What is Operations and Maintenance (O&M)?

Operations and Maintenance (O&M) is the broad set of activities involved in managing and maintaining large facilities. O&M will typically encompass an array of tasks aimed at ensuring that your physical assets are operating efficiently, continuously, and safely. Tasks may include routine cleaning and inspection, minor repairs, safety and compliance measures, inventory and spare parts management, and more. 

Operations and Maintenance is an inherently proactive maintenance strategy, and therefore differs from reactive maintenance and corrective maintenance models. O&M-based strategies are rooted in ongoing upkeep and preventive maintenance, and are aimed at reducing unexpected equipment failure or prolonged downtime. They also help to ensure technicians, operators, and contractors can carry out their work in as cost effective a manner as possible.  

By contrast, reactive and corrective maintenance activities are initiated only when equipment experiences an unplanned shutdown or fails altogether. These approaches to maintenance operations often result in consequences like excess costs, reduced energy efficiency, poor quality control, and shortened life cycles for crucial assets.  

Maintenance vs. operations

Maintenance and operations are two distinct but overlapping dimensions of an organization’s asset management strategy. Each dimension commands its own set of responsibilities and needs. However, there is also a great deal of overlap between these areas, as both maintenance and operations are critical to facility management and oversight. 

Below, we take a closer look at both the differences between maintenance and operations, and the areas where these two areas of asset management overlap. 

What are the differences between operations and maintenance?

There are a few basic distinctions between maintenance and operations, particularly in their scope, objectives, and focus:

  • Scope: The scope of maintenance activities includes preserving, repairing, and ensuring the longevity of physical assets through tasks like inspections, replacements, and upgrades. The scope of operations includes day-to-day activities related to these physical assets including production, service delivery, and facility management.
  • Objectives: Maintenance tasks are meant to minimize downtime, reduce the risk of failures, mitigate excess maintenance costs, and extend the useful lifespan of assets while optimizing their performance, reliability, and safety. Operations activities are meant to ensure efficient use of assets in the production of goods, delivery of services, and pursuit of broader organizational goals.
  • Focus: Maintenance is focused on prioritizing tasks, allocating resources, and coordinating activities to optimize asset performance. Operations is focused on forecasting demand, scheduling production or service delivery, and managing resources to meet organizational objectives.

Where do operations and maintenance work overlap? 

While there are distinctions between maintenance and operations activities, there are also many areas of facility management where these two functions overlap. Below, we take a closer look at some of the areas where maintenance and operations intersect:

  • Asset utilization: Operational activities ensure that your assets are being used efficiently and effectively. Maintenance plans and schedules ensure that these assets are available and reliable when they’re needed. Facilities management typically requires coordination between these two areas to ensure that assets are both working optimally and being used optimally. 
  • Risk management: Maintenance activities may be focused on identifying risks of malfunction or failure, and initiating work orders to preempt failure. Operations may conduct risk assessment to ensure policies and procedures are in place for smooth and safe operation of assets. Maintenance and operations personnel must coordinate in real time to ensure continuity between assessment, identification, and mitigation of risk factors.
  • Continuous improvement: Establishing seamless interoperability between maintenance and operations can promote continuous improvement. Operations will typically provide leadership in process optimization and quality improvement initiatives. Maintenance teams will engage in the hands-on tasks required to optimize asset performance and increase productivity. 

Merging operations and maintenance

In some contexts, maintenance and operations don’t simply overlap but are, in fact, treated as a single entity. This is often the case in asset-intensive industries such as manufacturing, energy production, and transportation. Here, cross-functional teams may work toward shared objectives, collaborate on decision-making processes, and align asset management activities. 

Organizations that treat these components as a single entity may be said to use an O&M strategy, along with the preventive maintenance, asset optimization, and holistic facility management that this strategy implies.

What is an Operations and Maintenance (O&M) manual?

An Operations and Maintenance (O&M) manual is a comprehensive document containing detailed instructions and guidelines for managing and maintaining a facility, asset, or property. It serves as a centralized resource for operations and maintenance personnel, providing essential information on how to operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and manage a given asset effectively and optimally.

The role of O&M manuals in operations and maintenance programs

An O&M manual plays several crucial roles in supporting your O&M program. First and foremost, an effective O&M manual will standardize business operations and ensure consistency in output quality by bringing together all the relevant information in one place. 

Your O&M manual should set clear standards, delineate processes, and spell out protocols for achieving operational efficiency and maximizing productivity, as well as facilitating collaboration across relevant departments by providing a common reference point for all stakeholders.

Below, we take a closer look at the key functions performed by your O&M manual.

