stopped. One of the most successful ways to reduce backlog is utilizing the technicians time when the production equipment is running. Completing PMs and repairs safely while equipment is running can substantially reduce work order backlog.

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2. Creating a work order folder for opportunity work. This is a list of work orders arranged by the time needed to complete the work. If the equipment goes down for a non-maintenance reason, technicians can select a work order that can be performed during the production equipment stoppage. This simple process gets work down without having to wait for the scheduled down day or outage.

3. Create a work schedule in advance. Giving technicians advanced notice of their work assignments allows them to prepare. They can round up the tools and materials they will need ahead of time.
However, there is more to the maintenance supervisor role than just getting work done. Most important is the safety of the technicians and other people working in the area. Ensuring proper lockout of equipment and following safe work practices are duties of the supervisor. Local and federal safety regulations state the safety of all workers is the primary responsibility of the person most in control.

During maintenance and repair, this duty falls on the shoulders of the supervisor. It is important that the supervisor understands this responsibility and dedicates a good deal of their time monitoring work activities of their personnel. This includes technicians and other employees on the job site, it also includes contractors on-site, making sure they follow all safety policies and procedures.

Besides safety, the supervisor will be monitoring the progress and quality of work being performed. Technicians and contractors may have questions on the repair, and it is an opportunity for the supervisor to audit skills, abilities, and knowledge of their technicians and to ensure contractors are performing their work to expected standards.

Photos: wavebreak3 / Adobe Stock

Another important element of the supervisor role, assessing the skill set of technicians. Most maintenance departments have different pay levels, depending on skills and experience of technicians. Supervisors need to assess skills and knowledge of their personnel and place them at the appropriate pay level. Then develop a plan to provide technicians with training they need to move to the next level. This is time-consuming, especially with large maintenance crews, but a necessary element of improving the technicians’ abilities.

To improve and develop maintenance best practices, supervisors need to review work that was done during a maintenance outage. Although it is common to have a pre-outage meeting with all parties involved in the outage, it is not common to have a post-outage meeting to review how well the work was executed. The post meeting reveals any issues with the work package, and where best practices and procedures can be developed. If the job went well, it’s important to document the process so it can be performed the same next time. If the job did not go well, it needs to be analyzed and discussed to determine corrective actions, so it does not happen again.

Creating and managing work schedules, supervising technicians, managing days off and vacations along with the many other duties, the maintenance supervisor position is very busy. Therefore, the maintenance supervisor should have a great eye for detail and possess various technical skills and leadership to lead the technical staff to the successful completion of maintenance activities.

The supervisor works closely with the planner. At small-to-medium-sized companies, the planner and supervisor are the same person. You can imagine how intensive the supervisor’s job is when they are responsible for both roles. When this is the case, it is easy to understand why maintenance departments struggle to maintain the equipment and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

OEE is a combination of three factors that tell how effective an asset is during the manufacturing process, asset availability, asset performance and production quality. OEE is a measure of how well a manufacturing operation is utilized compared to its full potential during periods when it is scheduled to run. It is easy to see how maintenance activities and performance affect the overall equipment effectiveness. MRO
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Peter Phillips is the owner of Trailwalk Holdings Ltd., a Nova Scotia-based maintenance consulting and training company. Peter has over 40 years of industrial maintenance experience. He travels throughout North America working with maintenance departments and speaking at conferences. Reach him at 902-798-3601 or peter@trailwalk.ca.