A really useful maintenance audit does more than survey people with an interview tool. People in a maintenance process cannot tell you what is truly wrong with the process.

When you develop a maintenance audit tool, focus on understanding why the maintenance performance is what it is. A maintenance audit survey that only tells you what people think are the causes of maintenance problems is pointless. A truly valuable maintenance audit report will show and explain why a maintenance management process has the capability that it displays.



Dear Mike,

My task is to develop a tool which is capable of assessing the state of maintenance of a generic company in an industry (e.g. a tool for manufacturing, another for mining, etc). In order to do this I want to create a maintenance audit tool to rate an operation’s maintenance performance using a multi-category capability maturity table.

I would interview key personnel with a structured question set addressing each category and develop an overall rating to display on the capability table.

I would really appreciate your help in this matter, especially about the accuracy of the data collected through the survey. Unfortunately, there is a tendency that the interviewee is biased when answering the questions. Do you have an idea of how such a problem could be addressed? In my opinion I would ask the questions and then cross reference the information, however this is not always possible.



Hello Alex,

I have seen many maintenance capability audit tools and consider them to be pointless if used alone without also interrogating the causes of a site’s maintenance history. Using an interview survey tool alone does not give you the right information to solve the problems which they highlight. Interview surveys identify the effects but do not show you the causes.

A maintenance audit interview tool can never uncover the real causes of maintenance process problems. Because the maintenance and operations people you interview are ‘in the process’, they cannot see how the process is causing the problems. To those in a process its outcomes are normal. For example, in a reactive maintenance operation the people in it accept equipment failure as normal. To them breakdowns are standard practise. The reactive maintenance process is their norm by which they judge and set their values. If you ask them questions about adopting proactive maintenance they will think that you are weird.

Conducting a survey is the same situation as asking the people in a car accident what they think caused the accident, and then asking the same question of those who saw the accident. Regardless of where they are when the accident happened, no one knows all the contributing factors. What they each say is so narrow on facts, that even with all interviews complied you are still far from the whole truth. Until you investigate the vehicle maintenance history, analyse the road design, identify the cause of the traffic situation, look at causes of mental confusion, comprehend the contributing human factors and know the personal circumstances of those involved, you do not have enough information to truly understand how the event occurred.

Your approach to creating a maintenance audit tool is common and you will find plentiful such tools for free on the Web. In my view, all of them, if used alone, lead to an unsound maintenance analysis. The problem, as you point out, is that they are subjective and open to bias and misrepresentation. You now know why they result in biased outcomes—everyone you interview thinks that they know the truth about what is going on. Unfortunately, because they are within the process they cannot be objective. What they say in an interview will be what they think and not what really happens. You would get more meaningful insights by interviewing the people that suffer the outcomes of the process.

People in a process know the results are poor, but they cannot explain why. Because they do not see what causes the poor performance they cannot fix it. It is why professional teams and sports people have coaches —they cannot fix their own problems because they cannot see what is wrong with what they do. To get to the top fast they should change their coach regularly, before the process also traps the coach in excuses.

When Lifetime Reliability Solutions Maintenance Consultants conduct maintenance audits we get the maintenance processes to ‘speak for themselves’ and thereby uncover the real truths.

In response to your query, you correctly say that maintenance survey results need to be cross-checked by verifying answers using an alternate method. One way is to take a statistically viable sample size of respondents and ask for historic proof and evidence of their survey answers.

You may even want to phrase the maintenance survey questions so that it is possible to track down evidence to support or disprove what people tell you.

If you want to stand-out from the rest of the maintenance audit crowd, your maintenance audit tool will need to show what is causing the maintenance performance, exactly what to do to get better maintenance results, and how much money will be lost by the organisation if they continue to follow current practices. These are the valuable inputs that a company needs in order to make worthwhile and lasting changes to maintenance processes.

When companies ask us to do a maintenance audit we too hold interviews and compile results of performance on a capability table (managers expect to see a capability rating, even if useless), but we also investigate their maintenance process performance and its causes.

We look past the maintenance audit survey tool and include maintenance management process measurement. We find correlations between the variables of a company’s maintenance practises with the maintenance results that they cause. Maintenance survey results mapped onto a maintenance capability table cannot do that. Maintenance capability mapping shows you a lack of capability, but not its true causes.

We are at the forefront of maintenance consultants. Our maintenance process audit methodology is proprietary and based on statistically sound practises and analysis. We provide process performance plotting charts that indicate the reasons for current maintenance performance.

We will do a maintenance audit to quantify the size of a Customer’s problems, but also we provide evidence of the causes, and we deliver financially viable solutions with an estimate of the operating profits they will bring our Clients.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ


PS. If you require advice on industrial asset management, industrial equipment maintenance strategy, defect elimination and failure prevention or plant and equipment maintenance and reliability, please feel free to contact me by email at info@lifetime-reliability.com