Find the common language for maintenance

As part of the recent Enterprise Asset Management University Webcasts sponsored by IBM and moderated by Plant Engineering magazine editor Bob Vavra, Dave Reiber, Global Maximo Lead for General Motors, discussed the experiences of General Motors’ implementation of a worldwide plant maintenance system.


As part of the recent Enterprise Asset Management University Webcasts sponsored by IBM and moderated by Plant Engineering magazine editor Bob Vavra, Dave Reiber, Global Maximo Lead for General Motors, discussed the experiences of General Motors’ implementation of a worldwide plant maintenance system. The archived version of this Webcast is available at under the Plant Live tab:

There are 11 languages spoken within General Motors’ 126 worldwide manufacturing facilities in 26 countries worldwide and existing on every continent. When Dave Reiber wants to communicate about maintenance, however, he needs only one.

“There are cultural, legal and ethical issues around the world,” said Reiber, GM’s global business lead for the IBM Maximo Enterprise Asset Management system. “But something that I’ve learned is that if it is about engineering and maintenance, I speak their language.”

The task of bringing 47,000 global employees to one asset management system that creates a common language for maintenance worldwide is an ongoing effort for Reiber.

The goal at GM is to have everyone placing work orders, tracking predictive maintenance and generating reports off a single Maximo Asset Management platform by 2011.

It has been a daunting process, and was made easier by the flexibility of the Maximo software system. It also has been a process of adapting the best ideas from a previously fractured information system process and molding it into a single system which at once has both the buy-in of local participation and the standardization needed to affect real cost management at GM.

In explaining the goals and objectives, implementation and lessons learned, Reiber detailed the necessities of putting a large company such as GM onto a common maintenance management platform.

“We had to define a common maintenance process,” Reiber said. “We had 15,000 work orders a week. That becomes a big data drag. Archiving of data became an issue. But change at GM or any big company is tough at best,” he added. “There’s always a fear of change.”

For one thing, different plants were using Maximo in different ways. “In some plants, it was used for everything,” said Reiber. 'They would capture every event at some sites. At others, all they used it for was predictive maintenance. We also failed to share best practices across sites.”

Maximo’s inherent flexibility allowed for the creation of many different data screens that could be altered at local sites. The problem came when trying to standardize those screens so data collected at each plant could be analyzed and acted on in the same way.

“We had 320 different screen variations across our plant sites,” Reiber said. “To get everyone to agree on the screens that would be used…” He paused. 'I’d call them 'lively discussions’.”

Not all maintenance projects are equal, but when it came to work orders, there needed to be a picking order so maintenance staffs could give highest priority to critical functions. “We weren’t very good at scheduling,” Reiber said. “We needed to understand what is critical, what is not critical, and what is run to failure.”

Training is critical

Most of Reiber’s discussion at the EAM University event was around the importance of a training process that recognized both the native cultural issues and the need to develop a common platform for information.

“You cannot teach a maintenance process without showing people how it will relate to their jobs. You have to relate each field on the screen to a report,” Reiber said. “I’ve never been in favor of teaching Maximo or a maintenance business process. I believe you have to teach both.”

Among the critical lessons learned about a global implementation, Dave mentioned:

  • Go Slow! “When you think you’re going slowly, slow down,” Reiber noted.

  • Have a good translator %%MDASSML%% one with a maintenance background is very helpful

  • Use two instructors %%MDASSML%% one at the screen and one walking among the students answering questions at the training modules.

  • Review each field on each screen

  • Explain how a field relates to the Common Process

  • What type of data to enter %%MDASSML%% assume nothing

  • Explain how data in a field is required for output to reports

  • Vital plant ownership is created by defining the work flow processes

  • There must be active participation and much discussion for each

    • The curriculum included four two-week sessions with time in between sessions to complete on-site work. Projectors featured two screens %%MDASSML%% one in English and one in the native language. The training also included a cross-section of Maximo users %%MDASSML%% everyone from maintenance engineers to parts crib personnel to plant leadership.

      The local buy-in of plant managers is vital to success, Reiber said. 'We’d create commitment through plant ownership and buy-in,” he said. We got fantastic creativity and innovation from our staff.”

      Organizational value

      Now when Reiber meets twice a week with his global managers on maintenance issues, he knows they are working off of increasingly common data sets. This has allowed GM to move past trying to pinpoint common problems and helping them address common solutions.

      'Lately our big push has been to look at OEE (Operational Equipment Efficiency). We’re always looking at compliance,” he said. “we’re also working at trying to schedule more efficiently, so that we make sure work gets done, stays done and is done effectively.”

      “We needed the flexibility to adjust to changing environments,” said Reiber. “Big corporations tend to move slowly. We’ve been forced to move quickly because of the economy. We had to learn how to do change management — how do you move that needle quickly?”

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