Have you ever asked yourself, “I wish my organization would just see the value our maintenance operations bring?” It may seem like the maintenance operations are a “necessary evil,” which makes you question the lack of support and appreciation. Before making that assumption, it’s best to ask yourself: How well have I shown the value of the maintenance team to the organization?

If management and production view maintenance operations as a cost with little discernible ROI, it would be natural to question its value. The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck once said, “Anything that just costs money is cheap.”

A thought experiment on showing added value: Imagine you have been offered an opportunity by a friend, Lee, to invest in a manufacturing operation of a proprietary and patented barbecue cleaning device called a Widd Jet that has been sold out to Walmart. Because it’s been in high demand for several years, Lee decides to increase his investors among only those he can trust to fuel expansion. When he explains the high-demand track record and shows you a distribution contract and 5-year patent, you borrow against your 401K and acquire a 25-percent share in the business.

After 6 months, you are curious as to how well your investment is working, so you ask him how business is going, and he tells you fine, but that seems general and vague. You then ask, is it up or down or staying the same … and he says, “It’s up.” You ask how much and he responds that because you have invested thousands it must be providing something back.

You press further and ask Lee for specifics on how much, and he seems puzzled that you are asking so many questions. After all, don’t you trust him? You respond affirmatively but share you want to know how well your investment is paying off. He says he can’t tell you exactly but his gut is saying all is well.

What just happened: You wanted to see a return on your investment (ROI), as you would justly expect for such a large outlay, but he is vague as to the exact details. What he does offer is an opportunity for further investment to spur more growth, but you’re unclear as to what the previous investment produced and are rightly hesitant to throw more money into the pot.

Lee is asking for a good faith acceptance that your money is being spent wisely, which seems to be a bit of a stretch, and now he is expecting more. He provides no measures to indicate how your investment was spent or if it is producing anything, so that ROI is starting to look shaky.


Now, I know at this point you would never get yourself into this situation. I mean, after all, who constantly invests money without seeing specific results and returns? The truth is that it might be your organization.

How much has your senior leadership or ownership asked to see a return on their investments in equipment upkeep? Are they sending money on good faith that it is indeed producing results?

Outside of showing annual costs, many fleet and equipment maintenance organizations have done a poor job sharing where the money has been spent. Sure, they measure money spent but not returns or results, so the shop or garage begins to look like a nebulous investment where the motto is “send money–we repair.”

The question fleet and equipment maintenance professionals should be asking is how can our organizations be shown that their investment is being managed wisely? The first step is to produce a series of leading and lagging Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that show activity and results.


Lagging indicators are typically output-oriented, easy to measure but hard to improve or influence. Leading indicators, on the other hand, are typically input-oriented, hard to measure, and easy to influence. Because KPIs measure process or activity, you must measure leading to produce lagging (process yields results), with the understanding that leading KPIs are often non-financial measures.

In your buddy’s case, a measure of the number of Widd Jet units produced per day would be a leading indicator while EBITDA would be a lagging indicator. Percent Quality would be a leading metric and Annual Revenue would be a lagging one. To put this in context, think of leading as measures of the things we do and lagging as the progress or results of those actions.


So, have we asked our organizations to accept that the money they spend each year on equipment upkeep is really producing results. Yes, we often ask it in good faith.

Now, if we equate this to the Equipment Division or Maintenance Department, we see leading indicators like Percent Preventive Maintenance (PM) of Total Maintenance Man-hours as a good measure of our PM efforts. But we should see an annual improvement in Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) on Critical Assets. After all, if the PM program is working, we should see a reduction in failure rates. For example, an annualized 10 percent improvement on Critical or Class A equipment MTBF would be a good indication of progress.

We look at percent of Maintenance Man-hours Covered by Work Orders and percent Priority One Work (Emergency Maintenance or EM) as leading metrics for tracking maintenance activity. Conversely, Maintenance Cost as a percent of Estimated Replacement Value would be a lagging indicator with an annualized reduction showing progress. As an example, we can measure Stockroom Turn Rate and Stockroom Service Levels as leaders while Maintenance Stores as Percent of Replacement Value as a lagging indicator.


Tracking indicators is not enough; comparisons are needed. Comparing to Best in Class provides relativity of value, and comparing to company history shows progress over time. Here is an example of that process:

A Storeroom Turn Rate of .6 to .8 would be the industry norm in the construction industry, while a Turn Rate >2 would be considered Best in Class and >3 World Class, which enables benchmarking comparison to others. It measures progress.


Tracking leading and lagging metrics helps us to make the right decisions at the right time and shows the impact of those decisions. It can help us focus our efforts and know when to celebrate success.

The famed management guru, Peter Drucker once said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” But he also said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” If you want continued support for your efforts, show them what you did with what you got.


Preston Ingalls is president and CEO of TBR Strategies, LLC, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based maintenance and reliability firm specializing in the construction and oil and gas industries. Preston can be reached at, or visit

Modern Contractor Solutions, October 2018
Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to the FREE Digital Edition of Modern Contractor Solutions magazine.