The COVID-19 pandemic created a significant challenge for maintenance management. Many organisations had to quickly make changes to their existing practices in order to ensure the safety of employees, and emergency preparedness plans often had to be reworked at short notice. This article summarises some of the key changes and how they benefit future operations.
The Impact on the Fire Service and Fire Safety Inspections
The pandemic increased fire risks for several key reasons. First of all, many fire safety workers saw changes in accessibility of customer’s premises (75% according to one survey), preventing essential maintenance checks of sprinkler systems, fire alarms and other crucial safety elements.
In addition, some facilities were breaking fire safety codes by propping open fire doors in order to prevent people from touching the handles. Stocking large quantities of toilet paper and other flammables also increased the risk. Combine that with the face that vacant buildings are an easy target for arsonists, and what was the result?
The fire services in some regions were stretched, especially when a portion of their own force were off sick with the virus or looking after family members who had contracted it. The fire service were also helping to drive ambulances when there were shortages of those workers.
One of the keys to being able to prevent fire is for firefighters to be able to respond quickly to low priority calls in order to prevent escalation. When operating under the pressure caused by the pandemic, every vehicle and every piece of equipment counts, which points to the importance of practises such as preventative maintenance. Detecting faults early with our condition tracker module helps ensure that the maximum number of vehicles are ready for service at any given moment.
The same can be said regarding ambulance readiness. During the pandemic, resources were significantly strained as ambulance services strived to meet increased demand, and many services also experienced staff shortages for the aforementioned reasons. This led to reduced response times and overstretched resources, making it difficult to meet the usual standards of service.
Between March 2019 and March 2020, the mean response time for emergency calls increased by 43 minutes in London; shorter delays occurred in many other parts of the country. The extra time needed for disinfection of the ambulances and handling PPE may have also contributed to the increased wait times.
In all sectors, new cleaning products were necessary, such as hospital grade sanitiser, as well as a whole host of PPE. Some emergency services crews experienced issues with shortages of PPE and other equipment, which meant they were unable to respond to calls. It was also vital to maximise the amount of available equipment for treating patients.
In addition, maintenance tasks that were once undertaken for preventative purposes became essential, such as maintaining air filtration equipment. (On the other hand, some maintenance teams were forced to be reactive rather than proactive overall due to reduced personnel.)
Cleaning regimes became much more intensive and inspections also became more frequent in order to ensure adherence to the new protocols.
Some manufacturing facilities had to make time for deep cleaning by reducing production output. Naturally, this was far from ideal, given that the smallest amount of downtime can have a huge impact on profits. However, safety had to be prioritised.
New Product Offerings
With such variation in demand for numerous products and many classified as non-essential, manufacturers had to stay afloat by producing those that were in high demand – masks, hand sanitiser, ventilators, and so on.
This meant that new equipment was required, or machines that were not regularly in use needed inspecting and cleaning. New work processes had to be established and extra quantities of critical spare parts had to be available.
During such times, CMMS software makes life much easier for maintenance managers, providing efficient control for easier adaptation to changing requirements. Enterprise asset management features allow for unlimited asset hierarchies and assist with work order management and the allocation of resources.
The inventory management module takes care of automatic re-ordering to prevent stock-outs which, in turn, reduces downtime. In addition, real time updates mean less wasted time making journeys to check whether parts or components are available.
Staff also have a clear overview of all requisitions, purchase orders, deliveries, returns, invoices, and credits.
Social Distancing and Shift Management
Social distancing protocols affected how maintenance workers could do their jobs. In some cases, it was necessary to stagger work shifts and minimise the amount of time multiple technicians spent in close proximity. This was challenging for companies producing essential items due to their increased workload.
Technology that supports remote maintenance management played a role in allowing teams to continue their operations while working from home. These systems enable staff to track performance without having to enter a facility; so, while maintenance itself cannot be done remotely, many administrative and management tasks can.
These changes have had a major impact on the way organisations approach their maintenance operations, but they have also provided an opportunity for companies to become more efficient.
By taking advantage of remote monitoring, for example, companies have not only met social distancing requirements more easily, but they have also been able to reduce their costs and improve the speed and accuracy of maintenance tasks
The nature of maintenance is about handling the unexpected. However, frequent, unpredictable changes in restrictions meant that operations had to adapt at the drop of a hat. Many scenarios arose that were not planned for, and this forced new solutions to be adopted; organisations that were able to do so with agility could continue with greater ease.
The pressure for increased preparedness despite strained resources was a struggle for many, especially the emergency services. However, adapting to handle the most challenging of times makes peak performance easier to achieve under normal circumstances.
Maintenance management software is the key to being agile in unpredictable times. Our EHS compliant solutions take care of everything including asset management, stock control, preventive maintenance, reporting, and much more. Contact us today to book a free demo.