  • Standardization: Eliminate procedural ambiguity by standardizing operating and maintenance procedures across the organization.
  • Aggregation: Bring together all the data and information on the operation of your facilities in one place.
  • Training: O&M manuals can be incorporated into onboarding programs for new personnel and can be especially valuable as reference material during hands-on training. 
  • Troubleshooting: Your O&M manual should include troubleshooting guides and procedures to help personnel diagnose and resolve equipment issues quickly.
  • Compliance: O&M manuals should ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and industry best practices.
  • Knowledge: Your O&M manual is a valuable document capturing your organization’s collected knowledge on your assets, maintenance strategies, and on your facilities as a whole. It will dramatically simplify the process of bringing new hires and contractors up to speed.

Types of O&M manuals

An O&M manual might be a single document or a collection of documents relating to distinct aspects of your facility such as maintenance, operation, installation, administration, and support. While electronic database platforms make it easy to compile everything in a single place, larger facilities will typically create a set of submanuals addressing different activities, functions, and divisions.

The following are among the types of O&M manuals that might be included: 

  • Product installation and maintenance manuals with instructions for installing and maintaining products, equipment, or systems, along with step-by-step procedures, diagrams, and safety precautions.
  • Backup and recovery manuals outlining procedures for restoring malfunctioning programs, software applications, or hardware including guidelines for bringing critical systems back online and implementing data recovery and restoration strategies where needed.
  • User Manuals from OEMs and suppliers offering instructions on use of products, equipment, or systems including details on operation, maintenance, troubleshooting, and safety precautions.
  • Emergency and safety manuals outlining procedures, protocols, and guidelines for responding to emergencies, accidents, or safety incidents including evacuation procedures, emergency contacts, and first aid protocols.
  • Work assistance manuals providing guidance for performing specific tasks or activities including checklists, documentation templates, and instructional materials.

10 key O&M manual components

An effective O&M manual typically includes detailed information such as:

  1. An introduction and overview defining the scope of your manual, identifying the intended audience, and providing an overview of the asset.
  2. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for utilizing the asset correctly, efficiently, and safely.
  3. Maintenance procedures for performing preventive maintenance tasks, scheduling  inspections, and inventorying spare parts lists.
  4. Troubleshooting guides for diagnosing and resolving common operational issues and malfunctions.
  5. Safety information for taking precautions to prevent accidents and injuries, identifying hazards, and performing emergency maintenance procedures.
  6. Training requirements for onboarding and preparing those who will operate, maintain, and manage the asset.
  7. Revision history tracking changes and updates to the manual over time.
  8. Decommissioning and disposal information outlining procedures for decommissioning and disposing of physical assets when necessary.
  9. Technical specs and reference materials such as appendixes, tables, charts, maps, floor plans, schematics, diagrams, engineering drawings, and a glossary of key terms.
  10. OEM and vendor contact information for support and service inquiries.

What are the goals of an O&M program

Your O&M program is intended to optimize asset management, ensure operational efficiency, and support all aspects of facility maintenance with both documentation and detailed reference material. Below, we outline some of the top goals and benefits of an effective O&M program:

  • Enhancing safety by implementing safety protocols, scheduling regular inspections, and providing safety training and resources.
  • Improving asset performance by facilitating proactive maintenance techniques and consequently enhancing availability, uptime, and longevity of assets.
  • Reducing downtime and disruptions by implementing preventive maintenance schedules, streamlining maintenance routine procedures, and shortening repair times.
  • Identifying cost-saving opportunities through efficient maintenance practices, refined inventory management, and reduced repair and replacement expenses.
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance by aligning processes, procedures, inspection schedule, and documentation with safety, environmental, and regulatory standards.

O&M in action

Now that we know what an O&M manual typically includes and what it’s meant to do, let’s take a closer look at an O&M program in action. As noted earlier, an O&M manual would be appropriate in any setting involving large facilities and critical physical assets. This might include operations in sectors like transportation, energy production, water treatment, and chemical processing.

Below, we describe how an Operations and Maintenance (O&M) strategy might apply in the manufacturing sector: 

  • Preventive maintenance: An O&M manual may outline a preventive maintenance schedule for the production equipment in a manufacturing facility including regular inspections, lubrication, and calibration. Maintenance teams can leverage this information to perform routine maintenance, cleaning, and part replacement activities in order to prevent equipment failure and optimize performance without requiring in-depth technical expertise.
  • Process optimization: An O&M manual can be used to outline optimal production processes and equipment usage in order to reduce inefficiencies, maximize output, and prevent asset damage as a result of misuse. This makes it possible for machine operators to utilize assets within certain specified parameters to ensure maximum functionality.
  • Inventory management: Your O&M manual should also include clear procedures for optimizing spare parts inventory, ensuring timely repairs and replacements, and performing part replacement. 

CMMS technology and O&M

Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) platforms can play a crucial role in enhancing and simplifying Operations and Maintenance (O&M) for organizations across various industries. 

Below are just a few ways a CMMS platform can help your business implement, sustain, and continuously improve your O&M program:

Schedule a consultation today to find out how a CMMS solution can enhance your O&M process.

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