John Betonte, P.E., Maintenance Manager, City of Fremont, California
Nicholas T. Nguyen, Senior Associate, LA Consulting, El Segundo, California
The City of Fremont, California has implemented an innovative maintenance management approach that has dramatically improved operations and resulted in annual six-figure cost savings.
Fremont, population 200,000, is located about 30 miles southeast of San Francisco. The city is the Bay Area's fifth largest and ranks 14th in size statewide, 94th nationwide. The Maintenance Services Division (MSD) maintains over 460 centerline miles of road, 70,000 traffic signs, 800 acres of parkland, and 800,000 square feet of facility space. The MSD employs approximately 122 full-time maintenance personnel and an additional 15-20 seasonal and temporary workers.
Public works maintenance departments continually process a large number of service requests, second usually only to a city's police department. But with city budgets by and large not getting any bigger, and in many instances even shrinking, maintenance operations by necessity must become more cost-effective and efficient.
With that in mind, in 1999 the MSD began implementing a comprehensive maintenance management approach that included new management processes and a computerized work and asset management software system.
The MSD sought to build a framework to effectively oversee the City's infrastructure maintenance needs through its managers and field supervisors. It did so by implementing procedures of the four fundamental keystones of management: planning, organizing, directing, and controlling. Planning sets the vision. Organizing allocates the resources. Directing accomplishes the tasks. And finally, controlling reviews whether it has accomplished what it has planned.
Within the MSD, the planning effort involves determining major maintenance activities performed, defining activity guidelines, obtaining resource information, performing a general condition assessment, and establishing levels of effort for maintenance.
This comprehensive activity-based approach allows a work plan and budget to be established. Upon completion of the process, the planning effort determines the amount of work to be performed on an annual basis for the agency.
The next phase (organizing) further divides the work program into work to be performed on a monthly basis. This phase enables the work calendar and resource requirements (i.e., labor, equipment, and materials) to be determined for each month. The direction phase integrates the calendar, work request, routine maintenance programs, and work backlog to generate a schedule. The schedule is then used for more effective assignment of work.
The completed work is recorded and entered into a computerized maintenance management software system. A series of reports are then generated to give supervisors the planned versus actual effort of maintenance. Finally, the information is used to evaluate the field effort in order to improve performance. Actual accomplishment information derived from the reports is used in each year's updating process.
The adoption of new maintenance management processes required by the MSD staff wasn't an overnight successâ€”education, facilitation and relationship building were important, as well as the management control software.
The MSD understood at the onset that software was only an "enabler" or tool towards improvement and progress. The right software matching its newly enhanced management processes, and effective implementation of the system were required.
A cost-effective DOS-based software package was eventually selected and installed. Designed as an activity-based maintenance management system, it provides the City with powerful planning capabilities, workload distribution, scheduling features, work order processing and management, and work performance analysis tools. Management established the maintenance plans each year and reviewed performance data (which was regularly shared with the staff). Playing an equally important role is the rank and file personnel who reported daily work activities with relative accuracy.
Last year the City replaced their MMS software to align itself with its overall information technology "master plans." After undertaking another comprehensive selection process, the MSD seamlessly migrated to a powerful 32-bit, ODBC-compliant, Windows-based software system that is also capable of web-based operation for remote use, GIS (Geographical Information System) integration for visual representation, asset management, and PDA (personal data assistant) integration for work assignment and data entry. Other key features of the system include:
During the first year alone, efficiency savings averaged approximately 11 percent for all maintenance activities, which translates to about $400,000 annually.
The City's street sweeping operation is an ideal example of the department's marked improvements. Before the implementation of the MMS, the City never tracked the actual performance of its maintenance activities. Although the street sweeping operation was well defined with monthly routes, good equipment, and a professional staff, no one really knew whether operators were working optimally or not, or whether the operation as a whole was competitive.
At the time, when asked how many miles they sweep in a day, operators answered, "I don't really know...I just sweep my route."
So to initially baseline the operation, an average daily production performance measure was established at 20 swept-miles per day. By the end of the first year, the measure was up to 23.3 swept-miles per day. At the end of the following year (2000-01), the measure increased again to 26.8 swept-miles; a performance increase of 17 percent. Since then the measure has risen again to 29.3 swept-miles per day. In sum, the operation has seen an approximate improvement savings of over $119,000, which will recur annually if the current performance level is maintained.
These improvements were realized not by necessarily working harder but by working smarter and paying attention to the work itself. Maintenance supervisors and their crews now actively focus on the details, lay out their work in a systematic way through improved scheduling techniques, review their performances monthly, and make any necessary changes to their work methods to achieve the highest possible results. The new dynamics within the operation reflect an empowerment of the staff that is real and accepted.
Implementation Pitfalls and Issues
Although now highly successful, the City's maintenance management system was not instantly accepted. Change, especially in the work environment, can be stressful. Some of the key issues that should be observed during any implementation include:
Although the initial effort met with some resistance, education and the development of trust among the stakeholders resulted in empowering the staff and a general "buy-in" of the entire approach. Moreover, it has resulted in $400,000 in annual savings for the City.
Recognizing the successes and marked improvement of the systematic approach towards maintenance, City officials have also increased the MSD's budget and staff.
Fremont now has in place a comprehensive maintenance management system and a powerful software package that helps the Maintenance Services Division more effectively plan, organize, direct, and control maintenance operations.
To reach John Betonte, P.E., send e-mail to JBetonte@ci.fremont.ca.us. To reach Nicholas T. Nguyen, send e-mail to email@example.com.